With less than two weeks left until British Columbians head to the polls, we’re continuing our look at some of the most hotly contested ridings in the campaign.
Today, we’re heading south of the Fraser to Delta-North, another suburban swing riding that came down to the wire in 2013.
BC Liberal – Scott Hamilton
BC NDP – Ravi Kahlon
BC Green – Jacquie Miller
Why we’re watching
Another squeaker from 2013, Delta-North was decided by just over 200 votes in the last election with incumbent Scott Hamilton defeating the NDP’s Sylvia Bishop.
In the past, the riding has been fertile ground for both major parties, with the NDP holding it for two terms before Hamilton won, and the Liberals holding it for two terms prior to that.
The conservatives pulled in nearly 1,000 votes last time around, but with no candidate in the race this year it could mean a boost for the BC Liberals.
The Liberals are again running Scott Hamilton who is well known in the community after four terms as a municipal councillor.
The NDP is bringing some star power to this race in the form of Ravi Kahlon, a former national field hockey star and double Olympian, with tours in Sydney and Beijing.
And the Greens have chosen a credible candidate in Jacquie Miller, a policy analyst with experience working for the government of the Northwest Territories on resource and infrastructure projects.
A central, suburban riding with plenty of through traffic and bordered by Highway 99 in the south and Highway 17 and the Alex Fraser Bridge in the north, traffic and transportation are top of mind in Delta-North.
“People are just a little bit tired of sitting in traffic all the time and would rather be home with their families,” says Liberal candidate Hamilton.
Asked if he’s hearing much about the Massey replacement project or plans for the Pattullo, Hamilton says surprisingly no.
“Most of the traffic problems that people experience in North Delta are as a result congestion on the Alex Fraser Bridge,” he says, touting the Liberal plan to add a seventh counterflow lane.
The NDP’s Kahlon agrees gridlock is top of mind, but says he’s hearing tolling policy come up again and again at the doorstep.
“People feel it’s unfair for people in our region to have to pay that toll [on the Port Mann], because essentially what happens is people try to avoid that bridge, take Pattullo, Pattullo jams up, and then people come over Alex Fraser.”
He says the NDP is prepared to work with the region’s mayors to come up with funding solutions for infrastructure so long as the pain is spread out equitably.
He adds he’s also hearing frustration about the lack of investment in transit in the community.
“It’s more visible in Vancouver, but Vancouver is very integrated into our region,” says the Greens’ Miller, noting how the crisis is winding its way into the region’s bedroom communities.
“There are people who have died in Delta from fentanyl, and people who are dying in the Downtown Eastside who are family members and friends of people in North Delta.”
She says more needs to be done in terms of counselling services for youth in schools to stop them from getting involved with drugs in the first place.
With fentanyl now making its way into all manner of party drugs and penetrating the suburbs, it’s an issue all three candidates say they’re hearing on the trail.
2017 Stats: Delta North
Population (2014): 55,011 (55th)
Area: 32 sq km (63rd)
Pop Density: 1,719.1 (26th)
Average Age: 39.4 years (60th)
English as Second Language: 39.69 per cent (23rd)
Top 3 Second Languages:
Panjabi (Punjabi) – 18.38 per cent
Hindi – 2.89 per cent
Mandarin – 2.62 per cent
“It’s crossed over into the recreational side,” says Hamilton. “And I’ll tell you the truth, I had a double overdose on my street back around Christmas time. And if it wasn’t for the son finding them, we would have had two dead people in my neighbourhood.”
“It scares all of the parents because it’s really close to home,” says Kahlon, alluding to a recent incident where he says the city saw eight overdoses in a single hour.
Both the Greens and the NDP have pledged to create a ministry of Mental Health and Addictions if elected, while the Liberals have declared a public health emergency and set up a task force to look into it.
You’ll find no riding in Metro Vancouver where housing and affordability isn’t an issue, and Delta-North is no different.
With under 20 per cent of the population renting according to the 2006 census, the conversation has focused on the skyrocketing price that’s boxing out prospective new homeowners.
“Buying is becoming way out of reach,” says Kahlon.
“Townhouses in North Delta are going for $650,000 and above, it’s not cheap. There are not condo options here,” he says, adding that he’s even beginning to hear people tell him they can’t afford to rent in the community.
Hamilton says he’s hearing affordability come up on the doorstep too, but says his party has taken action with the 15 per cent foreign buyers tax and down payment loan for first-time homebuyers.
“I think government is doing its bit to try to address the issue. Hopefully, there’s a little bit more we can do down the road.”
“People are very frustrated with MSP in an unaffordable region. It’s a very high cost,” says the Greens’ Miller, pointing to her party’s plan to roll it into the progressive tax system.
She also points to a growing homeless population, particularly among youth whom she describes the “hidden homeless,” calling for more supports for kids in school.
“People are growing older in these communities as well, so health care is also top of the list with respect to the discussion,” says Hamilton.
Miller agrees it’s a recurring theme on the trail, one she understands personally.
“My mom had a stroke in late 2009, and she’s got diabetes and it’s regressed in such a way that she can’t really take care of herself without home care,” she says, adding a Green government would invest in this area.
Kahlon agrees seniors’ health issues are a growing hot topic, arguing that five out of six seniors care facilities in the region can’t meet minimum staffing levels.
He also says he’s hearing frustrations about resources at the local hospitals.
“Having to go to the hospital and waiting 24 hours, you hear about people sitting, waiting in the ER hallways, waiting times at the Emergency Room.”
Hamilton counters that Victoria has been pouring money into health, with a budget now hovering just under $20-billion a year.
He says while his party is committed to funding new health infrastructure, the conversation now how to keep the safety net going as the population of seniors grows.
“We have to find efficient ways to do so that we can service more people with the same amount of money.”