One of the traditionally closest ridings in a B.C. provincial election is Maple Ridge-Mission and to a lesser degree the neighboring riding of Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows.
Therefore, it is no coincidence that the two major party leaders went to that region Thursday literally within hours of each other.
NDP Leader John Horgan earnestly wants to keep both seats in his party’s fold and BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson likely thinks his party can pick at least one of them off. If history is any guide, the Liberals have a chance at reclaiming Maple Ridge-Mission.
The NDP’s Bob D’Eith took the riding in 2017 by just 325 votes. But that narrow victory margin is par for the course in that area.
The BC Liberals won Maple Ridge-Mission by just 68 votes in 2009 and 199 votes in 2005. Marc Dalton’s 1,507 margin of victory for the BC Liberals in 2013 is a bit of an outlier.
The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows riding is a bit less competitive and slightly more NDP-friendly. Lisa Beare took the riding by almost 1,600 votes in 2017, but margins of victory by both the NDP and the BC Liberals in the three previous elections have ranged from just 274 votes to 925 votes.
These tight races are not a recent development.
In fact, the close contests in the region go back decades to the 1979 election when there was just one riding called Dewdney. The old Social Credit party won that race by just 645 votes, beginning a long pattern of close contests that continues to this day.
One of the closest elections was the 1986 battle when Dewdney was one of those ridings that elected two MLAs. One of the NDP candidates lost to one of the Social Credit candidates by a mere 49 votes (the other New Democrat candidate lost by 405 votes).
A number of factors will determine which party proves victorious in these two ridings on Oct. 24.
The advantage that comes with being incumbent candidate will no doubt aid the reelection chances of both Beare and D’Eith.
But both BC Liberal candidates – Chelsa Meadus in Mission and Cheryl Ashlie in Pitt Meadows – are expected to pose strong challenges, as history suggests is always the case here.
Shifting demographics may make this region increasingly friendlier to the NDP as unaffordable housing has pushed many young families eastward in Metro Vancouver to more affordable locations.
Homelessness, childcare, drug addiction, health care and housing are likely to be dominant issues in the campaign.
Look for both Horgan and Wilkinson to visit the region at least once more in the campaign. It’s one of B.C.’s biggest election battlegrounds.