British Columbia

B.C. Votes 2017: Cariboo-Chilcotin riding profile

A look at Cariboo-Chilcotin, one of the 87 electoral districts in British Columbia.

A large riding that broke dramatically in the Liberal's favour last election. Can the NDP rebound?

The boundaries of the Cariboo-Chilcotin electoral district. (Elections BC)

In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is Cariboo-Chilcotin, one of five ridings in the Cariboo — and one that might typify the NDP's dilemma on natural resource issues.

1. The Liberals have won this riding twice in a row — but in two very different ways.

In the 2013 election, the NDP had high hopes in Cariboo-Chilcotin. 

After all, it was a rematch of the 2009 election, which incumbent NDP MLA Charlie Wyse lost by just 88 votes to B.C. Liberal Donna Barnett. And with the NDP high up in the polls, and Wyse running again, many had pencilled it in as the type of seat they would retake with ease.

But the NDP lost the election, along with the seat — and instead of losing by 88 votes, they lost by 2,939 seats.   

2. It's one of many ridings in the Thompson/Cariboo that swung heavily to the Liberals last election. 

In Cariboo-Chilcotin, it was a 21 per cent swing in the B.C. Liberal Party's favour in the 2013 election. To the east, Kamloops-North Thompson swung to the Liberals by 11.6 per cent. To the south, Fraser-Nicola swung to the Liberals by 10.9 per cent. 

The NDP lost ground in all five ridings in the region last election, and Steve Forseth, writer of the Cariboo Politics blog, believes the NDP's stance on environmental issues played a role.

"The infamous Kinder Surprise played a role," says Forseth, alluding to former NDP leader Adrian Dix's decision to oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline in the middle of the election. He also cited an all-candidates meeting when Wyse said the NDP would institute a two-year moratorium on fracking (a promise he later retracted, saying he misspoke). 

"You look at agricultural, you look at mining, forestry, [these are] traditional breadwinners in terms of what supports the rural economy around Cariboo-Chilcotin, and have been for many, many years," said Forseth. 

3. Cariboo-Chilcotin is large and rural.

Bordered by Williams Lake to the north, 100 Mile House to the south, and Anahim Lake to the west, it's the sixth largest riding in the province — and with an estimated 33,520 people as of 2014, the eighth smallest in terms of population. 

4. There have been small changes to the riding's boundaries. 

In the last two elections, the riding divided Williams Lake by Highway 97, meaning the neighbourhood just east of the city centre was in a different district.

That's been changed for this election, along with putting 150 Mile House and the Sugar Cane Reserve from Cariboo North to this riding.

5. While the NDP has historically been competitive here, Barnett is well liked. 

The NDP won Cariboo South in 1991 and 1996, but they face an uphill battle in this election, says Forseth. 

"Donna's reputation overall is one of a hard worker, one that has an open mind, doesn't apply a political lens to people, and genuinely wants to work for people," says Forseth of the Liberal incumbent, who was the longtime mayor of 100 Mile House before entering provincial politics.

Despite her lack of cabinet position, she's also provided for her riding: $21.6 million has been spent by the provincial government widening a four-lane section of Highway 97 south of Williams Lake. 

6. Who is Barnett up against?

The NDP candidate is Sally Watson, the longtime Area E director for the Thompson Nicola Regional District. The Green Party candidate is Rita Giesbrecht, a resident of 108 Mile Ranch. 

7. Where does the NDP do the best?

The party dominated in many of the First Nations reserves west of Highway 97, including Canoe Creek Indian Reserve No. 3 (85 per cent of the vote) and Anahim's Flat No. 1 (90 per cent of the vote). They also traditionally do fairly well in Williams Lake, although this was not the case last election.

8. What about the B.C. Liberals?

They did extremely well in the suburbs just to the south of Williams Lake, gaining upwards of 70 per cent of the vote at some polling stations, and won every area in and around 100 Mile House.  

Who's running in the 2017 British Columbia election?