B.C. Votes 2017: Abbotsford-Mission riding profile
Right-of-centre parties have long dominated in the Fraser Valley. Will that continue in 2017?
In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is Abbotsford-Mission, one of Abbotsford's three ridings — and a seat that the NDP will be hard-pressed to take.
1. There are some ridings that will get a great deal of attention from politicians and the press during next year's provincial election — but Abbotsford-Mission is not one of them.
There is no cabinet minister running for re-election, no star candidate waiting in the wings, no sense that the next government will hinge on who wins Abbotsford-Mission. There are 87 electoral districts, and not all of them can be exciting.
2. Running for the B.C. Liberals is incumbent MLA Simon Gibson.
He was first elected in 2013 after over 30 years as an Abbotsford city councillor, replacing Liberal MLA Randy Hawes, who is now Mayor of Mission.
Just before the campaign started, the NDP and Greens announced their candidates: The NDP nominated Andrew Christie, a Vancouver resident who works for Gordon Neighbourhood House, and the Greens nominated Jennifer Holmes, who works in the health care field as a patient transfer driver.
3. Gibson is the heavy favourite here.
He defeated the NDP candidate by more than 4,800 votes in 2013, and the Liberals defeated the NDP here by more than 4,500 votes in 2009. And there's this little tidbit: the NDP has never won a riding that includes the City of Abbotsford.
4. Abbotsford-Mission is right in the middle of the Fraser Valley, which has always been an electoral weakness for the NDP.
Since 1972 , there have been 66 individual races for seats in the Fraser Valley (from Langley to Hope) during general elections. The NDP have won just seven times, and all of them have been in ridings exclusively north of the Fraser River.
5. Still, one shouldn't assume the lower Fraser Valley will always elect candidates on the right of the political spectrum.
In the last federal election, the Liberal Party defeated the Conservatives in Cloverdale-Langley City, Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge and Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon. And it was just in 2012 that the NDP shocked the Liberals by winning Chilliwack-Hope in a byelection.
"There are slow-moving demographic changes happening ... there are more younger, urban professionals moving in, and it means the political culture is changing.," said Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University of Fraser Valley who has lived in Abbotsford for over a decade.
"It's not likely to happen this election cycle or next one, but in time, we might see a more competitive cycle out here. It's not a stagnant community. It is dynamic. It is changing, and it is broadly becoming less conservative."
6. Where does the NDP do well?
Last provincial election, there were parts of the western half of the city that went to the NDP (Townline and parts of Clearbrook, specifically). And the Liberal party dominated in those regions federally in 2015, gaining over 80 per cent of the vote in some polling stations.
7. But Abbotsford-Mission doesn't include the western part of Abbotsford.
It includes the northeastern, suburban, wealthier parts of the city around Mt. Sumas — and those areas have overwhelmingly supported the Liberals provincially (and Conservatives federally) in the 21st century.
8. Here's another way of understanding how dominant the Liberals are in east Abbotsford.
If you were to divide Abbotsford-Mission in half, the part north of the Fraser River (the "Mission" part) went for the Liberals by about 500 votes in 2013. If it was its own riding, it would be considered a swing seat. But the area south of the Fraser River (the "Abbotsford" part) went to the Liberals by about 3,500 votes.
And changes to the riding's boundaries, which has added neighbourhoods immediately east of Sumas Way and north of Highway 1, will also help Gibson.
9. All of this is to say that most people will be pencilling in a win for the Liberals here.
And if that looks like it's in jeopardy, then they likely have much bigger problems to worry about.