The NDP is expected to hold onto two British Columbia ridings where byelections will be held Saturday after the resignations of senior government figures, but the parties that take second place could provide hints about the next general election.
The sprawling Victoria area constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and urban Vancouver-Mount Pleasant riding are both considered solid NDP territory, having been held by former New Democrat premier John Horgan and cabinet minister Melanie Mark respectively.
Prof. Hamish Telford of the University of the Fraser Valley said both are likely safe for the New Democrats but the byelections should also provide the government and B.C.’s opposition parties with a report card ahead of a general election scheduled for next fall.
Langford-Juan de Fuca had been held by Horgan since 2005, and Vancouver-Mount Pleasant had been represented by Mark since 2016.
“I think we would expect the NDP to win these, but in these two ridings the Greens came second last time,” Telford said in an interview.
“Do they hold that position this time? We wouldn’t expect the former B.C. Liberals to win these two ridings, but how does their campaign go under their new brand of BC United?”
The province’s main opposition party officially changed its name in April to BC United.
The presence of B.C. Conservative candidates in both byelections could also be a factor, especially since the party is now led by John Rustad, who holds a seat in the legislature, Telford said.
“I think it’s these secondary issues that we’re probably going to be looking for on Saturday,” he said.
Telford said he will be particularly interested in the results for BC United candidate Jackie Lee in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, suggesting it could be a measure of the party’s focus on public safety and health care.
“If (BC United Leader) Kevin Falcon’s strategy of rebuilding and rebranding the former B.C. Liberal Party is going to pay off, it has to pay off in Vancouver and the suburbs around Vancouver,” he said. “It’s got to show some traction in a riding like this to sort of indicate he’s having some success with what he’s trying to do.”
In the 2020 provincial election, Horgan was elected in Langford-Juan de Fuca with almost 68 per cent of the vote.
The Green candidate placed second with 16.6 per cent of the vote and the B.C. Liberals received 14.9 per cent of the vote.
The B.C. Conservatives did not field a candidate in 2020 and the riding’s fourth candidate representing the Communist Party of B.C. received less than one per cent of the vote.
In Vancouver-Mount Pleasant in 2020, the NDP’s Mark took almost 67 per cent of the vote, with the Greens at 20 per cent and the B.C. Liberal candidate at 12.9 per cent.
There was no Conservative candidate.
The current standings in the 87-seat B.C. legislature are: NDP at 55; BC United with 27; Green Party at two; there is one Independent; and the two vacancies.
Premier David Eby called the byelections last month.
He said both ridings are in urgent need of representation, describing Langford-Juan de Fuca as one of the fastest growing regions in the province and Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, which includes Chinatown and the city’s Downtown Eastside, as facing “big challenges.”
Eby visited Langford-Juan de Fuca before calling the byelection, stopping at local businesses and chatting as he walked along Goldstream Avenue, Langford’s main street, with NDP candidate Ravi Parmar.
Falcon said his candidates, Elena Lawson in Langford-Juan de Fuca, and Lee in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, are grassroots community leaders, business people and volunteers who will fight to improve health care and neighbourhood safety.
Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the outcome of the byelections will not result in a government change, but sending more Greens to the legislature will help push the government to provide accessible health care, affordable housing and bold climate action.
Five candidates are running in Langford-Juan de Fuca, including Camille Currie, Green; Mike Harris, Conservative; Tyson Riel Strandlund, Communist Party of B.C.; Lawson, BC United; and Parmar, NDP.
Parmar is longtime community leader and is Sooke School Board chairman.
Lawson, who has a son with autism, is a community activist and co-founder of the Children’s Autism Federation of B.C.
Currie, a personal trainer, is the founder and president of Canada Pacific Health Care Matters Society.
Harris, a longtime Langford area Realtor, said if elected he will work to cut government waste and keep taxes low.
Strandlund says on his website the “profit-driven capitalist system is the root” of many of the issues facing the province, including climate change, health care, opioid overdose deaths and the rising costs of food, fuel and rent.
Joan Phillip, an Indigenous leader and climate activist who ran twice for the NDP federally in the south Okanagan, is the NDP candidate in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant.
Phillip is the Penticton Indian Band land manager but has strong ties to the Downtown Eastside.
She is married to Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs president.
Wendy Hayko, an emergency management expert, is running for the Greens.
She previously ran against Falcon in the April 2022 Vancouver-Quilchena byelection.
Lee, the B.C. United candidate, is an engineer and technology industry executive, who said he lives in Richmond but spends much of his time in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.
He said he volunteers at Vancouver Co-op Radio and served on local committees to address safety issues in Chinatown.
Conservative candidate Karin Litzcke said she is an education advocate who, if elected, “will stop the promotion of ideology throughout government institutions, like our government.”
Kimball Cariou, a Saskatoon-born editor, said this is the fourth time he has run in a B.C. election as a candidate for the Communist Party of B.C.