B.C. Votes 2017: Richmond-Queensborough riding profile
Longtime TV reporter Jas Johal is running for the B.C. Liberals in one of the B.C.'s 2 new seats
In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is Richmond-Queensborough, one of four ridings in Richmond — and one where a familiar face is hoping to win a new seat.
1. In the week before the 2013 provincial election, Jas Johal had quite the scoop
The veteran Global B.C. reporter had found out that a number of Liberal supporters had created the "801 club", complete with special pins, with the intention of removing Christy Clark as leader of the B.C. Liberal Party the moment polls closed the next day, in an election Clark's party was expected to lose.
"This frustration that some of the individuals have began right from her victory two years ago. She has never been viewed as a conservative, she's viewed as a federal Liberal. There's many within the party that have never liked her winning," he said.
"There's probably about a dozen MLAs who have, in some way, questioned her leadership at the very least. And this has been building during this election campaign. There are people who feel if she loses, she should be gone."
Today, Christy Clark is still premier, her caucus is completely behind her—and Johal is the party's candidate in Richmond-Queensborough.
2. Johal believed it was time for a new chapter in his career
He left Global B.C. to become communications director at the B.C. LNG Alliance in 2014 — a decision, he said, was partly spurred by changes in the news business.
"I thought that exploratory and explanatory journalism, which I enjoyed doing, was tougher and tougher to do. I'm not one of those people who's going to sit around and complain. If the industry is moving in a different direction, it's time to move on," he said.
"Journalists are always interested in public policy, seeing how things work, how policy gets turned into law ... we're in and around that world every day, it's just a different perspective [for me]."
3. Richmond-Queensborough is one of two new ridings in British Columbia
Richmond had three ridings in every election between 1991 and 2013, but as its population grew, so did the need for an additional district.
With New Westminster's one riding also significantly larger in population than the provincial average, the B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission decided to combine the eastern half of Richmond and the neighbourhood of Queensborough into a new district.
4. In many ways, the riding is a snapshot of the entire province
"I know the folks up north, the MLAs would probably laugh at this, but for an urban riding, it's quite large," said Johal.
And though the riding is just 92 square kilometres in size, it contains farms in the centre, suburbs in its west and east, new immigrant families in some areas and long-established communities in others and more major bridges and tunnels — the Knight, Queensborough, Oak and Alex Fraser Bridges, along with the Massey Tunnel — than anywhere else in B.C.
"It's a very diverse riding," said Johal, who knows that communicating to people as a politician will be different than as a reporter.
"The challenge, for any journalist: we're used to explaining things. And I think [as a politician] to a certain degree you have to sell certain things. Here's why we made this decision, and here's why we believe it's important that we head in this direction as an elected government.
"There isn't a simple answer for a lot of these things. That's the challenge sometimes, explaining the complexities behind these big policy issues."
5. The region has tended to election centre-right candidates
While it's a new riding, analysts believe Johal is the favourite, for one simple reason: in the 2013 election, polling stations in this riding went to the B.C. Liberals heavily, with the party receiving 51.1 per cent of votes, compared to 28.2 per cent for the NDP.
The NDP candidate is Aman Singh, a civil rights lawyer. The Green Party candidate is Michael Wolfe, a teacher and environmentalist who was the party's candidate last election in Richmond Centre.
6. Where does the NDP do well?
The party has always done well in Queensborough, and won eight of 14 polling stations in the 2013 election. They've also been competitive in Shellmont-Ironwood near the Steveston Highway and Highway 99 and in East Cambie near Highway 91 and Highway 99.
7. What about the Liberals?
The newer Hamilton neighbourhood, just to the west of Queensborough, voted for Liberal MLA Linda Reid in large numbers in past elections—but in general, East Richmond, like most of the city, has tended to the support the B.C. Liberals by consistently above-average margins.