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North Vancouver’s federal Liberals have chosen former VANOC vice-president Taleeb Noormohamed as their candidate.
Noormohamed won the nomination on Saturday (Mar. 5), making him the party’s choice to run against Conservative MP Andrew Saxton if a spring election is called later this month.
In an interview with The Outlook Monday, Noormohamed said he was thrilled to win the contest, which also included former Nunavut MLA Kevin O’Brien, North Shore News sales manager Dee Dhaliwal, and District of North Vancouver Coun. Roger Bassam.
“I was in disbelief,” said Noormohamed. “I knew that we had run a really good campaign, but you never really know how it’s going to turn out.”
Surrounded by friends, family, and supporters, Noormohamed learned of his victory Saturday evening, after nearly two hours of anxious waiting.
“It was a really great feeling, but I think I was happiest for everybody else,” said Noormohamed. “To see how excited they were to know they were a part of change... that was such an inspiring thing to see.”
By Sunday morning, Noormohamed said the reality of his new role as candidate began to settle in.
“It was like one weight was lifted off my shoulders, and another was put there,” he said with a laugh. “I woke up and thought ‘Oh my goodness, now the real work starts.’”
Beginning this week, Noormohamed plans to meet with community groups and business leaders to gauge what their priorities are. He added that he also want to engage new members of the party, as well as disillusioned voters who have lost faith in politics.
“I want the conversation to be about things that are positive, things worth looking forward to,” said Noormohamed. “That’s what needs to happen next... we need to make sure every single North Vancouver resident feels they are a part of this campaign.”
MP defends his record
Speaking from Ottawa, North Vancouver’s current MP, Andrew Saxton, said he’s also readying for a spring election, which could be triggered after the Conservatives table their budget Mar. 22.
Saxton said he doesn’t know his competitor personally, but said he respects Noormohamed for throwing his name in.
“I’ve never met him, but I understand he’s a nice enough fellow,” Saxton told The Outlook. “I respect anyone who puts their name forward to run for elected office. It’s not an easy thing to do.”
However, the niceties stopped there.
Saxton feels the Liberal party is not the right choice for North Vancouver residents, given its proposal to raise corporate taxes.
“[Noormohamed’s] challenge is going to be trying to sell Michael Ignatieff’s policies, which include tax hikes to residents and businesses in North Vancouver,” Saxton said.
Saxton, who defeated former Liberal MP Don Bell by a 4.9 per cent margin in 2008, said he’ll be on the campaign trail speaking to North Vancouverites the moment the writ is dropped.
“We’re not going to take anything for granted and we will treat this election very seriously.”
Saxton said he’ll be campaigning primarily on his “strong record” over the past two and a half years, which includes delivering $100 million in federal funding for a handful of projects.
“Every single request by both the city and district of North Vancouver for federal funding for the stimulus program was approved,” noted Saxton.
A large part of that success, he added, was the result of cooperation amongst all levels of government.
“We don’t all have the same political stripes, but we leave those political stripes at the door when we meet,” he said. “We have a terrific team on the North Shore right now. We’re getting things done, and I don’t think now is the time to change it.”
A riding ‘in play’
Nevertheless, David Laycock, a political science professor at Simon Fraser University, said the race in North Vancouver will almost certainly be tight if a spring election is called.
“With only a five per cent margin of victory in 2008, [Saxton] is by definition vulnerable,” said Laycock.
This means the Liberal party will likely provide additional help for Noormohamed in hopes of winning back the seat.
“The Liberals need to challenge strongly in ridings they have held recently and then barely lost, since the Conservatives are likely to pick up ridings in urban B.C. and Metro Toronto,” said Laycock.
Add to that the fact that NDP challenger Michael Charrois recently declared he will also run, and hopes to build on his 9.42 per cent showing from 2008, and an interesting election campaign is likely in the works, said Laycock.
“The North Van riding has swung from Reform/Canadian Alliance to Liberal to Conservative since 1993, so it is, by definition, in play.”