03/21/2012 10:26 EDT | Updated 05/21/2012 05:12 EDT

B.C. byelections open up 3-party race

B.C. Premier Christy Clark has called two byelections for Port Moody-Coquitlam and Chilliwack-Hope for April 19, giving three parties chances at winning seats in the legislature.

The NDP are widely considered to be the frontrunner in the Port Moody-Coquitlam race where popular former Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini is running against two relatively unknown challengers, Liberal nominee Dennis Marsden and B.C. Conservatives nominee Christine Clarke.

But the race in Chilliwack-Hope, which was once considered a safe B.C. Liberal seat, is now considered to be a close three-way race between all parties because of the popularity of the B.C. Conservative candidate.

The Conservatives nominee is criminologist and media commentator John Martin, who is running against Liberal nominee Laurie Throness, the long-time chief of staff to former federal cabinet minister Chuck Strahl. The NDP nominee is Gwen O'Mahony.

The resurgent Conservatives are hoping to send their first elected MLA to the legislature since 1978, while the NDP are hoping to get in if the Liberals and Conservatives split the centre-right vote.

The governing Liberals are hoping to defy recent polling trends and come through with a rare by-election win for a sitting government, but history is against them.

Over the past 40 years, there have been 23 provincial byelections, and the opposition parties have won 21, while the governing parties have won only two, in Kamloops in 1981 and in Point Grey in 2011.

The two seats have been vacant since the resignations of two high-profile Liberal MLAs under Clark.Former Attorney General, Barry Penner resigned the Chilliwack-Hope seat last November to take a job with a Vancouver law firm.

Former cabinet minister MLA Iain Black resigned in Port Moody-Coquitlam last fall to work for the Vancouver Board of Trade.