British Columbia

B.C. Votes 2017: West Vancouver-Sea to Sky riding profile

A look at West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, one of the 87 electoral districts in British Columbia.

Spanning from Pemberton to West Vancouver, this sprawling riding has no shortage of local issues

The riding includes all parts of West Vancouver to the west of 28th Street. (Elections B.C.)

In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, one of four ridings on the North Shore — and one with extreme differences in political culture depending where you go.

1. If you want to know why the NDP has never won this sprawling riding, head to its eastern boundary.

Yes, West Vancouver-Sea to Sky includes Pemberton, Whistler, Bowen Island and Squamish, all regions that have environmental and affordability debates that give the NDP a chance.

But the ridings includes every part of West Vancouver that's to the west of 28th Street, which means it includes a polling station north of Highway 1 on the far edge of the British Properties, where new houses are still being built, in which the NDP got just 1 of 67 votes in 2013.

That may sound bad. But consider that it was an infinity per cent increase from 2009, when they received zero. 

2. The B.C. Liberals have always done well in this region — even when it wasn't a major political force.

The party held the riding of West Vancouver-Howe Sound from 1966 to 1975 under MLA Allan Williams, before he switched to the Social Credit Party. 

The Liberals regained the seat in 1991 and have held it ever since, never dipping below 50 per cent of the vote.  

3. Jordan Sturdy, the former mayor of Pemberton, is well aware of the diversity of his riding.  

"Each community has their own particular perspective and concerns and challenge," he said, quickly listing off various issues facing each community, from the aging population of Lions Bay, to creating a diversified economy in growing Squamish, to addressing affordability concerns in Whistler while continuing to encourage tourism. 

"Everyone's interesting in ensuring that there's jobs, good health care and good education, but the particular priorities of the people on Bowen Island are not even necessarily in common with the people who live in West Vancouver." 

4. Another reason why it's hard to see a surprise win for the NDP? The strength of the Greens. 

The party finished in second place in three straight elections prior to 2013, never finishing below 18 per cent of the vote. It tends to do best in Whistler, homes near Horseshoe Bay, and Bowen Island. 

With many people drawn to the area because of the recreational opportunities, Sturdy is aware that natural resource proposals, like the Woodfibre LNG project in Squamish, will be controversial — but he says it's a project he'll advocate strongly for.

"My philosophy is one of we need to have a diversified economy, and we can't either always look at these things as either or," he said. "If you can't have a project like Woodfibre, then you're not in the natural gas business at all. We need to work together."

The NDP candidate is Michelle Livaja, a Capilano University communications student and former B.C. Nurses' Union employee. The Green Party candidate is Dana Taylor, a former two-term city councillor in North Vancouver.

5. Where does the NDP do well? 

Because this riding is so diverse, let's generalize a bit: the party does well in Squamish, is competitive in Pemberton and Bowen Island, poorly in Whistler, and really poorly in West Vancouver. Their best result last election came in the reserves to the east and south of Pemberton, where it received 81 per cent of the vote.   

6. What about the Liberals? 

By the same token, the party does poorly in Squamish, decently in Pemberton and Bowen Island, well in Whistler and really well in West Vancouver. Their best result last election came in a polling station just to the north of West Vancouver's Lighthouse Park, where it received a whopping 135 of 150 votes — which comes out to 90 per cent. 

7. There may not be a district in B.C. that better encapsulates the tension between growth and conservation.

"It's a very dynamic environment, not the least of which is the issues of forest fires, of floods, of debris flows. We have a couple of volcanos to round things out. I describe the riding as a microcosm of B.C. We have it all," said Sturdy.  

To illustrate his point, he talked at length about the controversy over the popularity of the Joffre Lakes trail north of Pemberton this summer. 

"The question is what is the guest experience like on that trail? What are the impacts to the environment, to the wildlife? What do we do about it? Do we build a bigger parking lot ... can we build ourselves out of it? Do we want to build ourselves out of it?"

He was talking specifically about the trail — but he could have been talking about the riding as a whole. 

"The conversation about how we manage demand, whether it be in recreation or in energy, in forestry in residential development. This is the challenge that we face these days," he said.

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