British Columbia

B.C. Votes 2017: Burnaby North riding profile

A look at Burnaby North, one of the 87 electoral districts in British Columbia.

Richard Lee seeks re-election in what might be the mostly highly contested seat in Metro Vancouver

The electoral district of Burnaby North will be one of the most hotly contested in the 2017 provincial election. (Elections BC)

In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is Burnaby North, one of 4 ridings in Burnaby — and one to be watched come election night.

1. To understand why you'll be hearing plenty about Burnaby North in the next four months, here's a quick math lesson.

With 87 seats up for grabs in May's provincial election, the NDP needs 44 MLAs if it wants to guarantee an end to 16 years of B.C. Liberal rule and form a majority. With 35 MLAs currently, that means taking nine new ridings.

Which means all eyes will be on the nine seats the B.C. Liberals won by five per cent or less in 2013: Surrey-Fleetwood (200 votes), Delta North (203 votes), Port Moody-Coquitlam (437), Vancouver-Fraserview (470), Cariboo North (603), Fraser-Nicola (614), Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows (620), Burnaby North (688) and North Vancouver-Lonsdale (1,188). 

And of those nine seats, there's only one the NDP has lost by fewer than 1,000 votes in 2013, 2009, 2005. 

That would be Burnaby North.

"It's a must-win," admits Glen Sanford, B.C. NDP deputy director.

2. To add to the drama, this year brings a rematch.

Janet Routledge, a retired director of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, lost to four-term MLA Richard T. Lee by 688 votes in 2013. 

But she decided to run again, and defeated city councillor James Wang for the party's nomination late last year. 

"I've done a lot of work since [2013] to connect more deeply with the community. I have a strong connection, I love this community," said Routledge, explaining why she decided to run again.

The Green Party candidate is Peter Hallschmid, an engineer and CEO of Blackcomb Design Automation. 

3. Affordability will be a big part of the NDP's campaign here.  

The vast majority of ridings the NDP narrowly lost in 2013 all fit the same broad profile: suburban, middle-class and in Metro Vancouver. 

Little wonder, then, that the NDP plans to press the B.C. Liberals hard on the issue of affordability. 

"People are moving out because they can't afford to live here anymore, and it breaks my heart," said Routledge.

"A lot of the older homes where longstanding members of the community have lived are being torn down, bigger places are being built ... I want to be part of a government that makes different and better choices for people." 

4. So, too, will Kinder Morgan.

Sanford said that in key ridings, the party will send out more volunteers, armed with communication targeted to the community.

And in Burnaby North, that means attacking the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, particularly if the provincial government endorses the project as expected.

"It's a central issue. The people of Burnaby North have not been listened to by their current MLA and government," said Routledge. 

5. Where does the NDP do well? 

The party has three clusters where it historically does the best in this riding. First is the Burnaby Heights neighbourhood, centred around Hastings Street from Boundary to Willingdon. Second is the area immediately to the northwest of Kensington Park. And third is the area surrounding the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).

6. What about the Liberals? 

The townhouse-heavy developments directly north of the Lougheed Highway favour the party, along with some of the newer towers directly south of the highway.

However, overall it's a riding without a lot of geographical polarization: of the 123 polling stations where ballots were cast on election day in 2013, 62 were decided by 15 votes or fewer.

7. The ballot will say Routledge and Lee — but the NDP hopes when people vote, they also think of another name. 

"We're going to work harder to hold Christy Clark and her government to account for what they've done to British Columbians," said Sanford.

Aside from a stronger focus on swing seats, on affordability and on targeted issues, the NDP believes the biggest difference voters will notice from 2013 is its willingness to go after the premier — who now, six years in, has a record the NDP believes it can attack. 

Whether its bet pays off or not will be seen on May 9, and seen most prominently in ridings like Burnaby North.

MAP: Every polling station in the riding last election