British Columbia

B.C. Votes 2017: Esquimalt-Metchosin riding profile

A look at Esquimalt-Metchosin, one of the 87 electoral districts in British Columbia.

NDP MLA Maurine Karagianis is stepping down — and the Green Party sees a chance to up their vote total

Esquimalt-Metchosin has slightly different boundaries than the previous riding of Esquimalt-Royal Roads, adding southern Metchosin while losing Vic West. (Elections BC)

In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is Esquimalt-Metchosin, one of 15 ridings on Vancouver Island — and one where the vote totals might be more interesting than who actually wins.

1. There are three narratives around the newly-named Esquimalt-Metchosin, and it won't be until election night before we know which one is correct.

The first narrative is that this is a traditional NDP seat. The party has won the Esquimalt-based riding in eight of the last nine elections, generally by large margins. And even though three-term MLA Maurine Karagianis is retiring, the NDP will win.

NDP candidate, Pacific Centre Family Services Association executive director Mitzi Dean, is well-known in the community (particularly in Colwood), and with the NDP steadily increasing its support on Vancouver Island, in this narrative, the party will easily pick up the riding. 

2. The second narrative is the B.C. Liberals making a substantial push to turn their fortunes around on Vancouver Island.

The party only has two MLAs on the island currently but has made an effort to recruit high-profile candidates in seats they believe are winnable — none more so than this riding, where the Liberals are running three-term Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins.

3. The third narrative? The rise of the Greens.

Eight of the nine ridings where the Green Party got at least 15 per cent of the vote in 2013 were on Vancouver Island, including the former riding of Esquimalt-Royal Roads, where it got 21.7 per cent.

Their candidate is Andy MacKinnon, a Metchosin councillor and professional biologist. 

B.C. Green Party communications director Stefan Jonsson said the lack of an incumbent MLA is a big reason he thinks the party has a realistic shot there if the campaign goes its way.

"Sometimes, on campaigns, people have indicated that they want to vote Green, but they really like their current MLA.," he said. 

"It's very much about, for voters, a reset in what they're thinking about and considering in the election."  

4. The Green Party has been slowly creeping upward on southern Vancouver Island.  

In 2013, everybody noticed Andrew Weaver winning Oak Bay-Gordon Head and becoming British Columbia's first elected Green MLA.

But less noticed was the Green Party becoming neck and neck with the B.C Liberals as the number two party on the southern part of Vancouver Island.

Outside of Weaver's riding, there are seven ridings on Vancouver Island completely south of Nanaimo. The NDP won all of them — but the Greens increased their vote from an average of 12 per cent to 23 per cent. 

The question of whether the Greens have more room to grow is interesting across B.C.— but the answer will be most noticeable in ridings like Esquimalt-Metchosin.   

5. There's been a name and boundary change from 2013.

Esquimalt-Metchosin has slightly different boundaries than the previous riding of Esquimalt-Royal Roads, adding Metchosin while losing Victoria West. 

However, those changes won't significantly alter the dynamics of the riding, based on past polling station results. 

All of Esquimalt, View Royal, Colwood and the southern half of the Highlands remain in the riding. 

6. Where does the NDP do well? 

It does particularly well in the middle of Esquimalt, with many polling stations around Lampson Street giving the party 60 to 70 per cent of the vote. It also does well at the polling stations in the Esquimalt and New Songhees reserves. 

7. What about the Liberals? 

They received the most votes in southern Metchosin, and in general they do better the further away the area is from Esquimalt. 

8. And finally, what about the Greens? 

The party did best in Esquimalt itself, finishing ahead of the Liberals — but behind the NDP — in the vast majority of polling stations, gaining anywhere from 25 to 40 per cent, particularly in the areas of the municipality closest to Victoria. 

It remains to be seen where the party could pick up more votes, but Jonsson says the party knows this is a riding where it already has 20 per cent of the vote, a riding where there is no burning local environmental issue under provincial jurisdiction and a riding with no incumbent or high-profile candidate expected.  

In short, an important, if underrated, litmus test. 

"We want to seize that opportunity, and show that a B.C. Green candidate is a worthwhile one."

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