There is no doubt the Trudeaumania that swept the Liberals to power in 2015 has faded considerably since then, but the party’s margins of victory in many B.C. ridings were so huge in that election that it may not matter this time around.
The Liberals won 17 B.C. ridings by an average margin of 8,800 votes in 2015, which is rather astonishing when you consider some of them had seemed no-go zones for the party for years. They even romped to easy victories in some ridings — Delta, Kelowna-Lake Country — where they had never won before.
Such was the impact of the dramatic rise in voter turnout, largely attributed to the aforementioned Trudeaumania. The huge rise in the Liberal vote, when combined with a slightly lower decrease in the Conservative vote, resulted in some wild swings of fortune.
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Take Delta, for example. The Liberals beat the Conservatives by about 9,100 votes after the Conservatives beat them by 18,000 votes in 2015. That’s a swing of more than 27,000 votes, which is huge.
Or North Vancouver, where the swing was more than 24,000 votes. Or Kelowna-Lake Country, which had a swing of more than 21,000 votes.
The Trudeau brand grew the Liberal vote by almost 130,000 in eight ridings that had been held by Conservatives — in most cases, for years — and shifted them into the Liberal win column.
You get the picture. There was a seismic shift in voting patterns in 2015.
The question now is: will there be another one?
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Certainly, for the Conservatives to reclaim a bunch of ridings that were swept away by the surging Liberal tidal wave, another seismic shift will be required, and it will have to go in the opposite direction.
Now, some of the Liberal wins were rather narrow and should be competitive contests in this campaign. Burnaby North-Seymour, Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge, Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, Steveston-Richmond East and Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam all had margins of victory of fewer than 4,000 votes.
But it will take something extraordinary to put former Conservative strongholds like West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Delta and a couple of Surrey seats back into play. The Liberals won them by at least 9,000 votes last time.
Of course, if something extraordinary happened before, it can certainly happen again, and clearly, the Conservatives are banking on that. They are banking that four years in power has inflicted enough scars on Trudeau’s once-spotless reputation to make thousands of voters reconsider their view of him.
That could certainly happen, but it seems like a tall mountain to scale. However, any shuffling of votes amongst the so-called “progressive” side of the political ledger — where the Liberals share space with the NDP and the Greens — may allow the Conservatives to win some ridings without growing their 2015 vote by much at all.
The fact that Trudeau kicked off his campaign in B.C. indicates that he knows how important this province is to his political success.
Without those 17 B.C. seats, he would have fallen just short of a majority government in 2015. It was also telling which ridings Trudeau actually visited on his first campaign trip here.
He went first to Vancouver Kingsway, which normally should be considered an NDP stronghold. He followed that with a visit to another fairly strong NDP riding — Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke — and finished up in the usually strong Conservative riding of Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo.
The Liberals clearly think that with the right breaks — a serious slump in NDP fortunes would be particularly valuable — those three ridings can fall into the party’s win column, which, if that happens, may make up for potential losses in other ridings.
Trudeaumania may have crested some time ago, but the Conservatives still have their work cut out for them to make it disappear completely.
Keith Baldrey is Global B.C.’s legislative bureau chief.