British Columbia

B.C. Votes 2017: Shuswap riding profile

A look at Shuswap, one of the 87 electoral districts in British Columbia.

Greg Kyllo seeks a second term in one of B.C.'s ridings that spans regions

The riding of Shuswap broadly spans the area between Vernon and Lake Shuswap. (Elections B.C.)

In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is Shuswap, one of seven ridings in the Okanagan region — and one that's a little harder to categorize than most.

1. Geographically, describing the Shuswap riding is relatively straightforward. 

"If there's a unifying feature to the Shuwap riding, it's the lake and the tributary rivers ... that's the unifying piece," says George Abbott, who served as the constituency's MLA from 1996 to 2013. 

And indeed, the riding spans roughly the area where Shuswap Lake is the dominant feature, stretching down from the lake to just north of Vernon. 

2. Politically, it's not as easy to define.

The riding went to the NDP in 1991, in large part because of vote-splitting between the Social Credit Party and the B.C. Liberals, before Abbott was elected in 1996.

But because the region is in between three distinct regions — Kamloops and the Thompson to the west, Vernon and the Okanagan to the south, and Revelstoke and the Columbia region to the east — there's no one dominant political culture, says Abbott. 

"It is a bit of a transition area," he said, adding that the variety of mid-sized towns like Armstrong, Enderby, Sicamous and Salmon Arm make it hard for a regional politician to focus on one particular issue.

"It's a large area geographically. That does have a bearing on hospitals, on other public facilities, on the nature of the constituency ... you see some of the city issues in places like Salmon Arm, but also there's a range of rural issues like viability of agriculture as well. It's an interesting mix." 

3. Abbott's successor is well-known in the region. 

Houseboats dot Shuswap Lake, and for decades Greg Kyllo ran one of the companies responsible for them, Twin Anchors Marine, before becoming the riding's MLA.

"He's very well regarded ... I suspect he is better organized and probably stronger on the ground than I was," said Abbott.

Going from Abbott, a longtime cabinet minister, to a political newcomer like Kyllo made the NDP consider Shuswap a seat it could take if they formed government in 2013 — but in the end, the Liberal share of the vote last election went up slightly, from 47 to 48 per cent.

4. The NDP candidate has her roots in the education sector.

Sylvia Lindgren is an education assistant at Salmon Arm Secondary and local CUPE president. She told the Salmon Arm Observer she would make education a key part of her campaign.

"The schools can't function on the amount of money they have now," she said. "We're expecting kids to somehow perform at the same level with less support."

The Green Party candidate is Kevin Babcock, an employee at a plywood plant in the small community of Canoe.

5. Watch for a potential Conservative Party candidate.

It's an older, whiter riding, and the while the Conservatives have had little visibility recently, all of their candidates here have received at least nine per cent of the vote in the last three elections — the only place in the province where that's been the case.

6. Where does the NDP do well? 

There are pockets of support for the party in the town centres of Armstrong, Enderby and Salmon Arm.

7. What about the Liberals? 

The party sweeps up in the West Shuswap — they won every polling station between Little Shuswap Lake and Salmon Arm in the 2013 election.