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Analysis
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BC Election 2020

The Ridings to Watch on BC’s Election Night

The polls suggest an NDP majority. Here are the key battlegrounds.

Andrew MacLeod 23 Oct 2020 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of All Together Healthy (Douglas & McIntyre, 2018). Find him on Twitter or reach him at .

Predicting where an election will be won or lost would be easy with a crystal ball. But the main tool we have is a rearview mirror.

That’s certainly the case with the B.C. election, where the NDP appears to be cruising towards a majority but the other two parties are still hoping for a miracle.

There are 87 seats in the B.C. legislature up for grabs. In 2017, the BC Liberals won 43 of them, the NDP 41 and the Greens three, giving the NDP and Greens just enough for the NDP to form a minority government with Green support.

The path for a Liberal return to power under Andrew Wilkinson should therefore be relatively clear. Hold on to what the party won last time under former premier Christy Clark and pick up one or more seats that were close.

The BC Liberals lost in Maple Ridge-Mission by just 335 votes, less than 1.3 per cent of the votes cast. In Courtenay-Comox, the winning margin for the NDP’s Ronna-Rae Leonard was 189 votes. There were 2,201 votes for the Conservative candidate, and with no Conservative running this time the bulk of that support should go to BC Liberal Brennan Day.

Oak Bay-Gordon Head, where Andrew Weaver was twice elected as a Green but isn’t running this time, was held by the BC Liberals from 1996 to 2013 and could well be a win for the party again. Nor should the Liberals be counted out in another Green riding, Saanich North and the Islands, where they came close in 2013.

And there were another seven ridings, all of them in Vancouver and its Lower Mainland suburbs, that the Liberals lost to NDP candidates by less than 10 per cent, all of which would be winnable in a close election.

However, if the opinion polls are to be trusted, it’s not a close election.

At the campaign’s start, polls showed the NDP under Leader John Horgan with a 19-per-cent lead, a gap that would translate to a major swing in the legislature. As many as 55 seats would go to the New Democrats, meaning the party would pick up some it had long considered unwinnable.

Since then the polls have narrowed, but they are still showing an NDP lead of about 12 per cent in the final week of the campaign. Even according to the Liberals, the gap only recently came down into the single digits.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that by election day, around one million British Columbians will have already voted, about one out of three registered voters, either by mail or by advanced voting.

As of Thursday, the poll aggregator 338Canada was projecting 52 NDP seats and CBC’s poll tracker was predicting 48.

That would mean the NDP picking up about a dozen seats. The most likely are the ones the party lost by less than 10 per cent in 2017. They include some that the party has won in recent elections like Fraser-Nicola, Skeena and Columbia River-Revelstoke. The closest were Vancouver-False Creek, Richmond-Queensborough and Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, all of which had gaps of less than two per cent.

Others within reach for the NDP include Richmond-Steveston, Richmond South Centre, Surrey-Cloverdale, Vancouver-Langara, Langley and Boundary-Similkameen.

And then there’s Cowichan Valley, long an NDP-held constituency that Sonia Furstenau won for the Greens in 2017 by less than six per cent. This time her profile is higher as leader, but the NDP has North Cowichan Coun. Rob Douglas running and has been campaigning hard to support him.

And like the Liberals, the NDP is hopeful that Weaver’s retirement in Oak Bay-Gordon Head creates an opportunity. The party hasn’t won there since 1991 but is hoping former MP and environmental lawyer Murray Rankin’s name recognition will give them a boost. It also held Saanich North and the Islands from 2013 to 2017 and could have a chance in a three-way race.

Certainly, the travels of party leaders suggest the Liberals are spending more time on defence against the NDP than they would like. In recent days Wilkinson has campaigned in Surrey, Pitt Meadows, Osoyoos and Campbell River. For two days in a row he’s held events in Delta South, which should be a safe seat for the Liberals.

Horgan has been in Langley, North Vancouver, Coquitlam, Kamloops, Merritt, Penticton and Surrey. Since Sunday, he’s also visited all three of the Green ridings.

Which brings us to the Greens.

Leader Furstenau has been calling on British Columbians to return a minority government, one where Greens would continue to have a role in shaping policy and keeping the legislature collaborative.

But there are very few constituencies where the 2017 results would suggest they are within striking distance. Maybe Victoria-Beacon Hill with the NDP’s Carole James retiring? Or North Island where the NDP incumbent isn’t running and biologist and wild salmon advocate Alexandra Morton has stepped forward? Or West Vancouver-Sea to Sky?

Any gains would be a surprise. More likely the party will be fighting to hold the seats it has, and indeed Furstenau has spent much of the last week of the campaign in her own riding and Saanich North and the Islands where Adam Olsen is the Green incumbent.

The minority result she’s hoping for will require a miracle, just like it did in 2017.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Election 2020

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