Federal election 2015: British Columbia setting up to be a 3-way contest

B.C. could be the scene of some of the closest races in the country in 2015. Even parts of Alberta could be at play. Poll analyst Eric Grenier breaks down the numbers.

Even true-blue Conservative Alberta may hold some surprises in this year's election

Justin Trudeau's Liberals are poised to make gains at the expense of both the Conservatives and NDP in British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The outcome of the 2015 federal election may be decided in Ontario and Quebec, but British Columbia is shaping up to be the scene of some of the most competitive races in the country.

British Columbia is a real three-way contest. The latest poll averages put the Liberals at 31 per cent, against 28 per cent for the Conservatives and 26 per cent for the New Democrats. That five-point gap between first and third is the smallest in the country and is less than half the size of the margin between the first-place Liberals and third-place Bloc Québécois in Quebec.

And that means all three parties can win a significant number of seats in B.C.

Based on current support levels, the Conservatives would be able to win between 13 and 18 of the province's 42 seats, with the Liberals taking between 12 and 14, the New Democrats between 10 and 13, and the Greens as many as two.

This means the NDP is in a good position to hold the 12 seats they won in 2011, but the Conservatives could come down from the 21 they took in the last election. The Liberals, who only captured two B.C. seats in 2011, could be en route to their best performance in the province since 1968.

Weighted average of polls in British Columbia. (ThreeHundredEight.com)

Polls done since the beginning of December have ranged widely in the province, with the Liberals scoring between 27 and 45 per cent, the Conservatives between 19 and 36 per cent, and the NDP between 20 and 30 per cent. Each of these three parties has led in at least one of the last nine polls done in B.C.

Overall, however, the Liberals have been leading in the province since early December, when the Conservatives slipped slightly below 30 per cent. The New Democrats, meanwhile, have been improving their standing significantly since dropping to almost 20 per cent in November.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has respectable numbers in B.C., scoring higher there on approval than anywhere except Quebec. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is also popular in the province — only in Atlantic Canada are his numbers better. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's ratings in B.C., on the other hand, are his worst west of Quebec.

Local contests

But if the country has its regional races, British Columbia also has its own sub-regional races. In only parts of the province are all three parties truly competitive.

The Conservatives look relatively secure in the Fraser Valley and the B.C. Interior, but in both regions of the province they can expect some tight battles with the New Democrats.

The NDP is better positioned in Burnaby and on Vancouver Island, where they would be favoured in most ridings. But on the island, the party is facing a new opponent in the Greens. Elizabeth May's party is currently polling at around 12 per cent provincewide and has its sights set on the riding of Victoria, which the Greens very nearly won in a 2012 byelection.

In Vancouver itself, the Liberals look poised to win a lot of new seats, squaring off with the NDP and Conservatives in a few of them.

Surrey could be one of the most interesting battlegrounds in the country. In the city's five seats, the Liberals are at play in four, the Conservatives in three and the NDP in two.

Battleground Alberta?

Less dramatic, though no less interesting, could be Alberta. The province that has been a solid Conservative bastion for ages (the party has won all or all but one of the seats in the province in each of the last three elections) is at no risk of turning over to one of the opposition parties. But that sea of blue could see a few more flecks of red and orange in 2015.

The Conservatives currently lead in the province with about 55 per cent support, followed by the Liberals at 24 per cent and the NDP at 14 per cent. The overall trend line in Alberta has been very steady for some time, and with current support levels the Conservatives would likely win 29 to 30 seats, with the NDP holding on to their one.

Weighted average of polls in Alberta. (ThreeHundredEight.com)

But on current support levels, the Liberals could potentially take three to four seats. That hasn't happened since 1993.

The reason for this is simple: having captured just 9 per cent of the vote in 2011, the party is now polling at almost three times that level of support. That gives them better than even odds in some individual ridings in Edmonton and Calgary, where, despite the Liberals' poor provincewide showing in the last election, they managed to capture 20 per cent of the vote or more.

Outside of the two big cities, the Conservatives should be in no danger. But the Liberals could make for some interesting contests in Calgary especially, and the New Democrats in Edmonton, where they could potentially pick up a second seat.

The political jostling here will pale in comparison to the epic battles in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. But with the 2015 election looking extremely close at this stage, every seat will count.

ThreeHundredEight.com's vote and seat projection model aggregates all publicly released polls, weighing them by sample size, date, and the polling firm's accuracy record. Upper and lower ranges are based on how polls have performed in other recent elections. The seat projection model makes individual projections for all ridings in the country, based on regional shifts in support since the 2011 election and taking into account other factors such as incumbency. The projections are subject to the margins of error of the opinion polls included in the model, as well as the unpredictable nature of politics at the riding level. The polls included in the model vary in size, date, and method, and have not been individually verified by the CBC. You can read the full methodology here.


Éric Grenier

Politics and polls

Éric Grenier is a senior writer and the CBC's polls analyst. He was the founder of ThreeHundredEight.com and has written for The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post Canada, The Hill Times, Le Devoir, and L’actualité.


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.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?