British Columbia

B.C. Votes 2017: Vancouver-West End riding profile

A look at Vancouver-West End, one of the 87 electoral districts in British Columbia.

Spencer Chandra Herbert seeks a third full term in B.C.'s densest riding

Boundaries for Vancouver-West End are pretty much the easiest to remember in B.C. : anything in downtown Vancouver west of Burrard Street. (Elections BC)

In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is Vancouver-West End, one of 11 ridings in Vancouver — and if nothing else, the easiest to walk around.

1. Traversing his riding doesn't take MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert that long. 

"It takes me about ...15 to 20 minutes. And that's walking," said Chandra Herbert, who has represented British Columbia's densest riding since a 2008 byelection.

"But I love it, because that's what I do anyway. By walking, I'm seeing constituents all the time, and giving them an opportunity to [speak to me] ... I can set up on a street corner and see a couple hundred people, if not a thousand, in a couple of hours."

2. The West End didn't always support the NDP.

The neighbourhood was originally home to Vancouver's richest families, and the NDP and former CCF (Co-operative Commonwealth Federation) struggled to win the old Vancouver Centre riding for much of the 20th century.

But in 1972, the NDP broke though, holding the area for 29 straight years. Prior to the 2009 election, the downtown riding (then known as Vancouver-Burrard) was split in two: the eastern half becoming part of Vancouver-False Creek, and the western half becoming Vancouver-West End.

Chandra Herbert has won both general elections since then with ease, gaining 57 per cent of the vote both times. 

The Liberal candidate is Nigel Elliott, a former researcher and ministerial aide at the legislature, and the Green Party candidate is James Marshall, an animator and artist in the local tech sector. 

3. Recent local events and announcements probably won't help the B.C. Liberal Party's faint chances. 

In the last four years, rising property taxes and renovictions have caused economic concerns, while the proposed relocation of St. Paul's Hospital and the downtown core's only ambulance station have created concerns over health issues.

And in a riding so small, political anger foments quickly.

"For folks outside, it's all tall towers, but they may not think there's a community ... but in fact in many ways it can be the opposite, because we're all stacked on top of another. We really have to know neighbours, and use our community centres and parks and so much more, because we don't often have back yards," says Chandra Herbert.

"You can't avoid the mental health crisis. It's right there out the door of your apartment. You can't avoid homelessness, urban gridlock, it's all very visible."

4. The riding now includes all of Coal Harbour.

The area north of Georgia Street between Burrard and Jervis used to be in Vancouver-False Creek to balance the two riding's populations, but a redistribution done after the last election shifted that area into the West End. 

It now makes the riding's boundaries the easiest to remember in the province: everything in downtown Vancouver from Stanley Park to Burrard Street.

5. Where does the NDP do well? 

Given that the riding is essentially an endless series of mid-rise apartments, there's not a lot of political variation, but the party's best result in 2013 came in the apartments between Nicola, Comox, Broughton and Nelson. Of the votes that were cast, Chandra Herbert got 53 of them, while the Liberal and Green challengers each got 8.

6. What about the Liberals? 

To put it bluntly, Coal Harbour: the Liberals won 67 per cent of the votes at the polling station at Broughton and Pender last election, and all three polling stations the riding is gaining from Vancouver-False Creek went heavily to them as well.

In particular, the polling station directly south of Jack Pool Plaza and the new convention centre gave MLA Sam Sullivan 84 per cent of the vote.

However, even if those stations were in Vancouver-West End last election, Chandra Herbert still would have won by over 20 per cent — and he argues, the differences between Coal Harbour and West End aren't as big as some might think.

"We sometimes work on issues in different ways ... [but] the issues that connect us are the same. I hear from folks in Coal Harbour that are just as concerned about homelessness as those in the West End." 

7. The riding could be Chandra Herbert's for as long as he wants it.

Still just 35 years old, Chandra Herbert has become one of the most prominent members of the NDP caucus, and he figures to be a prominent part of his party for some time to come.

But he's adamant that whatever his future holds, it'll happen while living in the West End.

"I hope folks see this place as a welcoming community, that speaks up for the vulnerable, that looks out for each other, and that demonstrates a great model of how a community can be," he said.

"It feels like a small town, in many ways, in a big city. I wouldn't move out and try and live somewhere else, because it's such a great place to call home." 

With files from Richard Zussman

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story identified the Liberal candidate as James Elliott.
    Apr 30, 2017 11:29 AM PT

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