By Bruce Cameron
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer began this week in the vote-rich regions of Quebec and Ontario. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh started off in London, Ont. And Green Party Leader Elizabeth May chose her riding of Saanich–Gulf Islands in B.C., where she expects to make historic gains.
It’s hard to imagine another Liberal Party of Canada leader from the past 30 years who would kick off an election campaign in B.C. But that’s what Justin Trudeau did, in the riding of Vancouver Kingsway, held by three-term NDP stalwart Don Davies.
Why make that move? Recent polling trends suggest NDP voters are moving away from the party. If Trudeau can capture once-safe NDP seats such as Vancouver Kingsway, campaign strategists believe he can hold onto his majority.
How crucial a role will British Columbia play in the ultimate outcome? It’s been said before that B.C. will matter only until the news media make their calls on the winning party before results in the west are even fully counted.
If the polls are to be trusted, however, and that is asking a lot given the recent track record of some pollsters, B.C. may hold the key to the final result.
Some of the questions to be explored in this four-part series on B.C.’s role in the federal election include:
- Can the Liberals hold on to seats in the Lower Mainland despite a drop in the polls from 2015?
- Can the Conservatives re-capture interior and suburban B.C. voters who used to deliver safe Conservative seats?
- Can the NDP avoid a collapse of its voter base in B.C. to Greens and Liberals?
- Will Vancouver Island deliver a Green Party breakthrough?
In most predictive models, which combine multiple poll results with historic voting patterns, B.C.’s 42 seats could prove the decisive factor in determining which party forms government.
Consider the outcome in 2015, when all four major parties captured seats.
Trudeau’s ability to connect with people in the densely populated ridings in the Lower Mainland gave the Liberals 17 seats.
The NDP held on to 14 ridings, despite the drop in total votes across the country, as many supporters defected to the Liberals in a push to defeat then-Conservative leader Stephen Harper.
Many previous Conservative strongholds in B.C.’s central and interior regions fell to the New Democrats, leaving Harper’s party with just 10 seats in the province.
But that was four years ago, and the Tories are gunning for a rebound.
Hope are high for other parties too.
The Liberals must keep their progressive foothold in diverse urban and suburban ridings around Greater Vancouver and fend off independent Vancouver Granville candidate Jody Wilson-Raybould, a former Liberal cabinet minister ousted from caucus in the SNC-Lavalin affair.
The Greens, who have the most to gain from the recent drop in NDP support, raise the prospect of a possible Green sweep in southern Vancouver Island.
A handful of ridings will give clues as to how the campaign is unfolding in B.C.:
- Interior: Kamloops–Thompson–Cariboo and Kootenay–Columbia
- Lower Mainland: Pitt Meadows–Maple Ridge and Cloverdale–Langley City
- Vancouver: North Vancouver, Vancouver Granville, Vancouver Kingsway and Burnaby North–Seymour
- Vancouver Island: Esquimalt–Saanich–Sooke and Courtenay–Alberni
Get ready for the spotlight, B.C., as national attention shifts to the West on the campaign trail.
Bruce Cameron, Black Press Media’s polling analyst, is the founder if Return On Insight