NEWS
12/03/2016 17:00 EST | Updated 12/04/2017 00:12 EST

2017 British Columbia election: Vancouver-Point Grey riding profile

In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is Vancouver-Point Grey, one of 11 ridings in Vancouver — and one that will likely get much less attention compared to last election.

1. It's been a rapid ascent in the political fortunes of David Eby. 

"I didn't actually expect to win," said David Eby, of his 2011 byelection battle against Christy Clark, who just months earlier had been chosen B.C. Liberal leader and premier, and had chosen to run in Gordon Campbell's old seat of Vancouver-Point Grey to get a seat in the legislature. 

"I wasn't there because I thought I would win that election. I was there because I wanted to debate the premier on a couple of issues that were important to me and important to the community."

Eby, then only really known by journalists and civil rights activists through his time at the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, lost that byelection by just under 600 votes. But he defeated Clark in the 2013 general election, was named NDP housing critic in 2014 — right before the market became Metro Vancouver's biggest issue — and now is often spoken of as a potential future leader of the party.  

2. Eby's position as housing critic has been politically advantageous for him.  

One of the areas of the Lower Mainland that has seen the highest rise in housing prices is Eby's own riding. It's meant that community events or his critiques of government — which for most MLAs would result in marginal media coverage — regularly turn into stories covered by the provincial media. 

"The discussion even 4 years ago was not as acute as it is today. There was a little bit more rental housing available, it wasn't as desperate," said Eby.

"A professional —  a doctor, or engineer or someone maybe in finance — could maybe afford a detached house, so there wasn't the same level of urgency. It's really a different story now." 

3. For the first time since 1991, the B.C. Liberals won't be represented here by their party leader. 

James Lombardi, who has been the head of global business development for Free The Children and director of WE Day, is the B.C. Liberal nominee. Thus far, he's gotten the most attention for pushing the government to adopt legislation that would allow ride-sharing in the province. 

4. While Eby's victory in 2013 was considered an upset because he was facing Clark, the Liberal's strength in Point Grey had always been exaggerated.  

Prior to 1991, the riding was a two member constituency and included the Dunbar neighbourhood, which traditionally has been quite conservative politically. The NDP won the riding under its current boundaries in 1991, but Gordon Campbell won as Liberal Leader in the next four provincial elections.

But even then, Campbell won three of four elections by between 5 and 11 per cent — not a landslide, by any means. That leaves it an open question as to what could have happened with a less-known Liberal candidate.   

5. Eby believes the name of the riding might play into perceptions.

In the polling stations between the University Endowment Lands and Alma Street (broadly containing Point Grey), Eby received 340 votes less than Clark — 2111 to 1771. But between Alma and Arbutus (broadly containing Kitsilano), Eby received 888 more vote than Clark — 3,986 to 3,098.

"The name is misleading for people. It's called Point Grey, but it's really the small and low-density party of the constituency. The voters in large part live on the east side in Kitsilano, or along the water. There's a lot of renters, a lot of low-rise condo buildings, and these are people who are inclined to vote NDP if they hear a message that resonates with them, and they did." 

6. Student turnout is always the wildcard.

With the University of British Columbia at the western end of the riding, there's always a large number of students living in the riding, either in campus housing or basement suites in Point Grey.

That should help the NDP—but because the fixed election date is always a couple of weeks after final exams, many of those students are outside the riding on election day.

How well the NDP is able to organize early voting and registration for UBC students could play a role in his election prospects. 

7. Eby knows the riding demands an engaged MLA.

Because of his role with the party, Eby is a high-profile member of the NDP caucus. But watch his TV appearances, and you'll notice many of them come from his constituency office, where a large blackboard with a map of his riding is prominently displayed.

The riding is essentially UBC plus the Vancouver neighbourhoods of Point Grey and Kitsilano — and those two have always been proud of their local identity.

"It's really about showing up," he said. "I'd hear lots of stories about, 'Oh, Gordon Campbell used to ride in the Point Grey Fiesta parade, and Gordon Campbell used to show up at the school, and Gordon Campbell used to show up here. There were none of those stories about Christy Clark."

"I saw firsthand the importance the community places on that. I sure am not going to be a person that takes the community for granted."