By Bruce Cameron
It’s finally time to choose the next leaders of the country.
Here are 12 ridings in B.C. that could make the difference between which party forms government. Polls close in the Pacific Time Zone at 7 p.m.
Esquimalt–Saanich–Sooke: The shifting fortunes of federal parties in B.C. are reflected here, with the NDP incumbent Randall Garrison pitted against his 2015 Liberal challenger, David Merner, now running for the Greens. Merner has an excellent chance to turn this seat Green if he can channel the concerns of moderate voters who oppose Liberal pipeline policies. However, Green hopes may be dashed if the New Democrat base of support that had weakened at the outset of the campaign rebounds dramatically by Oct. 21.
Courtenay–Alberni: The NDP’s Gord Johns won this riding in 2015 in a three-way race, defeating longtime Conservative MP and former Harper cabinet minister John Duncan. Given the drop in NDP support since the last time at the polls, this riding could be another close three-way race, with the Greens having an outside shot, especially considering nearby Nanaimo–Ladysmith shifted from NDP to Green in a recent byelection.
Kamloops–Thompson–Cariboo: Incumbent Conservative MP Cathy McLeod faces a strong challenge from popular former BC Liberal environment minister Terry Lake, now running for the federal Liberals. The Liberals initially believed that NDP support could shift their way after a second NDP candidate was forced to resign on the first day of the campaign. However, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s late surge may make this close.
Kootenay–Columbia: The NDP’s Wayne Stetski won here four years ago by a razor-thin, 280-vote margin, despite it being a longtime Conservative stronghold, held by former Alliance and Reform Rarty MP Jim Abbott since 1997. If the Tories are to challenge the Liberals nationally, they must win back seats like Kootenay–Columbia.
Pitt Meadows–Maple Ridge: Liberal Dan Ruimy narrowly won his seat in 2015, beating out the Conservatives by only 1,300 votes. But loyalties and personalities have shifted considerably since then. The NDP challenger from 2015, Bob D’Eith, is now the area’s MLA, and former BC Liberal MLA Marc Dalton is running for the Conservatives. This result could be right down to the wire.
Cloverdale–Langley City: Liberal incumbent John Aldag won by 10 per cent over the Tories last time around, but Liberal support has dropped across the country since then, putting this riding into play. Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives have high hopes that businesswoman Tamara Jansen will be able to wrest back what was once a fairly safe Tory seat. But former Conservative MP Gurmant Grewall is also running here, for the People’s Party of Canada, and could siphon off Conservative votes.
Coquitlam–Port Coquitlam: Liberal Ron McKinnon captured this formerly solid Conservative seat by fewer than 2,000 votes in 2015. The Liberals will be spending a lot more money here this time, after they were outspent by the Conservatives by more than $170,000 the last time at the polls. If some of the NDP voting base shifts to the Liberals to stop the Conservatives, then this seat will remain Liberal.
South Surrey–White Rock: Gordie Hogg, the popular former mayor of White Rock, is battling to keep this seat Liberal against Conservative Kerry-Lynne Findlay. If this 2015 pick-up by the Liberals falls to the Conservatives in 2019, it may signal that Scheer will form government.
Vancouver Granville: Former Liberal justice minister and newly independent candidate Jody Wilson-Raybould will face off against Liberal Taleeb Noormohamed in this contest sure to garner national attention. A riding poll by Justason Market Intelligence suggests Wilson-Raybould may have a lead, cobbled together from a diverse collection of former Liberal voters, NDP voters and even some Conservative voters eager to send Justin Trudeau a message.
Vancouver Kingsway: Three-term NDP MP Don Davies was first elected here in 2008, but with a star candidate running for the Liberals in former TV anchor Tamara Taggart, this riding is in play. Not only is it one of the oldest ridings in B.C., it also contains a high proportion of immigrants, such as Chinese Canadians (36 per cent) and Filipino Canadians (13 per cent). The rise in New Democrat support post-debates might be enough for Davies to hold on.
North Vancouver: Liberal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Jonathan Wilkinson will test the Liberals’ ability to retain seats in areas around Vancouver in 2015. He faces Andrew Saxton, former Conservative MP from 2008-2015, in a re-run of the 2015 vote. In the previous campaign, Wilkinson won by 30 per cent, so there would have to be a large collapse of Liberal support for Saxton to make this a close race. If it is close, this head-to-head, Conservative-Liberal clash could have national implications, deciding which party forms government.
Burnaby North–Seymour: For pure theatrics and candidate charisma, this riding is worth watching. It pits young, energetic incumbent Liberal MP Terry Beech against former NDP MP Svend Robinson, one of Canada’s first openly gay MPs, who is trying to win after serving many of the same constituents for 25 years. It also happens to be the endpoint for the Trans Mountain pipeline, which puts the Liberal government’s pipeline policies and recent federal purchase of Trans Mountain in the spotlight like no other riding in the province. The Conservatives will be a non-issue here, since their candidate was removed for anti-gay statements.
Projections are based on data from Statistics Canada and Elections Canada and compiled by Canadian market research firm Return On Insight.
Bruce Cameron, Black Press Media’s polling analyst, is the founder of Return On Insight. Follow him on Twitter @roitweets