B.C. Liberals open candidate nominations in 11 key ridings
People interested in running for the BC Liberals on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland in the next provincial election were officially invited to throw their hats in the ring over the weekend.
“The next election could happen anytime — and today, we’re taking a major step to get strong candidates in place who can get started early on listening to voters, building their teams, and standing up for communities left behind by the NDP,” Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said in an email sent Saturday.
“Whenever the election comes, we’ll be offering British Columbians a diverse team of experienced incumbents, new candidates with fresh perspectives, and local community leaders dedicated to delivering opportunity for all of B.C.,” he added.
The party’s Election Readiness Committee is now accepting letters of intent from prospective candidates in three ridings on Vancouver Island and eight in the Lower Mainland.
With Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver’s announcement that he will not seek re-election, the Liberals are hoping to recapture his Oak Bay—Gordon Head seat. Weaver beat four-term Liberal MLA Ida Chong to win the riding in 2013.
Another unsurprising target is Abbotsford South, where Speaker Darryl Plecas won a second term under the Liberal banner in 2017. After being kicked out of the party for standing for Speaker, Plecas has declared he will not run again.
Also on the list is Courtenay—Comox. It was a new riding in 2017 and ended up being the closest race in the province. On election night, NDP MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard squeaked out a win of just nine votes over Liberal candidate Jim Benninger. She widened her lead to 189 votes following a recount and the tallying of absentee ballots.
Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Scott Fraser’s Mid Island—Pacific Rim riding — another new riding in 2017 — is on the list but may be a tougher fight for the Liberals. Fraser won the riding by a comfortable margin, taking more than 48 per cent of the vote — nearly double Liberal candidate Darren Frank DeLuca’s 26 per cent.
The Liberals also have their sights set on ridings currently held by four other cabinet ministers: Environment and Climate Change Minister George Heyman’s Vancouver—Fairview seat; Minister of State for Trade George Chow’s seat in Vancouver—Fraserview; Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy’s New Westminster seat; and Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Lisa Beare’s seat in Maple Ridge—Pitt Meadows.
While Heyman won his riding with more than 50 per cent of the vote, Chow and Beare secured more modest victories.
In the New Westminster riding, Darcy has held the seat for two elections and increased her share of the vote in 2017. Voters there have a long-standing affinity for NDP representation — former Liberal MLA Joyce Murray is the only non-NDP MLA to hold the seat since 1963.
NDP MLA Bob D’Eith’s Maple Ridge—Mission riding is also on the list; the Liberals are likely hoping that tensions over supportive housing and the shut-down of Interfor’s Hammond sawmill may sour residents on their current representation.
While all but one of the listed ridings are subject to the NDP’s speculation and vacancy tax, it was Belcarra homeowners — residents of NDP MLA Rick Glumac’s Port Moody—Coquitlam riding — that visited the legislature in March to speak out against the tax at a news conference hosted by the Liberals. The riding has ping-ponged between NDP and Liberal representation since 2009.
Rookie MLA Bowinn Ma will also have an electoral battle ahead of her to hold on to North Vancouver—Lonsdale. Ma beat three-term Liberal MLA Naomi Yamamoto by just less than 2,000 votes in 2017, and she is the only non-Liberal MLA to win the riding since 1991.
The Liberals chose these first 11 ridings “ in consultation with grassroots BC Liberal riding associations,” per the party’s announcement. A second round will be announced early next year.