The campaign to elect British Columbia’s next government begins today. The polls suggest the New Democrats might win in a landslide, but there are nevertheless several ridings worth keeping an eye on as the campaign unfolds.
Though the race is between Adrian Dix’s NDP and Christy Clark’s BC Liberals, many of the most interesting ridings are centred on independents and candidates for the province’s smaller parties.
The B.C. legislature already hosts a handful of independents, and there is a good chance that a few of those – maybe all of them and more – will return to Victoria after the campaign is over. In Abbotsford South, former Liberal (and briefly B.C. Conservative) MLA John van Dongen will be gunning for re-election and he stands a decent chance. He won with 59 per cent of the vote in 2009.
A former NDP MLA, Bob Simpson, is also running a strong campaign in Cariboo North. Both van Dongen and Simpson will have their efforts aided by the decision of the B.C. Greens not to run candidates against them, though that is unlikely to be a decisive element in the race. Also getting the Green stamp of approval is independent candidate Arthur Hadland in Peace River North. He took almost a third of the vote in his failed 2009 bid, but is taking another run at Liberal MLA Pat Pimm.
A large slate of Conservative candidates (the party had only 24 candidates in B.C.’s 85 ridings in 2009) will also be taking a run at the Liberals for the right-wing vote, and they do stand a chance in a few seats. Langley is not one that anyone would have put in the top tier of Conservative ridings, but party leader John Cummins is running there nonetheless. If his party takes off, he could pull off an upset. The Conservatives are also running a decent campaign in the Okanagan region, meaning there could be some tight three-way races in ridings like Kelowna-Mission, Vernon-Monashee, and Boundary-Similkameen.
The B.C. Greens are also hoping to make a splash, primarily in and around Victoria. The federal party elected its first MP in the region in November and almost beat the NDP in a by-election held in Victoria earlier this year. The party is putting all of its resources in the area. Party leader Jane Sterk is running against former NDP leader Carole James in Victoria-Beacon Hill, while renowned climatologist Andrew Weaver is running in Oak Bay-Gordon Head. The Greens could also do well in a riding like Saanich North and the Islands, which contains a portion of Elizabeth May’s federal district.
There are a few ridings that are worth watching to see how the B.C. Liberals do. Clark has a tough fight on her hands in her own riding of Vancouver-Point Grey, which she barely won in a 2011 by-election. Once again her NDP opponent is former director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, David Eby.
Former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan is running in Vancouver-False Creek, while Finance Minister Mike de Jong is in a safer position in his riding of Abbotsford West, but as the party’s No. 2 he will be a target.
For the New Democrats, with their party so far ahead in the polls all of their incumbents would seem to be safe. The thing to watch for , however, is how many seats they end up winning and the vote share they take. The polls suggest the party should be able to take more than the 42 per cent of the vote it took in 2009, but if their turnout is depressed or if some of their supporters go to the Greens or a few of the independents, there is a chance that the NDP will take little or no more than they did in their 2009 defeat. Improving their vote share would be a strong symbol that British Columbians chose the NDP as their next government, rather than Dix becoming premier by default.
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/the-pulse) of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers twice weekly, mostly Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com (http://www.threehundredeight.com), covering Canadian politics, polls, and electoral projections.
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