British Columbia

B.C. Votes 2017: Chilliwack riding profile

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

John Martin faces a calmer re-election effort than his first two provincial election campaigns

Riding boundaries for the electoral district of Chilliwack have shrunk for the upcoming election. (Elections BC)

In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is Chilliwack, one of nine ridings in the Fraser Valley region — and one right in the middle of the Liberal Party's power base.

1. Of the 47 ridings that existed in B.C.'s 1916 election, just three will be contested 100 years later: Nanaimo, New Westminster and Chilliwack.

But unlike Nanaimo and New Westminster, which have always been urban ridings, the boundaries for the Chilliwack district have shrunk: from the entire southeastern Fraser Valley 100 years ago, to just 135 square kilometres in the next election.

2. The riding has become even smaller since the last election.  

In the most recent round of redistribution, the riding has lost northeast Sardis — between Vedder Road, Highway 1, Prest Road and South Sumas Road — to Laurie Thorness' riding of Chilliwack-Hope, which is becoming Chilliwack-Kent.

That leaves the city centre of Chilliwack (locally known as "Chilliwack Proper"), west Sardis, Greendale, Sumas Plain and Yarrow within the district. 

3. The region is one that centre-right and right-wing parties have historically dominated. 

Similar to the rest of the southern Fraser Valley, the NDP has never won a seat in this riding during a general election. The Social Credit party held the riding in every election from 1952 to 1991, and the B.C. Liberals have won every election since 1996. 

4.  Liberal MLA John Martin faces a much less contentious path to election this time around.

The only time the NDP has won a riding in this region was in a 2012 byelection in the adjacent riding of Chilliwack-Hope, where the NDP's Gwen O'Mahony won with 42 per cent of the vote — but Martin, then running for the B.C. Conservative Party, finished with 25.2 per cent.

Happening just one month before the general election, it made some believe that a split between the Liberals and Conservatives would give the NDP a chance at winning many ridings, like Chilliwack-Hope, that were usually out of range.

But Martin, then a criminologist at the University of the Fraser Valley, switched to the Liberal party in September, the B.C. Conservatives declined in the polls and the electoral map in the Liberal's 2013 victory looked much the same as during its previous wins. 

Martin, now a parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, faced no opposition for his party's nomination. The NDP candidate is Tracey O'Hara, a vice-president and trustee for local CUPE groups, and the Green Party candidate is Wayne Froese, a local web designer. 

6. Where does the NDP do well? 

Chilliwack Proper, north of Highway 1, has the urban elements and lower-income demographics that generally support the NDP, and it's here it does the best in the riding. In 2013, it got 33 per cent of the vote here, compared to 44 per cent for Martin. In particular, the party won many polling stations which had Yale Road, the area's main thoroughfare.   

7. What about the Liberals? 

Outside Chilliwack Proper, the Liberals got 54 per cent of the vote, and the NDP just 26 per cent. In particular, Martin did extremely well in farmland to the west of Chilliwack Proper and Sumas, getting over 65 per cent of the vote in many polling stations.