Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows residents could have a big say in who forms the next provincial government.
The ridings of Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadow and Maple Ridge-Mission are viewed as key battlegrounds in the 2020 BC election.
Soon after John Horgan called a snap election on Sept. 21, political pundits identified the two constituencies as swing ridings.
There have been three visits from party leaders in the two weeks since, with Horgan arriving in Maple Ridge-Mission on Sept. 24 to talk about $10/day child care.
Wilkinson went to Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows that same day, when he spoke about drug addiction. Then he returned to the riding on Tuesday, with an announcement that he would end ICBC’s monopoly on vehicle insurance.
The NDP flipped the ridings in 2017, as the NDP’s Lisa Beare beat Liberal Doug Bing in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, and NDP candidate Bob D’Eith deposed Liberal Marc Dalton.
“Those two ridings were really critical,” said University of the Fraser Valley political science professor Hamish Telford, noting Maple Ridge-Mission had been a reliable Liberal seat, held by the party since 2001.
“The NDP didn’t expect to win those ridings,” he added.
The Liberals won 43 seats, the NDP 41, and the Green Party three, and the NDP and Greens formed a minority government.
Telford said voters were tired of the Liberal Party after 15 years, and that played a major part in their loss of votes.
He said this election is about the job that the NDP has been doing.
“It’s a referendum on their management the past three years, and their management of the pandemic in particular.”
On that score, he said Horgan is “riding Dr. Bonnie Henry’s coattails.”
Telford said the polls are “locked in” with the NDP in the lead, and added “It is going to be hard for the Liberals to win those ridings back.”
Greg Millard, former chair of the department of political science at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, agreed.
He said any government seen as having ably handled the pandemic get what he calls “a COVID incumbent bonus.” An example can be seen by strong polling numbers by Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservatives in Ontario, he said.
Millard agreed a few battleground ridings could again determine who forms government.
“The NDP flipped almost every close riding in the Lower Mainland in the last election, and the Maple Ridge ridings were a huge part of that,” he said.
Millard said affordability for families was a key message for the NDP last election, and they got a lot of traction with a promise to remove tolls on the Golden Ears and Port Mann Bridges.
He sees the Liberal Party is picking up on the same theme, and Wilkinson’s announcement of trying to lower ICBC rates with private competition was part of that.
Millard was curious whether the NDP would “pay a price” in lost support for calling the election during the pandemic, for which Horgan was heavily criticized. He believes the polls would already show that loss, and they haven’t. He cited a recent poll slowing the NDP at 48 per cent, and Liberals at 37 per cent.
Telford said having leaders visit the riding has traditionally been a morale boost for the party locally.
“The major effect in a normal election campaign, is it motivates the campaign workers,” said Telford.
But in COVID-19 times, those party volunteers are not engaging with the public in the same ways as they have in the past, so the impact of a leader visit remains to be seen. It may be simply photo opportunities in the riding.
“They’re not necessarily getting that troop motivation.”
Other than Liberals and NDP, there is just one other candidate involved in the ridings, as the Green Party is running Matt Trenholm in Maple Ridge-Mission.
Telford said one can’t assume the Green Party candidate will take votes from the NDP’s D’Eith.
“They (Green Party voters) don’t fit neatly on the left or right.”