Former Liberal cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is returning to Ottawa as an Independent MP for Vancouver Granville, saying her victory sends a strong message to Ottawa about doing politics a new way.
“I am so happy to be standing here as the newly elected Independent candidate for Vancouver Granville,” Wilson-Raybould announced to a roaring crowd after her win Monday.
The incumbent narrowly defeated her closest challengers, Liberal Taleeb Noormohamed and Conservative Zach Segal, with around 32 per cent of the vote in what was initially a tight three-way race.
Wilson-Raybould will be the only Independent in the House of Commons after she was ousted from the Liberal Party over the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Then attorney general, she said she was bullied by then-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his office to spare the Quebec engineering firm from prosecution.
Her decision to leave cabinet was followed by her colleague Jane Philpott, who failed in her attempt to win as an Independent in the Ontario riding of Markham-Stouffville. The two politicians supported one another at events throughout the campaign.
Trudeau eventually kicked both women out of the Liberal caucus and many of their supporters saw it as vindication when the federal ethics commissioner concluded that Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by improperly pressuring Wilson-Raybould to stop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
Wilson-Raybould declined an offer to run for the Green Party, saying she was content to run as an Independent in 2019. Still, after she was expelled from caucus, she continued to vote with the Liberals on many issues.
“Tonight we accomplished — together — something extraordinary,” she told her supporters on Monday night. “Independent, strong voices matter, and that we can do politics differently.”
UBC political scientist Gerald Baier said a minority government in Ottawa will allow Wilson-Raybould to pick and choose what issues she wants to support, with little consequence.
“She can vote with the government and nobody is going to punish her,” he said. “It’s the opportunity to be quite entrepreneurial.”
Minority equals ‘best laws, policies’
In her victory speech, Wilson-Raybould said she wants to inspire other politicians in Ottawa to work across party lines on issues like climate change, electoral reform and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
“I do think the best laws and best policies come from a minority government situation and I am going to be proud … and pleased to work with all the members of Parliament,” she said.
On Monday, she spent the day making thank you calls while her volunteers knocked on doors for a last minute push to get voters to the polls.
Wilson-Raybould won her seat in Vancouver handily for the Liberals in 2015.
Entering the race this time, she had the advantage of a significantly larger profile than her challengers. But her campaign team was challenged with persuading voters that she would be an effective MP as an Independent without the same privileges in the House of Commons as the member of a major party.
Constituents who attended campaign events in Vancouver Granville ahead of election day said they would vote again for Wilson-Raybould, either because they liked her as a person or because they wanted to send a message to the Liberal Party about its handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair.
Some expressed doubts about how much Wilson-Raybould would be able to accomplish in Ottawa as an Independent, but she pledged throughout this campaign to do politics differently through a non-partisan approach
“Vancouver Granville has shown that integrity matters and if we have integrity and do the right thing in politics you can succeed, we can succeed,” she said.
Wilson-Raybould is the first Independent MP elected in B.C. since Chuck Cadman in 2004.