British Columbia

Big ridings but few close seats: the federal election in B.C.'s north and Interior

Here's a quick look at the individual elections in the Interior and north this year. 

It's rare that any of the nine districts in B.C. outside the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island change hands

Prince George is part of two of the nine electoral districts in B.C. that aren't on Vancouver Island or in the Lower Mainland. (The Exploration Place)

There's always hope beyond Hope, especially when you're a political party wanting to win an election. 

But whether there will be any changes to the political map of B.C.'s Interior and north in 2021 is another question. 

Of the nine electoral districts in British Columbia's north and Interior, six have stayed with the same party in every election the last twenty years. The other three have only changed parties once in that time. 

And almost none of them could be described as traditional "swing seats" — aside from the 2015 election when the Liberal Party did well in many parts of B.C. that usually support other parties — just one seat in the region has been decided by less than 3,000 votes this century. 

That being said, change is always possible. Here's a quick look at the individual elections in the Interior and north this year. 

Prince George and the Peace = traditionally blue

Let's start with historically one of the least competitive ridings in the entire country, and one of the biggest. 

In 2019, 70 per cent of voters in Prince George–Peace River–Northern Rockies chose Conservative candidate Bob Zimmer to represent them for a third term. The riding has elected only right-wing parties since 1972, and Zimmer is running for re-election. It's also one of the three ridings in B.C. so far with a candidate from the Maverick Party, led by former B.C. MP Jay Hill. 

CaribooPrince George is the other northern riding that contains parts of the region's biggest city, and it historically has been somewhat more competitive, but has also elected only right-wing candidates since 1993.  

Conservative candidate Todd Doherty defeated his closest challenger here by nearly 19,000 votes in 2019, but two of his competitors this time are fairly well known to the public: Liberal candidate Garth Frizzell is a Prince George city councillor, while NDP candidate Audrey McKinnon was a CBC radio reporter until 2019.

Similar story with the Okanagan  

The only riding in this region where the sitting MP isn't seeking re-election is Kamloops–Thompson–Cariboo, where Cathy McLeod decided not to run again after four terms. 

A Conservative or Canadian Alliance MP has held the Kamloops area for two decades, which means Conservative candidate Frank Caputo, a Crown prosecutor, is the likely favourite. At the same time, NDP candidate Bill Sundhu and Liberal candidate Jesse McCormick, both lawyers themselves, are hopeful for an upset, given how close the riding was in 2015. 

And while the Greens have never been particularly competitive in B.C. outside Vancouver Island and parts of the Lower Mainland, their Kamloops–Thompson–Cariboo candidate Iain Currie got 12 per cent of the vote when he ran in 2019 — more than any other Green candidate in the Interior — and will hope to build on that.  

As for the rest of the Thompson–Okanagan, Conservative candidates Dan Albas, Tracy Gray and Mel Arnold are all seeking re-election in Central Okanagan–Similkameen–Nicola, Kelowna–Lake Country, and North Okanagan–Shuswap respectively. 

All three won comfortably last election, and the entire region has voted for the B.C. Liberals provincially and Conservatives federally for decades, with the exception of a Liberal upset in Kelowna in 2015. 

Three closer rematches?

But the three closest electoral districts last election all have a decent chance to have some tension on election night.

They're all sprawling ridings in the northwest and southeast of British Columbia, they all have plenty of smaller communities where median income tends to be less than much of the province, and they're all places that elected both right-wing and left-wing parties federally and provincially.
 
And in all three, the Conservatives and NDP are having rematches from the 2019 election, involving a sitting MP and a former municipal politician.  

In Skeena-Bulkley Valley, NDP candidate and former Smithers mayor Taylor Bachrach seeks re-election against Conservative Claire Ratté, a former Kitimat councillor. In South Okanagan-West Kootenay, NDP candidate Richard Cannings seeks a third term against Helena Konanz, a former Penticton city councillor. 

And in Kootenay-Columbia, Conservative Rob Morrison seeks re-election against the NDP's Wayne Stetski, the former mayor of Cranbrook and former MP for the riding. 

Of course, past election results and current polls don't determine the future. And as any politician knows, to run takes plenty of hope. 

Each week CBC British Columbia will take a brief look at a different region of the province in this federal election. Next week: Vancouver Island. 

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