B.C. Votes 2017: Mid Island-Pacific Rim riding profile
NDP MLA Scott Fraser seeks his fourth term in one of Vancouver Island's most diverse ridings
In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is: Mid Island-Pacific Rim, one of Vancouver Island's 15 ridings — and perhaps its most diverse.
1. NDP MLA Scott Fraser is hoping for a fourth term—one where he's not in opposition.
"I love the job. The issues are many and varied, and scary at many times, but you can help people," said Fraser, explaining why he's running for re-election in Mid Island-Pacific Rim (formerly known as Alberni-Pacific Rim) after 12 years on the job.
"After doing this for three terms, I dearly would love a shot at government. Doing this for 12 years and not getting it has been a little bit frustrating at times, so I'd certainly like to see it through."
2. Fraser will be the favourite once again...
He's won all three of his elections by at least 4,000 votes, and during that time the political culture on Vancouver Island has become more friendly to the NDP, with the Liberals currently holding just two of the island's 15 seats.
His Liberal challenger is the same as in 2013: Darren Deluca, the owner of Vancouver Island Guide Outfitters, a company that organizes big game hunting trips.
3. ...but the Green Party could eat into his support
Last election, the Green Party received at least 11 per cent of the vote in every Vancouver Island riding they had a candidate in — but Mid Island-Pacific Rim was not among them.
This time, it will be: Alicia La Rue, a former director for the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce, was named their candidate in January.
4. The ridings boundaries are changing. Again.
A riding centred around Port Alberni has existed in British Columbia since 1890, but its boundaries (and name) have changed in recent decades as the city's population has stagnated.
The riding had the smallest population of any Vancouver Island seat in 2009, but the newest redistribution has added Cumberland, Royston, Union Bay and Fanny Bay, along with Denman and Hornby islands, giving it approximately 9,000 more residents.
5. The new additions shouldn't hurt the NDP, however.
While the coastal area between Bowser and Royston, which has moved from Comox Valley to Mid Island-Pacific Rim, has supported the Liberals, that's offset by Cumberland, Denman Island and Hornby Island being strong NDP territory.
6. The riding is emblematic of the NDP coalition.
"It's a huge riding, with plenty of different challenges," said Fraser, and that may explain why the NDP's support has been so sturdy in this region of the Island.
In the west, Tofino and Ucluelet are dealing with a real estate boom, as buyers look for waterfront property in the "Whistler of Vancouver Island," as Fraser puts it.
In Port Alberni, the continuing decline of the forestry industry has caused more angst among unionized workers at sawmills. And in the east, the aquaculture industry has been grappling with the health of coastal shellfish.
- Ocean acidification behind rise in price of B.C. shellfish
- Province to assist communities impacted by logging shortfall
There's also a significant aboriginal population that has heavily supported the NDP in this riding. Environmental issues are always at the forefront in a region of Vancouver Island with so many inlets and old-growth forests.
And the government's decision to ease out the iconic Martin Mars water bombers from their wildfire-fighting arsenal generated hurt feelings and angry petition-signers in Port Alberni, where the planes are based.
Add it up, and Fraser has a strong coalition in Mid Island-Pacific Rim, one that isn't dependent on any specific industry.
7. Fraser isn't taking anything for granted
Still, Fraser says he only has to look at the last provincial election to know not to rest on his laurels. His riding was among the first to be decided — but what the NDP thought would be a change in government soon turned into a fourth consecutive Liberal majority.
"I'm not taking this election for granted. I haven't bitten my nails since I was a kid, but I've been tempted every election," he said.
"I enjoy the campaign, I take it as a challenge, and I'll try to do better than the last time."