Local New Democrats look to hold seats amid a sea of Tory blue

With the pandemic still fresh in peoples’ minds, and inflation at levels most have never seen, are London, Ont. voters even ready to switch their brains to election mode?

“Not at the moment, no,” said voter Nadia Simoes, who was shopping at a south London plaza Wednesday. “It’s hard to choose between some people that you don’t always agree with.”

Voter Steve Bennett said there’s much to fix for whoever forms the next government.

“The price of everything’s going up, and obviously COVID’s still an issue and we want to get back to whatever normal is for people, and get prices back down so everyone can afford to live their lives a little less stressed,” he said.

Day one of the provincial election campaign saw London candidates out on the hustings, including the three incumbent NDP hopefuls.There was door-knocking, mainstreeting and mapping out election strategies for the orange trio consisting of Terence Kernaghan, Teresa Armstrong and Peggy Sattler.

These three represented a small orange cluster in a sea of Tory blue across southwestern Ontario in the 2018 provincial election, with only Elgin-Middlesex-London going to the PC’s. That riding was held by former PC MPP Jeff Yurek, who exited politics earlier this year.

The 2018 election may have been all about punishing the previous Liberal government, according to one political scientist — and that’s why many London voters gravitated towards the NDP.

But with the punishment already meted out, can the NDP do it once again?

Jacquetta Newman of Kings University College said that with the Liberals working their way back up in the polls, the return of the orange wave in London is no guarantee.

“There’s not the same sort of voter requirement for punishing the Liberals this time, so we’re seeing them rise again,” said Newman.

Newman added the one major factor local New Democrats do have on their side is incumbency.

“If the NDP and the Liberals split the vote we end up with the Conservatives coming up the middle. But, that incumbency effect is really strong,” she said.