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Battleground BC

The North: Liberals Hard to Dislodge

The Greens and NDP got whipped in this region in 2001.

By Will McMartin, 30 Apr 2005, TheTyee.ca

The North remains a key battleground in British Columbia's 2005 general election. Both major party leaders, Liberal Gordon Campbell and New Democrat Carole James, stumped through the region last week and are likely to return before May 17.

Each has good reason to hope for success. The NDP captured seven of the North's 10 seats in 1991, and six of 10 in 1996, while the Liberals swept the region in 2001. (See Battleground BC, March 30.)

As it was four years ago, the North in 2005 once again is a two-party battle between the Liberals and the NDP, with the Green party nearly irrelevant. In the last contest, the Greens garnered 12.4% of the vote province-wide - and nearly one-in-five votes in Vancouver Island South - but took less than five percent in the North. One might surmise that many voters in a region dependent on the development of natural resources are reluctant to support a party dedicated to restricting or preventing resource development.

In the last election there were no Green candidates in either Peace River North or Cariboo South, and party representatives garnered just 4.1% of the vote in Peace River South and 4.6% in Cariboo North. The best Green showing in 2001 was in Prince George-Mount Robson, at just under 10 percent. (See table 1 below.)

Yet, the New Democratic Party also fared very badly in the North in 2001. Province-wide, the New Democrats took 21.6% of the vote, but just two of 10 NDP candidates in this region managed to exceed that mark. (See table 2.)

As a consequence, because both the New Democrats and the Greens found little favour with voters in the North, the Liberal party won most of the region's 10 seats by substantial margins. For example, Blair Lekstrom in Peace River South finished a whopping 52.4 percentage ahead of the combined vote-shares of his NDP and Green opponents.

Such large margins of victory usually are difficult to surmount, one election to the next. The point is that even if the New Democrats re-take all of the votes lost to the Greens in the North four years ago, they still face a tremendous uphill climb in winning a significant number of this region's seats. Outside of North Coast, Prince George-Mount Robson and Bulkley Valley-Stikine, the task looks near impossible. The Liberals enjoy a considerable advantage in the North as will be shown over subsequent Battleground BC analyses. Table 1 - Green share of popular vote in North ridings, 2001

  • Prince George-Mount Robson - 9.9%
  • Prince George North - 7.5%
  • Bulkley Valley-Stikine - 6.5%
  • Prince George-Omineca - 6.0%
  • Skeena - 5.2%
  • North Coast - 5.2%
  • Cariboo North - 4.6%
  • Peace River South - 4.1%
  • Peace River North - 0
  • Cariboo South - 0

Table 2 - NDP share of popular vote in North ridings, 2001

  • North Coast - 37.6%
  • Cariboo South - 25.8%
  • Bulkley Valley-Stikine - 21.3%
  • Skeena - 19.9%
  • Prince George-Omineca - 18.6%
  • Prince George-Mount Robson - 18.4%
  • Cariboo North - 17.7%
  • Prince George North - 14.2%
  • Peace River North - 11.6%
  • Peace River South - 7.7%
Check here 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 will@thetyee.ca  [Tyee]