B.C. Votes 2017: Columbia River-Revelstoke riding profile
It's still seven months until the election, but the gloves are already off in this interior riding
In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is Columbia River-Revelstoke, one of the Kootenay's four ridings — and one the NDP has historically done well in.
1. The battle for Columbia River-Revelstoke was contentious from the get go.
On the day he was nominated in October, the NDP candidate said of the Liberal candidate: "A look at his Facebook and Twitter shows a mindless series of BC Liberal retweets and government press releases."
The next day, the Liberal candidate said of the NDP candidate: "It is disappointing that [his] first public communication to constituents involved Donald Trump-style personal attacks."
2. The NDP selected its candidate, District of Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft, after a contentious nomination battle.
Elected to Invermere council at age 20 in 2002, Taft was then elected mayor in 2008 and has sat on a variety of regional boards.
He's also the only owner of a combination gelato shop/mini golf course to ever run for provincial office in B.C. (at least, we think so).
Less than a week after he was nominated, he revealed he was bisexual after questions over the NDP's equity rule, which requires candidates in ridings previously held by an NDP MLA to be a woman or minority.
3. The Liberal candidate, Doug Clovechok, was nominated in May 2016 — but he admits he's really been running for years.
"The premier jokingly says to me I'm the longest [serving] non-elected MLA in the history of British Columbia," said Clovechok, who was the party's candidate in 2013 and has remained on the B.C. Liberal Party's executive council since.
"I've been working really hard to prove to the people of Columbia-River Revelstoke that I can be their MLA."
4. Clovechok, who lost to the NDP's Norm MacDonald in 2013, has two reasons to be hopeful that he won't suffer a second loss.
One, MacDonald isn't running after three straight victories, leaving the NDP without an incumbency advantage.
Two, MacDonald won this riding by more than 2300 votes in 2009, but that dropped to 1600 votes in 2013.
5. Still, the NDP will be considered the favourite.
The region tended to favour the Social Credit party during its four decades of dominance, but since the riding's current boundaries were established prior to the 1991 election, the NDP has just lost once — in the 2001 Liberal blowout — and its five wins have all been by at least 1,000 votes.
The Green Party candidate, Samson Boyer, will likely be the youngest candidate in the entire election at just 18 years of age.
6. The riding's unique geography results in no one dominant political culture.
Centred around Highway 1 from just before Revelstoke to the Alberta border, and Highway 95 from Golden to Kimberley, the riding of Columbia River-Revelstoke has several micro-issues.
In Revelstoke, there are complaints about the highway and desires for a dedicated conservation officer. In Golden, there is the ongoing conflict with CP Rail over access to whitewater rafting. In Kimberley, there are concerns over preserving the watershed.
And the traditional debate between environmental protection and resource exploitation comes up everywhere in the the 39,135 square kilometre riding, which is the sixth largest in B.C.
"There's uniqueness in each one of the areas, but there is a sense of community," says Clovechok, who wants to create an advisory committee in each of the main municipalities to guide local priorities.
"People want to raise their families here, they're passionate about the environment, they're passionate about the activities that come from living here."
7. Where does the NDP do the best?
While it tends to do well throughout the riding, the NDP's most concentrated support comes from Kimberley — while the Liberals typically win the polling station next to the ski resort, the NDP support is strong everywhere else in town.
8. What about the B.C. Liberals?
The party does well throughout the Columbia Valley, but particularly around Fairmont Hot Springs, where it defeated the NDP by around 130 votes last election.
9. Will Jumbo Glacier be a jumbo-sized issue?
The proposed ski resort, 55 kilometres west of Invermere, has faced heavy opposition from First Nations groups and environmentalists in the years since it was approved by the provincial government and made a municipality without any people. It is now effectively on hold.
But after supporting Jumbo Glacier in 2013, Clovechok says he's no longer for the project.
"I've talked to people who are very much in support of Jumbo Glacier who said 'you know Doug, we've got to move away from this,'" he said.
"So in essence I do not believe anymore that Jumbo is going to happen and I've listened to constituents, and they would rather us move towards something a little bit more productive."
A new stance against a new candidate in a new election — one Clovechok hopes has a better outcome for him than his first.