B.C. Votes 2017: Coquitlam-Burke Mountain riding profile
The NDP won this seat in a byelection. Can the party hold it in a general election?
In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, one of 15 ridings in the Tri-Cities — and one where the province's youngest MLA seeks her first full term.
1. Less than 18 months ago, Jodie Wickens was another millennial renting a basement suite with fresh memories of student loan debt.
Now, the 34-year-old is running for re-election and learning how to navigate the ins and outs of political power as British Columbia's youngest MLA.
"Maturity and wisdom brings with it a lot of value, but youth and energy and optimism and a fresh perspective also bring things to the table, and I think I've done that in our caucus," said Wickens, who won the seat for the NDP after two-term B.C. Liberal MLA Doug Horne stepped down to try to become a Conservative MP in the 2015 election.
2. In a riding with plenty of young families, Wickens believes that will help her when she knocks on doors.
"I'm very new to it, so being an average person, not involved in politics, is very fresh in my mind," she said.
"People are disillusioned and have a negative opinion of politics in general. I love talking to people about how I get it. I'm just like them. I have a family of my own, I rent a basement suite, my husband is a small business owner. It's not like I've been in the legislature for 20 years," added Wickens, pointing out that there's nobody in the B.C. Liberal caucus under the age of 40.
3. However, the 2017 election will be a lot different than the 2016 byelection that brought Wickens to office.
For one, byelections have overwhelmingly favoured the opposition party in B.C.: with the exception of Christy Clark's two victories while serving as premier, the governing party has won just a single byelection in the last 50 years (Claude Richmond for the Social Credit Party in 1981).
Turnout was also historically low in Burke Mountain, even for a byelection, at 21.55 per cent, making it hard to determine how many voters switched preferences from 2009, when the B.C. Liberals won the riding by nearly 2,500 votes.
And over the past two decades, since the northern half of Coquitlam filled up with new middle/upper-class suburban communities, the area has not been friendly to the NDP: it lost the riding in 2005 and 2009, and federally finished a distant third to the Liberals and Conservatives in polling stations within this riding.
"In the byelection we weren't changing government. What we were doing is asking people to pick someone for the next year that they wanted to represent them," admitted Wickens.
4. In another way, the 2017 election will be quite similar.
It's a rematch from 2016, as Wickens will face off against Joan Isaacs, who was chosen again as the B.C. Liberal candidate just three months after the byelection.
Isaacs is a longtime Coquitlam resident who has worked for decades in the financial services industry, while also serving as a B.C. Liberal Party executive for many years at a constituency level.
The Green Party candidate is Ian Soutar, communications chair for the Young Greens of Canada.
5. Where does the NDP do well?
As a general rule of thumb, the party does worse the further north in Coquitlam you go, so it did best in the polling stations between Guildford Way and the Barnet Highway, and along the area between Pipeline Road and Shaughnessy Street.
6. What about the Liberals?
By the same token, the party does best the further north you go — so anything in Westwood Plateau is fertile ground for the party, with it getting 55 to 70 per cent of votes in polling stations there historically.
7. Few people will be making strong predictions for this riding.
Incumbency supports the NDP. History supports the B.C. Liberals. Demographics from the 2011 Census also support the Liberals — but with significant changes in the last five years, the riding is hard for anyone to be confident about.
"It's a tough riding," said Wickens, "it's never been held by an NDP MLA — but to be honest, nothing in my life has come particularly easy, so this is no different."
- A previous version of this story incorrectly stated who won the 1981 byelection. In fact, Claude Richmond was elected in that vote.Jan 08, 2017 4:23 PM PT