Focus on B.C.: Richmond Part I
One of Harper's first stops in this national campaign was on Lulu Island, home of the city (and electoral district) of Richmond, which in my opinion is one of the most interesting and dynamic ridings in B.C..
This is for several reasons. First, the city is home to several distinctive communities that play a role in shaping local politics. In 2001, 57% of the riding's population were new Canadians, and 44% identified themselves as Chinese. Together with visiting a local Chinese family, it's no wonder that the media interpreted Harper's high-profile visit to Richmond as an attempt to appeal to urban ethnic communities.
Reaching out to the city's Chinese community is obviously a priority for local candidates. The incumbent Liberal M.P., Raymond Chan, himself an immigrant from Hong Kong, has done so succesfully. But candidates are also aware that there is a large and vibrant evangelical community in Richmond. Sometimes these two communities intersect, such as in several Chinese Evangelical churches like this one. Chan, for example, attends a local Mennonite Brethren Church. But evangelicals have played a particularly important role in the local Conservative Party. The party's candidate in 2004 (and apparently in this election as well), Alice Wong, was a well-known local social conservative. And Darrell Reid, the Conservative candidate in the 2006 national election, was formerly the president of Focus on the Family Canada.
Richmond politics is dominated by Raymond Chan, the incumbent Liberal MP and imposing figure pictured above. Apparently Chan was convinced to get into politics by a local MLA, Linda Reid, who spotted him outside a local party meeting handing out human rights brochures. She told him that instead of handing out pamphlets, he should run for office, so he did. Chan was elected in the 1993 and 1997 elections. He lost in 2000, only to stage a comeback in 2004 and 2006. He's not the most charismatic politician out there, but seems to breed a real loyalty amongst local Liberals.
And, of course, elections in Richmond are oftentimes closely fought affairs. This one might be as well.