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Battleground BC

Vancouver Eastside: The NDP Stronghold

But Mayencourt vs. Stevenson makes a close race in Vancouver’s West End.

By Will McMartin, 10 Apr 2005,

Two developments prior to the 1933 general election gave full flower to political polarization in the city of Vancouver; the East-West divide where the former supports the 'left' and the latter backs the 'right.'

The first was redistribution of legislative seats following the city's amalgamation (made official on January 1, 1929) with the municipalities of South Vancouver and Point Grey. In the 1928 general election, Vancouver was a 6-member riding, and South Vancouver and Richmond-Point Grey returned one MLA each. Five years later, the enlarged city was divided into four distinct electoral districts, one of which was two-member Vancouver East.

The second development was the creation of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) as a new political entity. Vancouver East and the CCF proved a perfect match for each other. In 1933, its first campaign, the new socialist-labour party captured both of the working-class riding's seats, and then repeated the feat in general elections in 1937, 1941, 1945, 1949, 1952 and 1953. Social Credit took one of the two seats in 1956 (by 99 votes), but the riding reverted to form in 1960.

Prominent CCF MLAs representing Vancouver East included Harold Winch (the party's long-time leader), Arthur Turner, Lyle Telford (later Vancouver's mayor) and Arnold Webster. After the CCF became the New Democratic Party in 1961, the new entity continued its predecessor's record of electoral success, winning both Vancouver East seats in general elections held in 1963, 1966, 1969, 1972, 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1986. The NDP MLAs were Alex MacDonald, Bob Williams, Dave Barrett and Glen Clark.

The NDP enjoyed greater electoral success elsewhere in Vancouver than did the CCF. The latter recorded two-seat victories in Vancouver-Centre in 1941, and again in 1952, and in Vancouver-Burrard in 1941, but failed to hold the ridings past a single term. The New Democrats, however, took both seats in Vancouver-Burrard in 1966, 1972 and 1975; both seats in Vancouver-Centre in 1972, 1975, 1979 and 1986; a four seats in Vancouver-Little Mountain and Vancouver South in 1972; and one of two in Vancouver-Point Grey in 1986.

When redistribution prior to the 1991 general election eliminated B.C.'s two-member electoral districts, Vancouver's five ridings became 10 single-member seats. Vancouver East disappeared, replaced primarily by Vancouver-Hastings and Vancouver-Kingsway. In the general election that followed redistribution, the NDP captured a whopping eight of the city's 10 seats; and five years later returned seven Vancouver MLAs.

In 2001, however, the New Democratic Party was all but obliterated in B.C., winning just two of 79 legislative seats. Both were on the east-side of B.C.'s biggest city: Joy MacPhail was returned in Vancouver-Hastings, and Jenny Kwan won re-election in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant.

Those two seats will easily return New Democrats in 2005, although MacPhail has retired after three successive terms in the legislature. Vancouver-Kensington and Vancouver-Kingsway, now held by Liberals Patrick Wong and Rob Nijjar respectively, also are likely to return to the NDP fold.

Vancouver-Burrard will be the scene of a hard-fought battle between controversial Liberal incumbent Lorne Mayencourt, and former MLA Tim Stevenson, now a city councilor.

Vancouver-Fraserview, won in 1991 and 1996 by the NDP, fell to Liberal Ken Johnsyon in 2001. Now Johnston is making way for a high-profile Liberal newcomer, former B.C. Court of Appeal justice Wally Oppal. The seat is likely to stay in Liberal hands.

TABLE -- Vancouver Eastside, listed in order of Liberals' 2001 vote-share

  • Vancouver-Fraserview - 56.8%
  • Vancouver-Kingsway - 49.9
  • Vancouver-Burrard - 48.1
  • Vancouver-Kensington - 47.6
  • Vancouver-Hastings - 39.5
  • Vancouver-Mount Pleasant - 33.2

Check in daily for Battleground BC, Will McMartin's voting predictions and analysis, exclusive to The Tyee. You can reach him with tips, insights and info at  [Tyee]