British Columbia

B.C. Votes 2017: Powell River-Sunshine Coast riding profile

A look at Powell River-Sunshine Coast, one of the 87 electoral districts in British Columbia.

Not quite the Lower Mainland, not quite Vancouver Island, but a place where transportation looms large

Boundaries for the Powell River-Sunshine Coast riding. (Elections BC)

In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is Powell River-Sunshine Coast, where NDP MLA Nicholas Simons seeks a fourth term.

1. Nicholas Simons' represents a city, a district, a town, two regional districts, plenty of small communities separated by bays and inlets, and several picturesque islands. 

Simons says there's one thing that unites the riding of Powell River-Sunshine Coast.

"We're connected by a sense of isolation," he said.

"People feel ignored at some times, but we're not the island, we're not the Lower Mainland, we're our own little place."

2. The riding is diverse, but has elected the NDP by decently large margins the last three elections.

"You get a lot of different little communities with different personalities and interests," said Simons, listing off the many different logging, fishing, tourism and artistic industries within the region.   

And indeed, the riding has been politically all over the map through the years: electing the Social Credit Party in the 60s and 80s, Gordon Wilson when he ran as B.C. Liberal leader in 1991 and Progressive Democratic Alliance leader in 1996, Harold Long as a Social Credit candidate in 1986 and Liberal Candidate in 2001, to Simons and the NDP since 2005. 

3. The riding is slowly becoming more urbanized.

People typically move to the Sunshine Coast because of its relative isolation from the rest of the South Coast, but that dynamic is changing.  

The Metro Vancouver affordability debate making its way across the water. A growing homeless population. Even a craft beer controversy.

Add in a health care controversy in Sechelt, ever-present complaints about BC Ferries, and the debate over a fixed link from the Lower Mainland in formal consultation mode, and there's no shortage of local issues that could become campaign flashpoints.  

"It's become rediscovered," said Simons. "Urban and rural issues, we have them all."

4. Simons' main competitors are set.

This was one of the few ridings in B.C. where the three main parties had their nominees set by the end of the 2016, and all three names are well known in the community.   

Running for the Green Party is Kim Darwin, the Sechelt Chamber of Commerce president. While the party has underperformed here the last two elections, it did get over 20 per cent of the vote when its candidate was Vancouver Coun. Adriane Carr.

The B.C. Liberals, meanwhile, are countering with Matthew Wilson, whose father Gordon represented the riding from 1991 to 2001 (and is currently employed by the government as a $150,000/year "LNG-Buy B.C. Advocate").

5. Where does the NDP do well? 

It does broadly well throughout the riding, winning a plurality of votes in Powell River, Sechelt and Gibsons, but the party does best in the northern half of Powell River and in the Sechelt Nation lands.   

6. What about the Liberals? 

There are three places where they've done best in recent elections: on the eastern edge of Powell River, the homes surrounding yacht-full Pender Harbour, and the homes closest to the ocean in Sechelt.

7. Simons thinks that his campaign on the Sunshine Coast, much like its culture, will be a little different.

"Urban MLAs, they have a lot of workers and people transiting through. Every nurse and cashier and teacher I see here — you name the profession, they're probably a resident," he said. 

Not to mention the prettiest campaign treks. 

"The campaigning will take me to Savary Island, a magic island with beautiful sand beaches, I have to take a water taxi over there ... I then get a lift in the land taxi, you ride in the back of a pickup truck to the fire hall, or go to Gambier Island or Keats Island. They're little communities with varying interests and passions," he said.

"There are no two days alike when you're campaigning on the Sunshine Coast."

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