87 ridings are at stake in B.C.’s provincial election, but a handful on Vancouver Island could be vital to the parties vying to form government this fall.
The 2017 election netted 41 seats for the NDP and 43 seats for the Liberals, both just shy of the 44 seats needed for a majority.
Three seats for the Green Party left them in a unique position to steer the provincial agenda by forming a minority government with the NDP.
This fall, every seat matters. On the Island, these five ridings in particular will be ones to watch.
Victoria-Beacon Hill has been widely seen as a NDP stronghold since 2005, when former Finance Minister Carole James first won with a whopping 57 per cent of the vote.
However, James announced in March that she wouldn’t be seeking re-election, setting off a fierce nomination competition between local Inuk business owner Stephanie Papik and UVic lecturer Grace Lore.
Lore ultimately took home the nomination and will be facing off against Liberal candidate Karen Bill, who previously placed third against James in 2013 and 2017.
Early Liberal campaign messaging has focused on petty crime they have linked to the province’s homeless, which could resonate with voters who are concerned with encampments in downtown Victoria and parks like Beacon Hill.
Oak Bay-Gordon Head
Former Green Party leader Andrew Weaver will be stepping aside from politics this fall, after holding the seat of Oak Bay-Gordon Head since 2013.
The NDP have placed a close third in the riding in the past two elections, but have nominated political heavyweight Murray Rankin to run.
Rankin served as federal MP for Victoria from 2012 to 2019 and was the NDP House Leader during that time.
The Liberals have nominated local lawyer Roxanne Helme, whose resume includes serving on the Board of Directors for the Canadian College of Performing Arts and the Inter-Cultural Association of Victoria.
The NDP and Liberals are likely to fight hard for a seat they perceive as vulnerable among the Green Party’s already limited caucus.
Green Leader Sonia Furstenau will also be facing some stiff competition to keep her own riding of Cowichan Valley.
Furstenau emerged victorious in 2017 with a relatively narrow margin of victory, taking home 37 per cent of the vote compared to 31 per cent for the NDP and 27 per cent for the Liberals.
It’s also the Green Leader’s first term as MLA, and the NDP are likely looking to flip the seat back to orange with North Cowichan Councillor Rob Douglas.
Douglas was elected to council as part of the “One Cowichan” slate of municipal candidates.
The Liberals have announced Tanya Kaul, a long-time employee of Cowichan Lake Recreation and a first-generation immigrant, as their candidate for the riding.
Former B.C. Minister of Transportation and North Island MLA Claire Trevena, like her colleague Carole James, will also not be running for re-election.
Trevena was first elected in 2005 in North Island, which encompasses Campbell River and Port Hardy. At the time she narrowly beat out incumbent Liberal Rod Visser, with 45 per cent of the vote to Visser’s 43 per cent.
The BC NDP have nominated Campbell River Councillor Michelle Babchuk to vye for the seat, which Trevena carried with a wider margin of 47 to 35 in 2017.
Norm Facey will be looking to turn the seat back to the Liberals again this time around. The Liberal candidate for the riding is a former employee of Western Forest Products and has an extensive history with the forestry and mill industry.
With logging and steel workers suffering financially through COVID-19 and through prolonged strikes predating the pandemic, Facey could connect with these voters on the North Island.
Saanich North and the Islands
Incumbent candidate Adam Olsen served as the interim leader for the BC Green Party, raising his profile, but the riding of Saanich North and the Islands is far from safe.
The election in 2013 saw an incredibly tight three-way split, with the NDP’s Gary Holman winning the seat with 33 per cent of the vote, while Olsen and Liberal candidate Stephen Roberts each took home 32 per cent.
In 2017 Olsen earned a more solid victory with 42 per cent to Holman’s 30. The NDP have yet to announce a candidate for the competitive riding, while Roberts is returning to campaign for the Liberals for the third time.
With a tight race ahead of them in Vancouver Island’s swing ridings, candidates for all three parties are expected to ramp up their campaigns in coming weeks.