British Columbia

What to watch for in B.C. on election night

In an election full of uncertainty, the only thing close to a guarantee is that results in British Columbia will be watched with more interest than usual. 

The province's 42 electoral districts will be last to report — but could determine who forms government

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau are seen discussing their climate plans in these file photos. (Cole Burston, Adrian Wyld, Paul Chiasson, Nathan Denette / Canadian Press)

In an election full of uncertainty, the only thing close to a guarantee is that results in British Columbia will be watched with more interest than usual. 

"British Columbia might end up being particularly important, even decisive, come election night, which isn't typical," said David Moscrop, political scientist and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Ottawa.

Polls will close in B.C. at 7 p.m. PT on Monday, 30 minutes after most of the country — and if current projections from CBC's Poll Tracker hold, the province's 42 electoral districts may determine whether the Liberal or Conservative Party holds more leverage in a minority government scenario. 

Here are some of things we'll be watching for. 

Where does the NDP surge end?

Heading into the campaign, the party that seemed to have lost the most support from four years ago in B.C. was the NDP — but after its surge in the last two weeks, the party is in a position where it could hold or build upon its 13 seats currently held in the province. 

"I think in the final analysis about B.C. that it will be about where did the NDP manage to kind of get back," said University of British Columbia political scientist Gerald Baier. 

Several of the seats the NDP hold are in suburban or predominately rural parts of B.C., where they traditionally compete with the Conservative Party. 

But on Vancouver Island (home to seven electoral districts), the Green Party is campaigning hard to add to its two MPs, making several districts a toss-up between three or even four parties.

At the same however, the Green Party's overall poll numbers have dropped during the course of the campaign, to where CBC's Poll Tracker only forecasts a maximum of four seats for the party in B.C.  

"Campaigns matter, and the Green Party hasn't had a particularly good campaign," said Moscrop.

"And not only have they had at times quite a rocky campaign, there is a progressive environmentalist alternative ... in the NDP."

Pipeline politics

While political leaders have spent plenty of time campaigning on the West Coast, Baier said there's been little focus on B.C.-centred policies, even with the government's purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline a constant source of debate. 

"I think that's kind of a tragedy of the campaign ... we've seen lots of polling on issues that suggested things like climate change matter a lot to voters," he said. 

Baier said the lack of significant policy debates was partly due to national campaigns focusing on personal controversies. But he said it was also partly because the most contested issue — whether to keep a national carbon tax recently imposed by the Liberals — was moot in B.C., because the province has had a carbon tax for a decade

"We've kind of been there, done that, in terms of our discussion of it," he said. 

However, there have been some policy discussions that have made headlines, including the NDP's promise to double funding for BC Ferries, and the Conservative Party's pledge to prioritize building the Massey Tunnel.

Ridings to watch

On election night, it's likely plenty of attention will be placed on Burnaby South (home of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh), Burnaby North-Seymour (the terminus of the Trans Mountain pipeline), the Green Party headquarters on Vancouver Island and the City of Surrey, where the majority of its five ridings are considered toss-ups. 

But Moscrop said the riding of Vancouver-Granville, where Jody Wilson-Raybould is attempting to keep her seat as an independent, would also bear watching. 

"It's hard not to be interested in the drama," said Moscrop.

"She could end up winning ... and have a significant role in the next Parliament in a way that independents rarely if ever do."

Which would provide a certain amount of symmetry, since the year in Canadian politics began with controversy over Wilson-Raybould's demotion as attorney general

Late Monday evening in B.C., she could be at the centre of the story again. 

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