British Columbia

'Toss up' race in Port Moody-Coquitlam where federal elections have been push and pull for decades

The federal riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam has a history of push-and-pull between the left and right when it comes to election time, and this time is no different with political analysts saying recent reconfiguration of the riding means it's anyone's game.

NDP gets run for its money as 3 major parties have a shot at taking close riding

Port Moody, B.C., resident Mladen Bosnjak, 84, says it's much easier to pick an ear of corn than pick who to vote for in the federal election. (Christian Amundson/CBC)

On a sunny, fall afternoon Mladen Bosnjak, 84, picks through a crate of fresh corn looking for the perfect few ears to take home from his favourite produce market in Port Moody, B.C. 

It's easy to do, he says, compared to choosing the right candidate in the Oct. 21 federal election.

The race in Port Moody-Coquitlam is too close to predict with the Conservative, Liberal and NDP candidates polling within six per cent of each other in a campaign described by many as a "toss up."

It's a riding the NDP is desperate to hang on to with leader Jagmeet Singh having visited twice during the campaign. 

"We like somebody to vote for who makes it for the people better life," said Bosnjak in heavily-accented English. 

Historic push and pull 

Over the past three decades, voters in this riding have pretty much elected everyone at one time or another.

In the late 1980s, it was the NDP followed by a swing through the Reform Party of Canada, the Canadian Alliance, Conservatives and back to the NDP in 2004.

There are only so many places where seats are really up for grabs in the country and this is one of them according to political analyst Stewart Prest. 

The 2015 federal election was a close race. 

The NDP won in the riding with only six per cent more votes than the Liberals who took second place with only 1.5 per cent more votes than the Conservatives. 

"I think there is a chance for all three parties to make at least a play for this riding," said Prest. 

Political analysts predict a tight race in Port Moody-Coquitlam which was reconfigured in an electoral redistribution in early 2015. (Christian Amundson/CBC)

Redistribution a factor 

The boundaries for this riding changed drastically in electoral redistribution just before the 2015 election. 

Port Moody-Coquitlam has very different demographics on its north and south sides explained NDP candidate Bonita Zarrillo. 

"Incomes are different. Ages are different," said 53-year-old Zarrillo, who has been a Coquitlam city councillor for six years. 

"Whether you live in a singe-family house or a multi-family house, all of that plays a part in the Conservative-NDP push and pull." 

Zarrillo wants to take over the NDP-held riding after MP Fin Donnelly announced his retirement late last year. 

Port Moody-Coquitlam NDP candidate Bonita Zarrillo has been a Coquitlam city councillor since 2013. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Riding could set the tone 

Liberal candidate Sara Badiei, 37, says Port Moody-Coquitlam is symbolic for her party and others need to keep an eye on the riding because a win could set the tone for what happens in the rest of B.C. on election night. 

"We haven't been able to secure this riding in the past," said Badiei, a one-time refugee from Afghanistan who works as an energy specialist. 

Badiei acknowledges it's a three-way race but believes people will vote strategically. 

"There's so much momentum that we've built up," she said. 

Port Moody-Coquitlam Liberal candidate Sara Badiei is an engineer who has worked locally for BC Hydro and, internationally for Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross and the World Bank. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Nelly Shin 

Conservative candidate Nelly Shin was unavailable for an interview. 

In an email, Shin's staff thanked CBC for its interest and said her schedule was very full. 

Shin was parachuted from Richmond Hill, Ont., into Port Moody-Coquitlam and describes herself as "pro-life."

On a Conservative party website she's listed as an entrepreneur, educator, humanitarian and musician. 

At her Coquitlam campaign office, handlers said Shin was focusing on door knocking. 

That same day she had not attended an all-candidates meeting because she was, staff said, busy preparing for a weekend visit by party leader Andrew Scheer who was in Burnaby on Saturday. 

Issues 

At the all-candidates meeting, Centennial Secondary School social studies' students from grades nine to 12 asked the questions. 

The topics varied from education to reduced debt and politicians being able to keep promises they make during election campaigns. 

Generally across the riding, voters say their main concerns are affordable housing, the environment and health care. 

Some are looking for a strong candidate who will fight for local priorities. 

"Where we see federal parties make forays into these traditionally municipal issues, that could resonate with voters," said Prest. 

Centennial Secondary School hosted an all-candidates meeting for social studies students grades nine to 12. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In any ridings where the vote spread was between five or 10 per cent in the last election, that's a riding to watch said SFU's Stewart Prest.

Anytime we see numbers like that, said Prest, it means a little change in the polls or the national campaign — or a certain candidate or issue catches fire — in the last couple of days, that could really tip the balance between a minority or majority government. 

Back at the produce market, Mladen Bosnjak says he's "leaning Conservative."

Port Moody-Coquitlam distribution of votes in 2015 federal election. (Tara Carman/CBC)

With files from Paisley Woodward

About the Author

Belle Puri

Reporter

Belle Puri is a veteran journalist who has won awards for her reporting in a variety of fields.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.