British Columbia·Analysis

Where in B.C. have the party leaders been campaigning? A snapshot at the halfway point

B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark, NDP Leader John Horgan and Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver have tried dramatically different strategies in the first half of the campaign, when it comes to their travel schedules.

Clark has travelled far and wide, whereas Horgan has focused on regions that give a path to victory

An online image created by the B.C. Liberal party to highlight the different campaigning strategies of Christy Clark and John Horgan in the first two weeks of the 2017 B.C. election.

B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark, NDP Leader John Horgan and Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver have tried dramatically different strategies in the first half of the campaign when it comes to their travel schedules. 

Two weeks in, Clark and Horgan have attended close to the same number of public events: 27 for the Liberals, compared to 30 for the NDP.

While the Liberals have campaigned far and wide — reaching every region of B.C. with the exception of the Kootenays — the NDP has stayed closer to the 604 area code, spending over 80 per cent of the time in Metro Vancouver or Greater Victoria.

For its part, the Green Party has had fewer events, concentrating its campaigning — thus far — on Vancouver Island. 

It was a contrast the Liberals have noticed as well, with the party making a graphic and issuing a news release criticizing Horgan for his itinerary.

Clark started a speech in Prince George Friday pushing the same point.  

"Guess what?" she said. "The leader of the NDP hasn't made it north of [the] 50[th parallel]. They haven't made it north of Merritt, for heaven's sake."

Which, four days later, is still true — but that's also only one way of looking at the NDP's schedule at the two-week mark.  

The path to an NDP victory

"Arguably, they're both spending the first half of the campaign reinforcing their base," said UBC political scientist Richard Johnston.  

"Look at the map ... for Christy Clark to go and show the flag, she has fly around the entirety of the interior of the province." 

Horgan may not be criss-crossing the province — at least not yet — but he is maximizing his time in ridings the NDP needs to win, if they hope to end 16 years of B.C. Liberal rule. 

Some math: the Liberals currently hold 47 seats in the Legislature, compared to 35 for the NDP and one for the Green Party. 

At the same time, the two new seats created through redistribution (Richmond—Queensborough and Surrey South) are in areas that haven't elected an NDP MLA in many elections. 

So, in order for the NDP to win, conventional wisdom is that the party needs to hold the 35 seats they currently have, while flipping eight seats currently held by the Liberals. 

Their best chance to do so lies in the 11 ridings the NDP lost by six per cent or less in the 2013 election — and Horgan has visited those areas early and often this time around. 

North Vancouver-Lonsdale, twice. Vancouver-Fraserview, twice. Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge-Mission, once each. 

All told, more than half of Horgan's events have been in the 19 ridings decided by less than six per cent last election, compared to just over a quarter of Clark's.

She's spent the majority of time in ridings that were less competitive four years ago. 


A couple of caveats: Horgan visited Kelowna, Kamloops and Osoyoos in the week before the campaign began. And, more importantly, there's still two weeks left until election day.

"The campaign's focus is on the places where the investment of resources, both time and money, is greatest, and those of course are in swing districts. But they can't just spend their entire time there," said Johnston.

"You do have to campaign everywhere; you have to validate the existence of your candidates."

Johnston said it's quite likely that Clark will begin spending more time in the 604 area code in days to come.

The expert added it's entirely possible Horgan will head to Skeena, Cariboo North, and ridings on Vancouver Island that are expected to be close races. 

That would mean the Liberals' efforts to brand Horgan as the "south of 50" candidate could end up as many campaign spins do: sound and fury that eventually signifies nothing.

"Their strategies may actually be the same," said Johnston of Clark and Horgan.

"They just have different physical context in which to do it."