Metro Vancouver’s Big 5 Battleground Ridings
The 2015 Federal Election will be remembered for many things, including its marathon length and expense. But likely the most memorable element will just how competitive it has been. For the first time in Canadian history, all three major parties at one point held a legitimate chance of forming government.
Nowhere has that tight race been more apparent than in battleground BC, where redistricting has added six new seats, bringing the total to 42. Many of the hardest fought ridings are right here in Metro Vancouver. Here’s five we think you should keep your eye on.
Smack in the middle of the city, this is a band new riding created during the 2012 federal electoral boundaries redistribution. Pieces of it were drawn from all five other ridings in the city, and it contains a diverse population ranging from Mount Pleasant renters to Shaughnessy mansion dwellers.
Why we’re watching
Stitched together from multiple ridings and with no incumbent, no one knows which way Vancouver Granville will break. It is considered one of the tightest three-way races of the BC campaign.
It is also a microcosm of some of Vancouver’s top issues. Containing both some of the city’s most expensive properties, and renter-driven areas like Mount Pleasant, housing has been a key issue. Transit is also a major concern, thanks to the congested Broadway and densifying Cambie corridors which both lie within the riding’s boundaries.
Looking at the redistributed results from 2011 the Conservatives have an edge here, and their targeted economic message is expected to resonate with its wealthier residents. Candidate Erinn Broshko has a successful business career, and has been aggressively door knocking in the area.
But both the NDP and Liberals have brought serious contenders to the table. Jody Wilson-Raybould is a BC Assembly of First Nations regional chief, former crown prosecutor and treaty commissioner. Mira Oreck is the director of public engagement with the Broadbent Institute, and a formidable campaigner with experience stumping for Barack Obama and Vision Vancouver.
But while the high calibre candidates give both parties a realistic chance, it also creates a dilemma for progressive voters. Vancouver Granville may end up as a textbook example of vote splitting, once the ballots are counted.
Competition in the riding has also put the spotlight on strategic voting. Leadnow’s strategic vote website ‘Vote Together’ stirred controversy in the final week of the campaign by endorsing the NDP candidate, when riding level polls showed conflicting results about who was leading in the district.
Another new riding, Burnaby North-Seymour was created by marrying together pieces of ridings in North Vancouver and North Burnaby. The decision was not popular at the time, drawing fire for joining together two communities with little in common and no physical connection to each other.
Why we’re watching
Ground zero for pipeline politics, this is a riding where environmental and development issues dominate. The fight over the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline has defined the campaign. That may resonate in Burnaby where there has been strong opposition to the project. As a brand new riding, there is also very little historical precedent to go by.
Burnaby North-Seymour was billed as possibly the only true four way race in BC when the campaign kicked off. The Green Party is running Lynne Quarmby, one of their most prominent Lower Mainland candidates here. A respected SFU biochemist, she was arrested during protests against Kinder Morgan at Burnaby Mountain. While she has since faced calls to step down over fears of vote splitting, there’s no doubt she’ll draw a big enough share of the vote to matter.
Liberal candidate Terry Beech has run a focused campaign, with some recent riding level polls showing him within striking distance, and he may benefit from the current national swing towards Trudeau.
But the battle may come down to a horse race between the NDP and the Conservatives, from whose traditional territory the riding was built. In 2011 the Conservatives carried North Vancouver by nearly 20%. The NDP have traditionally had little trouble winning Burnaby-Douglas, though shaved off a much closer win in 2011.
Both parties are also running strong candidates. The Conservatives’ Mike Little is a three-term District of North Vancouver Councillor with strong name recognition. Carol Baird-Ellan is a long-serving provincial court judge, and the first female chief judge of the Court of BC.
A highly multicultural, working class residential neighbourhood in Vancouver’s Southeast, Vancouver South has been known to elect both Liberals and Conservatives.
Why we’re watching
A perennially competitive riding, Vancouver South is a Liberal-Conservative dog fight. Virtually since its creation in 1917, the seat has flipped back and forth between Grit and Tory candidates.
In the last election, Conservative Wai Young unseated former BC Premier and Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, beating him by almost 9%. It was a rematch of the 2008 election, when Dosanjh won by a mere 20 votes.
But Young has had some mis-steps early in this campaign. She made headlines in July when she compared the Conservative Party to Jesus. However, she was also able to announce $2.5 million dollars for a long-sought Killarney seniors centre, something that may appeal to the nearly 30% of the population over the age of 55.
The Liberals have recruited a strong candidate in Sajjan, a decorated Canadian Forces combat veteran with experience in the VPD gang crime unit. The NDP has never won the riding, but Amandeep Nijjar, who hails from the area, could siphon off enough votes from the Liberals to be the difference maker.
English is not the first language for two thirds of people living in this riding. That led to fireworks in the final week of the campaign, with the Conservatives publishing a controversial attack ad in ethnic media, accusing the Liberals of planning to bring brothels, injection sites, and marijuana shops into the neighbourhood. As a riding with a highly multicultural makeup, it’s also worth watching how the campaign’s focus on immigration and social issue resonates.
An updated version of Newton-North Delta, this is a large and highly multicultural riding where crime is sure to be top of mind. In the last decade, all three major parties have held the seat.
Why we’re watching
This looks to be another competitive three way race, that all three major parties think they can win.
To a certain degree, it is a re-match. Jinny Sims won the seat in its prior form in 2011, defeating sitting MP Sukh Dhaliwal by just 903 votes.
But the third place Conservative candidate trailed Dhaliwal by fewer than 100 votes. Sensing opportunity, they have recruited Harpreet Singh, a well known broadcaster with decades under his belt working in ethnic media.
The new boundaries of the riding may also favour the Conservatives. North Delta, which voted strongly for the NDP in the last election, has been carved off and rolled into Delta this time.
West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country
This geographically large and elaborately named riding encompasses West Vancouver, Whistler and Pemberton, and the lower half of the Sunshine Coast including Gibsons and Sechelt. It is currently held by Conservative MP John Weston, and has traditionally been fertile Conservative territory.
Why we’re watching
At first blush, this is a safe Conservative seat. MP John Weston has held it since 2008, winning it by more than 45% in 2011. Prior to that, John Reynolds held it for the Reform, Canadian Alliance, and Conservative parties in turn from 1997-2006. While the large geography of the seat means it includes a diverse population, it is on average one of the wealthiest in BC.
But there are signs the seat is in play this year. Several riding-level polls since spring have put the Liberal party in serious contention. And the Liberals are aggressively targeting it, recruiting star candidate and two-term former mayor of West Vancouver Pamela Goldsmith-Jones. The Liberals have also actually won the seat in recent history. MP Blair Wilson took it in a 2006 squeaker, though later crossed the floor to the Greens, before losing the seat to Weston.
Strategic voting advocates have made it a key target, pointing out the combined opposition vote share in 2011 would have been enough to edge out a victory over the Conservatives. That could be important, with the Greens running a well known former mayor of Whistler and the NDP polling in the healthy double digits.
Environmental and development issues have also been a hot button issue here, though to a lesser degree than in Burnaby North-Seymour. The proposed Woodfibre LNG plant has divided candidates over tanker traffic and employment concerns. Weston backs the plan, while the NDP and Green candidates oppose it. Goldsmith-Jones has hedged, saying she can’t vote for it until it sees a more thorough environmental review process.
Bonus Round: Upsets to watch for
What’s a good race without a couple of upsets? Here are some ridings to keep an eye on that under the right circumstances could flip.
South Surrey-White Rock
When the election was called, this was seen as a slam dunk for the Conservatives. The seat has gone consistently Conservative since it was created in 2004, and the area has voted Conservative/Reform/Alliance for decades. Retiring MP Russ Heibert won four consecutive elections here by margins in the 25% territory.The Tories have also recruited a star candidate in popular former three-term Surrey mayor, Diane Watts.
The Liberals had an embarrassing moment here earlier in the campaign, when candidate Joy Davies was forced to drop out over controversial Facebook comments about marijuana use. But Watts appears to be facing a stiffer than expected challenge from replacement Liberal candidate Judy Higgenbotham, with election forecasts by the Toronto Star and Threehundredeight.comboth putting her in the lead. If there is an opposition surge, this seat could flip.
In the last parliament, Victoria was held by well known lawyer and professor Murray Rankin who is running for re-election. He won the seat in a 2012 by-election, after the NDP’s thrice re-elected Denise Savoie retired. The seat has flipped between the Liberals and New Democrats since the late 1980s.
But this year the Green Party is mounting a serious challenge, focusing its scarce resources in a bid to win a second seat. This, after narrowly losing Victoria in a 2011 race that saw the results see-saw all night. In the end, they lost by just under 3%. The Greens have recruited perhaps their strongest candidate here, well known former CBC broadcaster Jo-Ann Roberts. Roberts hosted the popular afternoon program All Points West for a decade, quitting in 2014 to campaign against cuts to the CBC.
Riding level polls have put this as a neck and neck race, which could break either way. If the NDP’s collapse in national polls is reflected here, it could make the difference. And if the Greens win a new seat in this election, it will probably be here.
This is another Conservative stronghold that could be vulnerable if the national Liberal surge plays out in BC. With a brief interruption from 2004-2008, it has voted in Conservative/Reform/Alliance candidates since its formation in the 1980s. Andrew Saxton, the Conservative candidate is a two-term incumbent.
But several polls have shown Liberal Jonathan Wilkinson within striking distance, some of them putting him in the lead. The Liberals were also able to win the seat in 2004 and 2006. The fact leader Justin Trudeau chose to hold a rally here during the precious, dying hours of the campaign indicates they think they can do it again.
MP Fin Donnelly is trying to retain this seat for the NDP. Donnelly has won it twice as New Westminster-Coquitlam, and prior to that Dawn Black held it for the party.
But it is another district that has seen it’s boundaries updated, and now contains part of the territory formerly held by retiring Conservative Cabinet minister James Moore.
Donnelly has also faced fire over his account of his involvement in the plight of drowned Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi and his family. The Conservatives are running Tim Laidler, an Afghanistan veteran and executive director of the Veterans Transition Network.
If the Conservatives perform well or the NDP collapse, this seat could flip.