With the B.C. provincial election underway, we’re taking a look at what are shaping up to be some of the hottest battlegrounds in the campaign.
This time, we’re looking at a seat that the BC NDP will need to hold if they want to form government.
But the BC Liberals have it squarely in their crosshairs, and are hoping star power will propel them to victory.
BC NDP: Katrina Chen
BC Liberals: Steve Darling
BC Green: Joe Keithley
Why we’re watching
Burnaby-Lougheed is another must-win riding for the BC NDP if it hopes to capture power in the May 9 election.
The party won the riding in 2013 by a margin of just under four per cent, but that figure is less impressive when you consider it represents just 740 or so votes. On top of that, Liberal MLA Harry Bloy won the riding in 2009 by virtually the same margin.
Previously known as Burquitlam, the riding was held by Bloy in the two previous elections, but prior to that has gone NDP in every election between 1953-1996.
The NDP must hold this riding plus capture ten more to form government, and the BC Liberals are clearly hoping to flip it back into their column.
In a sign the Liberals see this riding as eminently winnable, they’ve nominated star-candidate and well-known former Global BC anchor Steve Darling to contend for the riding.
Premier Christy Clark personally recruited Darling, who has worked in the riding for years.
Adding to the drama, NDP incumbent Jane Shin isn’t running again. The party has nominated Taiwanese-born Katrina Chen, a former school trustee with the city’s municipal ruling party, the Burnaby Citizens Association.
Chen found herself the centre of controversy this week, after a BC Liberal attack that surfaced a recording of her claiming South Asians run for politics to raise their personal profiles. She has since apologized.
Meanwhile, the Greens are bringing some star power of their own, running former punk rocker and D.O.A. frontman Joe Keithley who has been a strident anti-pipeline activist of late. It’s Keithley’s third run for the Greens.
WATCH: Burnaby-Lougheed candidates join Steele & Drex live in studio (click to enlarge)
Burnaby-Lougheed sits smack in the path of the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion route, and includes the Westridge area where Kinder Morgan’s export terminal sits.
The issue has long loomed large for Burnaby, and Burnaby Mountain – also in the riding – was the site of the intense protests in 2014.
The City of Burnaby has stridently opposed the project, and opinion polls have consistently shown the position to be supported by residents.
The BC Liberals support the project, with Premier Christy Clark having deemed it met her five conditions for approval.
The issue is a complicated one for the NDP, who have said the project is not in B.C.’s interests, but are not campaigning heavily on that position as they try to avoid alienating labour supporters.
The Green Party has been unequivocal in its opposition.
Development and affordable housing
It would be hard to find a Metro Vancouver riding where this issue isn’t a factor, but housing issues are a key element in the Burnaby-Lougheed mix, where just a third of the population rents.
The Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board says the benchmark price of a detached home in the north end of Burnaby is $1.5-million, and $500,000 for a condo.
And before the foreign buyers’ tax was implemented, Burnaby was revealed to be one of the surprise hotspots for foreign investment – pulling in about 17 per cent of activity.
The riding is also home to intense transit-oriented densification in the Lougheed Town Centre, the locus of the new Evergreen Line spur.
A $7-billion project to transform the area into another “downtown” for Burnaby is underway, and is expected to bring another 11,000 residents with it.
But while that new supply is welcome to many, condo development has also been a flashpoint in Burnaby.
Most of the attention has focused on “demovictions” and the loss of affordable rentals in the Metrotown area, with housing activists even occupying NDP candidate Anne Kang’s office there.
But with similar large scale development going on in the Lougheed area, look for debate about the contentious issue to potentially spill over into Burnaby-Lougheed.
Public education is shaping up to be a key issue across Burnaby, but there’s a twist in this riding.
Burnaby-Lougheed is home to Simon Fraser University, with large numbers of students living both on campus and in the surrounding areas.
With the average annual tuition in B.C. now over $5,000, double what it was when the B.C. Liberals unfroze tuition in 2002, the NDP is making a conscious play for student votes with a promise of interest-free student loans and $1000 graduation grant.
But with youth turnout in the last B.C. election hovering just over 40 per cent, it remains to be seen whether students can be motivated to vote.