It’s a well-worn gripe among British Columbia voters that the outcome of federal elections is often known before the polls have even closed on the west coast.
But with national polls showing the Liberals and Conservatives in a statistical tie, and all three major parties competitive west of the Rockies, could 2021 be different?
It’s a question Ipsos Public Affairs senior vice president Kyle Braid says he gets every election, but this time feels different.
“Normally I just dismiss that because it never happens,” he said.
“But this time could be the difference where a few seats in B.C. make the difference between who forms a minority government, probably not majority versus minority.”
Ipsos’ election eve poll has the Conservatives at 34 per cent in B.C., the NDP at 30 per cent and the Liberals at 26 per cent.
“In B.C., the entire election, continuing right to the end, there are three parties in play,” Braid said.
“The Conservatives are a little ahead of the NDP at this point in B.C., and the NDP is a little ahead of the Liberals, but all three parties have a chance of winning multiple seats.”
That provincial-level polling doesn’t take into account each party’s strongholds or the ultra-tight battlegrounds, many of which are in Metro Vancouver — a region that accounts for more than half of B.C.’s 42 federal seats.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Leader Annamie Paul both made a point of physically campaigning in the province during the final weekend of the race.
University of the Fraser Valley political science professor Hamish Telford says he’s closely watching several key races in the Lower Mainland.
“All eyes are on Jody Wilson Raybould’s old seat of Vancouver-Granville — we expected the Liberals to win that at the beginning of the campaign, but their candidate has struggled with various controversies,” he said.
He’s also watching the ridings of Port Coqutilam-Coquitlam and Port Moody-Coquitlam, both of which delivered razor-thin margins in 2019.
“Those might be the two tightest races in the country, so a lot of attention is going to be focused there,” he said.
In Port Moody-Coquitlam, Conservative Nelly Shin eked out a win over the NDP’s Bonita Zarillo by just over 150 votes in 2019 — and the pair are facing off in a re-match this year.
In Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam, Liberal Ron McKinnon won the riding by just 390 votes in 2019 and is facing off against Conservative newcomer Katerina Anastasiadis this year. However, the NDP, who performed well in the Tri-Cities area in the 2020 provincial election, feel they are competitive with candidate Laura Dupont.
Adding to the unpredictability of this year’s electoral map are the Green Party and People’s Party of Canada.
The Greens have historically performed better in B.C. than elsewhere in Canada, but this year aren’t running candidates in multiple ridings — including five Lower Mainland battlegrounds.
They have also sagged in the polls. Who their supporters back could mean the difference between victory and defeat in a tight race.
On Vancouver Island, the Greens are in the fight of their lives, as both Conservatives and the NDP make a strong play for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, one of the party’s only two seats.
The PPC, Telford said, could play spoiler in an inverse way if they perform well on election day.
“If the People’s Party comes on strong, and they are certainly gaining momentum, then a riding like Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon may come into play,” he said, noting the far-right party could siphon support from the Conservatives.
The area is a traditional Tory stronghold, but the Liberals captured it in 2015 during their historic Lower Mainland surge.
Not complicated enough?
Now factor in the nearly one million mail-in ballots, nation wide, returned to Elections Canada, which won’t be counted until the day after the election.
Of the top 10 ridings that requested mail-in ballots, seven were in British Columbia — perhaps speaking to residents’ comfort with the voting method after last year’s provincial election.
“With a million votes cast by mail, it may take some time to get final results, as we saw last year in British Columbia,” Telford said.
Polls open at 7 a.m. PT in B.C. on Monday and close at 7 p.m. PT.
Whether the rest of Canada will be up late anxiously watching the results from British Columbia remains to be seen.
-With files from Paul Johnson