Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Liberals start rebuilding process

Liberal candidate Mandeep Bhuller and his campaign team watch the results come in on Monday.

Liberal candidate Mandeep Bhuller and his campaign team watch the results come in on Monday.

Despite earning even fewer votes in the May 2 vote than the 2008 election, local Liberals say they’re reloading and will be stronger next time.

The federal riding association has already started rebuilding, after earning only five per cent of the vote in Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission. People are mad after taking such a drubbing, winning only 34 seats in the House of Commons, and riding president Brian Rice wants to take advantage of that.

“It’s a huge change. The number of people coming out of the woodwork and expressing frustration and anger not only with the national results, but with the local results, has been overwhelming.”

Conservative Randy Kamp won a fourth election, increasing the number of votes he earned, while the NDP also made gains, over the 2008 results.

In 2008, the Liberals had sunk to fourth place, behind even the Green party, earning only 3,394 votes.

In the May 2, 2011 election results were even worse, with the Liberal party earning only 2,739 votes.

But in the election aftermath, the association now has about 60 members, more than it did before the election.

It also now has a full executive and directors in place,16 people in all.

Nationally, the party raised more money this election than the past three campaigns combined, while locally, the campaign spent about $11,000, Rice said.

What hurt, though, was the lack of boots on the ground in the local campaign.

“We only had two groups of two people door-knocking. We had one person making phone calls.”

Along with Rice, another full-time volunteer and candidate Mandeep Bhuller, that meant only eight people.

“I’m proud of the campaign we ran, the people we had and the money we had,” Rice said.

Signs were out, they had an office, brochures and used robo calls to get to voters.

“I think, partly, we got caught up in the Orange Crush [of the NDP] as a result.”

The riding was also targeted by Catch 22, which urged voters to support NDP candidate Craig Speirs, so as not to split the vote.

However, the riding is strongly Conservative and Rice doubts whether better campaigning would have made a difference.

“People wanted to re-elect Randy. This is a Conservative riding right now.”

But the Liberals could have had more volunteers and money if Bhuller was named earlier, Rice admitted.

Nevertheless, the party should have a presence and make the Conservative candidate work hard to get elected.

“That doesn’t mean we stop fighting. That means we fight harder and do our best.”

Latest trends in media are also affecting voter behaviour, Rice said. “Fewer people are reading the paper. I think it’s information without education.”

He also said public opinion polls are starting to influence voting behaviour.

He’s trying to use the anger and shame and losing so badly to expand the party.

Rice said Kamp, now starting his fourth term as MP, hasn’t done “spectacularly much for this riding.”

“I don’t have any expectations of Randy Kamp, to be honest. He’s a backbencher in a government that’s notoriously not concerned with what backbenchers think.

“I think parliamentary secretary is about the best we can hope for and Stephen Harper has an awful lot to choose from in those roles.”

The most recent Liberal meeting was held Thursday in the Maple Ridge library, with the public invited to participate in fundraising and membership drives. The Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission Liberal riding association has more than 50 members and wants to increase that to 100.

Communications chair Kathleen Rake said she didn’t want to wait for a new leader for the party, following the post-election resignation of leader Michael Ignatieff.

“I want to work with these new people and fresh ideas to bring new life to our local party.”