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Analysis
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BC Election 2020

These Key Numbers Tell the Story of BC’s Election

Strong turnout in a pandemic. Record seats for NDP. And those incredible shrinking Liberals. Go figure.

Will McMartin 25 Oct 2020 | TheTyee.ca

Will McMartin has been active with a number of BC political parties over the past several decades, and is a long-time political analyst, public affairs consultant and Tyee contributor. His clients do not include the provincial government.

The latest tally of ballots from electoral districts across the province — released by Elections BC this morning at 1:58 a.m. — showed that a total of 1.2 million valid votes had been counted.

Nearly 30 polls remain to be tabulated in a couple of ridings (Boundary-Similkameen and Kootenay West), plus there are 525,000 mail-in ballots and about 75,000 absentee ballots yet to be added up.

It seems likely that the final number of valid votes in 2020 will be comparable to the 1.9 million counted in 2013 and 2017.

Some observations gleaned from the ballots counted so far:

1. Likely a record number of NDP MLAs.

The New Democratic Party’s share of all votes was inching upwards late in the evening (early this morning), and at last count stood at 45.03 per cent.

The party’s all-time record, 45.99 per cent, was set in 1979, under the leadership of ex-premier Dave Barrett. That lofty mark, however, was overshadowed that year by the 48.23 per cent collected by premier Bill Bennett’s Social Credit Party.

As a result, the Socreds won a narrow legislative majority, 31 seats to 26.

However, B.C. today is much less “polarized” than it was four decades ago when the two major parties — Social Credit and the NDP — routinely combined to take 90 per cent or more of all valid votes.

This year, the combined vote-share of the New Democrats and BC Liberals likely will end up around 80 per cent, so with 45 per cent or so of all valid votes, John Horgan’s NDP is on track to elect a record number of NDP MLAs — 55.

2. First-term New Dems surged in vote support.

The New Democratic Party’s share of all valid votes in 2017 was 40.3 per cent. The party’s performance this year — approximately 45 per cent — represents a provincewide increase of about four-plus percentage points.

Yet some first-term New Democratic Party MLAs — those elected for the first time in 2017 — racked up remarkable increases, considerably higher than the provincial average.

A pair of incumbents in the Dewdney area — Lisa Beare in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, and Bob D’Eith in Maple-Ridge Mission — lifted their vote-shares by a whopping 16.3 percentage points (from 44.8 to 61.1 per cent) and 11.5 points (from 41.9 to 53.4 per cent) respectively.

A trio of Burnaby MLAs first elected in 2017 also significantly exceeded their party’s provincial increase. Katrina Chen (Burnaby-Lougheed) raised her vote-share by 10 percentage points; Janet Routledge (Burnaby North) improved hers by 7.8 points; and Anne Kang (Burnaby-Deer Lake) saw her share rise by 7.3 points.

In North Vancouver-Lonsdale, Bowinn Ma expanded her share of valid votes by a stunning 12.7 points, Garry Begg in Surrey-Guildford enjoyed a 9.9 point boost over his result three years ago; and George Chow’s vote-share in Vancouver-Fraserview rose by 7.1 points.

And on Vancouver Island, first-termers Mitzi Dean (Esquimalt-Metchosin) and Ronna-Rae Leonard (Courtenay-Comox) expanded their respective vote-shares by an identical 10.6 percentage points.

3. The two incumbent Greens surged, too.

Similarly, two Green MLAs first elected in 2017 — new leader Sonia Furstenau in Cowichan Valley, and Adam Olsen in Saanich North and the Islands — also enjoyed significant improvement in their vote percentages. Furstenau increased her vote-share from 37.2 to 44.9 per cent, while Olsen boosted his from 42 to 54 per cent.

The Green Party’s share of all valid votes in 2017 was 16.8 per cent, but the latest Elections BC count put the party this year at just 15.3 per cent — a loss of about one-and-a-half percentage points.

Furstenau, however, enjoyed a 7.7 point increase in her own riding, and Olsen’s lift was an impressive 12 percentage points.

4. For BC Liberals, share of vote again slid lower.

The once-mighty BC Liberal Party plunged in the other direction, collapsing to just 35.4 per cent of all valid votes. That mark is five percentage points lower than the 40.4 per cent collected by the party in 2017 — which itself was the lowest number recorded since the beginning of the new millennium.

Indeed, the BC Liberals’ vote-share in 2020 under the leadership of Andrew Wilkinson is eerily similar to the number that restored the party to the legislature three decades ago, in 1991.

Then, Gordon Wilson led the provincial Grits from the legislative wilderness to a stunning 17 legislative seats with 33.3 per cent of the vote. A decade later, in 2001 — and under the leadership of Gordon Campbell — the BC Liberals won election to government with an overwhelming 57.6 per cent of all valid votes.

One wonders: from one-third of the vote in 1991, to one-third of the vote in 2020, has the BC Liberal Party gone full circle, and heading back to political oblivion?  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Election 2020

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