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To Win, New Dems Must Pry Loose These Six Seats

Comox Valley, Saanich South, Stikine, North Van-Lonsdale and two in Burnaby.

By Monte Paulsen 7 Apr 2009 | TheTyee.ca

Monte Paulsen is investigative editor of The Tyee, and will be editing The Hook for the next few weeks.

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Burnaby Deer-Lake NDP candidate Kathy Corrigan with party leader Carole James.

Six seats. That may be all that stands between NDP leader Carole James and the premier's office.

If British Columbians vote on May 12 the same way they did in 2005, they will elect 48 B.C. Liberals and 37 New Democrats, according to a review of how the old vote would likely play out in the province's new ridings.

If James can persuade just six additional ridings to switch allegiance, that would give New Democrats the 43 seats require to form government. It's a long-shot scenario that requires the NDP to carry all of their safe seats, win each and every one of the swing seats that lean their way, and pry six B.C. Liberal seats from Campbell's grasp.

Here's a quick look at six B.C. Liberal ridings the NDP is likely to target:

Burnaby-Deer Lake

This new electoral district was carved from the old Burnaby-Willingdon and Burnaby-Edmonds ridings, and its precincts' voting histories would appear to favour the B.C. Liberals by a six-point margin.

John Nuraney was elected as MLA in the riding of Burnaby-Willingdon in the 2001 provincial general election, and was re-elected in 2005. Nuraney is a former insurance agent and realtor who now owns several A&W restaurants.

The NDP are running high-profile union veteran Kathy Corrigan, who served three terms on the Burnaby Board of Education. Corrigan, a lawyer, is a researcher for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). She is married to popular Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan.

Burnaby-Lougheed

B.C. Liberal Harry Bloy is running as an incumbent in this newly named riding, which includes much of his former Burquitlam district. He was elected in 2001 and re-elected in 2005, and Bloy's prospects should be improved slightly by the new riding boundaries.

But Bloy faces an unusually strong challenge from union leader Jaynie Clark, who managed Bill Siksay's successful 2004 and 2006 campaigns. Clark has worked for the B.C. Government Employees Union (BCGEU) for two decades, most recently as director of human resources. The union represents more than 60,000 members, and is expected to work hard to elect one of its own.

Comox Valley

This Vancouver Island riding also lacks an incumbent, due to the death of B.C. Liberal MLA Stan Hagen in January. Hagen took 46 per cent of the 2005 vote, narrowly defeating NDP opponent Andrew Black's 43 per cent; Green candidate Chris Aikman took 9 per cent of that vote.

The NDP are running newcomer Leslie McNabb, who has worked in the forest industry for 30 years, against three-term Courtenay councillor Don McRae, who works as a social studies teacher. Both are born and bred Islanders. No Green Party candidate has been announced.

North Vancouver-Lonsdale

All of the North Shore ridings have been safe seats for the B.C. Liberals since Gordon Campbell became the party's leader. But this new riding lacks an incumbent, and redistricting has altered the north and northwest boundaries of North Vancouver-Lonsdale, moving the Capilano First Nations reserve into the district.

The B.C. Liberals are running businesswoman Naomi Yamamoto, who has served as chair of Capilano College's board of governors, of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce and of the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce. Yamamoto has received several awards, including Business in Vancouver's 40 Under 40 Award in 1997.

The NDP are running former North Vancouver municipal mayor Janice Harris, who has topped the municipal polls in her last four elections. The Lonsdale riding, however, is in the City of North Van, not in the District of North Van, where Harris served.

Complicating matters for the B.C. Liberals, Lonsdale is among the handful of Metro Vancouver ridings being challenged by a B.C. Conservative Party candidate. Ian Mcleod has been involved in BC politics for over 20 years.

Saanich South

This sprawling suburb north of Victoria is a perennial swing riding, having been won by New Democrats in 1991 and 1996, a B.C. Liberal in 2001, and returning to the NDP in 2005. MLA David Cubberley is not seeking re-election this year, leaving the riding once again wide open.

The NDP is running vintner Lana Popham, who with her firefighter husband owns Barking Dog Vineyard. Popham lost a 2005 race for Saanich Council, and is known mostly for her campaign to replace disposable plastic bags with reusable ones.

Broadcaster Robin Adair is running for the B.C. Liberals. Adair worked for two decades as a sportscaster, news anchor and talk show host before becoming a PR consultant. His work for WCG International's disastrous JobWave program left him in the unpopular position of being Mr. No Comment.*

Stikine

B.C.'s largest and least populated riding may be the exception that proves the rule about the significance that green suburbanites will play in this year's campaign.

Boundary changes have left the new Stikine riding among the most polarized in the province. It has two population centres: The mostly white town of Smithers, which leans B.C. Liberal, and the mostly aboriginal community of Hazleton, which supports the NDP.

The B.C. Liberals are running Scott Groves, a political novice who coaches local hockey and softball teams when he's not working at his family's auto dealership in Smithers.

NDP candidate Doug Donaldson is in his fourth-term as a municipal councillor in Hazelton. Donaldson is the founding director of the Upper Skeena Development Centre, founder of the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en School of Journalism, and a board member of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition. Donaldson ran against the B.C. Liberals in the 2005 election, and is expected to benefit from the support of federal NDP MP Nathan Cullen, who's wide-reaching campaign organization could help turn out the First Nations vote across this massive riding.

Tomorrow: Six ridings the BC Liberals will fight to keep.

*Story changed at 2 p.m., April 8, 2009.

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