The first First Nations woman elected to the B.C. legislature won one of two byelections for the NDP in Metro Vancouver last night.

The NDP's Melanie Mark, who is part Nisga'a, Gitxsan, Cree, and Ojibway, won the riding of Vancouver-Mount Pleasant easily with 60 per cent of the vote.

Housing affordability and poverty reduction were two of the key issues facing candidates in the East Vancouver riding, and Mark, who grew up in East Vancouver has a long history of as an activist, volunteer and youth worker with the community.

But she also has some very personal connections to the local aboriginal community and the challenges its members face.

"I was raised in social housing in East Van. I moved more than 30 times in my life. My mother, now 10 years sober, struggled with addiction living in the Downtown Eastside. My father died in the same community of an overdose when I was 23," she wrote in a recent commentary in the Georgia Straight.

Full results for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant

  • B.C. NDP Melanie Mark: 5,353 votes, 61 per cent
  • B.C. Green Party Pete Fry: 2,325 votes, 26 per cent
  • B.C. Liberal Party Gavin Dew: 994 votes, 11 per cent
  • Libertarian Bonnie Boya Hu: 74 votes, one per cent
  • YPP Jeremy Gustafson: 55 votes, one per cent

The first aboriginal ever elected to a legislature in Canada was Frank Arthur Calder, who won a seat for the B.C. NDP in Atlin in 1949. He remained an MLA until 1979.

There is already one aboriginal woman who is a B.C. MLA — former NDP leader Carole James, who is part Métis.

Recently Jody Wilson-Raybould, a high-profile B.C. First Nations leader won a federal seat in Vancouver Granville, and was made Canada's justice minister by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

NDP takes Coquitlam-Burke Mountain

In the riding of Coquitlam Burke Mountain the NDP's Jodie Wickens won 46 per cent of the vote, beating B.C. Liberal Joan Isaacs.

Transit infrastructure and schools were major issues for the Coquitlam riding, which candidates discussed throughout the campaign.

  • B.C. NDP Jodie Wickens: 3,562 votes, 46 per cent
  • B.C. Liberal Party Joan Isaacs: 2,936 votes, 38 per cent
  • B.C. Green Party Joe Keithley: 1,061 votes, 14 per cent
  • Libertarian Paul Geddes: 145 votes, two per cent

B.C. Premier Christy Clark called the byelection on Jan. 5 to  replace members of the legislature who ran for federal office.

Details of the results are available at the Elections BC website.

Greens move forward

While the NDP candidates won in both seats, the Green Party is also claiming a victory of sorts in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, where they beat out the Liberals for second place with 26 per cent of the vote.

Party Leader Andrew Weaver says the numbers bode well for his party's future, but he's still disappointed by the low turnout overall.

"What this is, is a very strong showing of B.C. Greens, it shows we are a viable option," said Weaver.

"But what is sad is only 22 per cent of people voted in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, and the NDP got 60 per cent. That means they only won with 13 per cent of the people supporting them in that riding. We need to reclaim our democracy here in British Columbia."

Metro Vancouver byelection

Voters in two ridings in Metro Vancouver were at the polls on Tuesday. (CBC)

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story mistakenly said Melanie Mark was the first aboriginal woman elected to the B.C. Legislature. She is in fact the first First Nations woman. NDP MLA and former leader Carole James is part Metis.
    Feb 03, 2016 9:27 AM PT
With files from The Canadian Press