British Columbia

B.C. Votes 2017: Burnaby-Deer Lake riding profile

A look at Burnaby-Deer Lake, one of the 87 electoral districts in British Columbia.

A swing seat with a retiring MLA, Burnaby-Deer Lake is a riding the Liberals want, but the NDP need

Riding boundaries of the electoral district of Burnaby-Deer Lake (Elections BC)

In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is: Burnaby-Deer Lake, one of Burnaby's four ridings — and a close race more often than not.

1. Burnaby-Deer Lake is the only riding in British Columbia right now where both the B.C. Liberals and NDP have chosen their candidates, and neither of them is a current MLA.

That makes Burnaby-Deer Lake interesting for the moment—but history and geography means it will likely remain a riding to watch until voters cast their ballots next May.

2. The riding has been held by NDP MLA Kathy Corrigan since 2009, but she's stepping aside after two terms.

To replace her, the NDP is running Anne Kang, who has been a city councillor since 2008. The Liberals are countering with Karen Wang, who doesn't have any political experience but operates three daycare centres in Burnaby. The Green Party candidate is once again Rick McGowan, founder of the Metrotown Residents' Association and 2013 candidate here. Elias Ishak, a school board candidate in the 2014 municipal elections, is also running as an independent. 

3. On the surface, this appears to be a close riding, but one that should favour the NDP if 2017 is a standard election.

The NDP won Burnaby-Deer Lake by about 500 votes in 2009, 900 votes in 2013, and the region from East Vancouver to Port Coquitlam has been trending towards the NDP over the past decade, both federally and provincially.

4. There's also the fact that Kang had a higher name recognition than Wang before the campaign began.

"You've got someone who is known municipally, and someone else for the Liberals who isn't really well known by comparison," said former NDP strategist Bill Tieleman.

"But being nominated helps a lot, because you can go out and say 'I am the candidate for this party', so you definitely have an advantage...if you're an unknown candidate, you want as much time as possible."

5. Still, Burnaby-Deer Lake is difficult to handicap.

Tieleman says the area always contains a mix of longtime families, temporary renters and new immigrants, making it difficult for a party to guarantee a stable base of support.

"It's basically three-dimensional chess in Burnaby," he said. "It makes it harder for any party to make sure what level of support it has within one election to the next...the socio-economic and demographic mix changes constantly," he said.

6. Also unique to Burnaby-Deer Lake is its multicultural mix, even by Metro Vancouver standards.

In the 2013 election, 28.6 per cent of residents had a first language other than English, Punjabi, or a Chinese language—the fourth highest number in British Columbia. Tieleman says that makes it difficult for a party to focus on any one ethnic group.

"There's a special effort on any party that's successful to reach out to different communities, different regions, as well as different socioeconomic levels," he said.

7. If you want to guess where the election might be decided, look at the area surrounding Metrotown.

In 2013, the polling stations in this area overwhelmingly supported Corrigan and the NDP on election night.

But over the past three years, rapid development in the area has displaced many lower-income residents and replaced them with wealthier condo owners—and in the 2015 federal election, the Conservatives received more votes than the Liberals and NDP in the towers directly north of the mega-mall.

8. Otherwise, the NDP is favoured on the west side of the riding near Boundary Road.

The Liberals, though, will look to sweep up the more suburban neighbourhoods to the south and east of Deer Lake. Turnout will be key according to Tielman.

"You want to make sure that a) you've identified your voters, and b), you've maximized the number that participate for you on election day," said Tieleman. "Everything counts in a riding like that."

9. But while this may be a swing riding, the Liberals can afford to lose Deer Lake—after all, they have in the last two elections, while still forming a majority government comfortably.

The NDP, however?

"If the NDP want to form government, they can't lose ridings like Burnaby-Deer Lake. That would just be a disaster for them," said Tieleman.

"With a sitting city councillor versus an unknown candidate, if the NDP loses Deer Lake, they are in a lot of trouble."