With just days to go before the May 9 provincial election, we’re looking at some of the most competitive ridings in the race.
This time, we’re looking at an Island riding that could be the closest three way contest of the entire election.
BC NDP: Gary Holman
BC Liberal: Stephen Roberts
BC Green: Adam Olsen
Why we’re watching
Saanich North and the Islands provided one of the most exciting finishes of any race in the 2013 campaign, with the vote essentially split evenly three ways.
NDP incumbent Gary Holman took the seat in the end, but by a hair – fewer than 400 votes separated the first place from the third place finisher, with all three candidates earning just over 10,000 votes.
This time, it’s a three way rematch, with the NDP’s Holman once again facing off against the Liberals’ Stephen P. Roberts, and the Greens’ Adam Olsen.
Holman served as NDP ferry critic in the shadow cabinet, giving him credibility on an issue of primary importance to the riding. Before provincial politics, he served as Capital Regional District Director for Salt Spring Island.
Roberts hails from Salt Spring, and is a former bank executive who’s worked for Merrill Lynch, ING and Citibank.
Olsen is the Green Party’s deputy leader, and is a two term Central Saanich councillor as well as a First Nations housing consultant hailing from the Tsartlip First Nation.
The area has long been BC Liberal territory, with the party holding it from 1991-2013.
However, sentiments in the area have been shifting as the Greens make inroads; the district’s boundaries closely resemble those of the federal Saanich-Gulf Islands riding Elizabeth May has captured twice.
The Greens recognize this as possibly their best chance to break through and capture more than one seat, and have been pouring energy and money into the race.
And while there has been much conversation about whether the Greens will split the vote by syphoning away soft NDP supporters, in the 2013 race they appear to have pulled more votes from disaffected BC Liberal voters.
In that contest, the Liberals saw their vote drop by 2,768 from 2009, while the NDP vote dropped 2,360.
Health care and seniors issues are hot topics in the riding, which according to 2011 census figures is home to 27 per cent residents over the age of 65. A further 28 per cent are aging in that direction, and older than 50.
Like Metro Vancouver, the region is also struggling with an affordability crisis. Victoria Real Estate board figures show the benchmark price of a home in Saanich North now sits at $885,000, nearly double from where it was in 2005, and up by $150,000 in the last five years.
Ferry fares and service are a perennial issue in the riding, which contains the bulk of the Southern Gulf Islands.
Environmental issues, including the controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline which would supply bitumen tankers that pass through the coastal communities’ waters, also play an outsized role in this riding.