British Columbia

B.C. Votes 2017: Delta South riding profile

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

With Independent MLA Vicki Huntington stepping away, people wonder whether it will revert to the Liberals

The boundaries of Delta South have remained untouched since the 1991 election, one of the very few in the Lower Mainland with that distinction. (Elections B.C.)

In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is Delta South, one of two ridings in Delta — and one where the departing MLA's presence looms large.

1. In many ways, the story of Delta South this election isn't who will be elected but who will be leaving. 

No independent candidate in B.C.'s history had been re-elected until Vicki Huntington did so in 2013. And while her first win in 2009 was by just 32 votes over B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Wally Oppal, she won by over 2,600 votes in 2013 and seemingly could have kept the riding for as long as she wanted. 

But in January, she announced that a third term wasn't in the offing

"People are disappointed that they're losing an independent that they've come to trust and voted for overwhelmingly," said Huntington, who says she's stepping down to tend to personal and health issues. 

"They've recognized the ability an independent has to serve them well and solve individual issues constituents have." 

2. Conventional wisdom is that her departure leaves the seat open for the B.C. Liberals.

Huntington describes the riding as "an amalgam of semi-urban townships that are on the edge of mass conservation areas like Burns Bog and agricultural land," and before she was elected, it was heavy Liberal territory, with the party winning every election in Delta South before she was elected. 

The NDP has never received over 30 per cent in the riding and has never done well here federally. 

3. Yet the riding isn't considered to be as monolithically Conservative as other urban/rural ridings south of the Fraser River.

For one, the federal Liberals were able to win this riding in 2015 by over 9,000 votes. For another, Huntington, though fiscally conservative, was able to win a second term after four years of being critical of the government. 

And on a policy level, debates over the level of development in the traditionally rural and suburban municipality — both on farmland, on water and in the case of the proposed Massey Bridge, over water — have only grown over time.   

"We're surrounded on three sides by water, which means we have pressures from industry on Roberts Bank and the Fraser River … When you have the province, port and developers just salivating after that land, it's a complex issue to try and preserve that," said Huntington, bringing up the preservation of the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary as a top concern.

"There's so many people coming into Delta, but nobody knows it is ultimately responsible for the survival of millions of birds that migrate annually in the spring. The most important stopping point on the west coast of North America, and no government gives a damn." 

4. The candidates from the three main parties all have electoral experience.

The B.C. Liberal candidate is Ian Paton, a long-time Delta councillor who defeated Jim Cessford, Delta's long-time former police chief, to win the party's nomination last year.

The NDP is running Delta school board trustee Bruce Reid, who defeated fellow trustee Rhiannon Bennett for his party's nomination.

The Green Party candidate is Larry Colero, who was the federal party's nominee for South Surrey-White Rock in 2011 and 2015.

5. Huntington hopes people keep an open mind for the independent candidate too.

Nicholas Wong, a 26-year-old philosophy graduate from SFU, ran for Delta council in 2014 and put his name in the race earlier this year.

"I don't think it's an absolute given that a major party will win. [Wong's] a strong-minded, charismatic individual that speaks very well," said Huntington — though she admitted that her candidacy, coming after decades serving the city as a councillor, was somewhat unique. 

"My name was well known, I was considered trusted and respected, so there was a little less difficulty in taking a chance on something new."

6. Where does the NDP do well? 

It can usually be counted on to win a few polling stations in Ladner, particularly in the older, medium-density complexes in the town centre. 

7. What about the Liberals? 

Where it can be expected to do very well is hard to say given Huntington's results in recent elections, but Tsawwassen, where the NDP struggled to break 10 per cent in any polling station there in 2009 and 2013, would seem to be the Liberals' greatest strength.

8. Huntington hopes the perspective she brought to the Legislature is remembered, regardless of who replaces her.

"You get the truth from an independent. I don't have to toe the party line, I don't have to listen the propaganda," she said.       

"For people to say independents can't do anything, that's not true. You're treated with respect by ministers and generally you can get something done."