British Columbia

B.C. Votes 2017: Prince George-Mackenzie riding profile

A look at Prince George-Mackenzie, one of the 87 electoral districts in British Columbia.

Prince George has long been a key area come election time, but its boundaries seem to constantly change

The riding boundaries for the electoral district of Prince George-Mackenzie have changed. (Elections BC)

In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is Prince George-Mackenzie, one of eight ridings in Northern B.C., and one of only two where the boundaries have changed.

1. Prince George has had its riding boundaries change.

In 2009 and 2013, the two Prince George ridings were divided by Highway 16 south of the Hwy 16/97 intersection, and Highway 97 north of it. While this created a certain geographical cleanliness to the districts, it divided up the College Heights neighbourhood in the south and the Hart neighbourhood in the north.

Now, the Prince George-Mackenzie riding includes all of the Hart neighbourhood north of the Nechako River, while the Prince George-Valemount riding includes everything south of Ferry Avenue, along with the neighbourhood between Westwood Drive, Massey Drive and South Ospika Blvd. 

2. This isn't the first boundary change for Prince George, and it won't be the last. 

Prince George only had one riding, known as Fort George, until the 1979 election. That's when it was given a second one because of its growing population. 

In the decades since, the suburbs around Prince George have grown in population, but the rest of Northern B.C. hasn't. And since the commissions in charge of determining B.C.'s political boundaries have opted against eliminating seats in Northern B.C., the ridings in Prince George are often changed to make sure the region has eight ridings of comparative populations.

So in 1991, Prince George was divided into three urban-rural areas, brought back to two ridings in 2009 — with different boundaries than 1979 — and tinkered with again before this election.

3. As a result, it's hard to get a read on the political culture of the various ridings.

Prince George itself is a solidly working-class town, with the NDP winning Fort George in 1972 and at least one riding in the city in three straight elections from 1986 to 1996.

But the B.C. Liberals have won every seat in the area since 2001, as the support the NDP gets in the city itself is dwarfed by the vote the Liberals get in the suburbs and surrounding communities. 

4. The Liberals are expected to be favourites in Prince George-Mackenzie in 2017 

The NDP hoped to make major inroads here in 2013, following the retirement of three-term MLA and cabinet minister Pat Bell. They nominated a well-known lawyer in the community — Bobby Deepak — and leader Adrian Dix made multiple stops on the campaign trail.

But the share of the NDP vote went down from 36.7 per cent to 34.3 per cent, and Deepak is the party's candidate once again. 

5. It makes for a rematch from 2013, as Mike Morris is running for a second term. 

The longtime cop and former North District superintendent for the RCMP was named public safety minister and solicitor general in December 2015, joining Shirley Bond, Pat Bell and John Rustad as Prince George cabinet ministers under the Campbell-Clark governments.

6. Where does the NDP do the best?

It has some strength in the west bowl, along with the northwest corner of the Hart Highlands. Its best polling station last election was at an apartment complex on 1st Avenue. 

7. What about the B.C. Liberals?

There wasn't any one region where the party was particularly strong, but it did well in Cranbrook Hill (77 per cent of the vote) and the southwest corner of Hart Highlands (72 per cent of the vote). The Liberals also won every polling station in Mackenzie, the northern community that has experienced significant ups and downs in the last decade. 

Who's running in the 2017 British Columbia election?