One of the wealthiest suburban ridings in Metro Vancouver, North Vancouver-Seymour is one of the Liberal strongholds on the North Shore.
The riding has reliably voted Liberal – and before that, Social Credit – in every provincial election since 1975.
Jane Thornthwaite, the current Liberal MLA, has represented the riding for three terms already, since 2009 when she won with 59 per cent of the vote. Since then, the Liberal’s vote share in the riding has slipped – in the 2017 Thornthwaite’s share was down to 47 per cent while the second-place NDP candidate garnered 34 per cent of the vote. The Greens posted the highest vote count the party had ever managed in the riding in 2017, with just under 18 per cent of the vote.
This election there are three candidates challenging Thornthwaite: registered nurse Susie Chant of the NDP, university student Harrison Johnston of the Green Party and Clayton Welwood of the Libertarian Party.
Locally, much of the riding falls into the District of North Vancouver, stretching from Indian Arm and Burrard Inlet on the south and east to the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing. The riding includes suburban neighbourhoods above Highway 1 and east of Lonsdale Avenue and Montroyal Blvd.
Demographically, the approximately 41,800 registered voters in North Vancouver Seymour tend to be older and wealthier than average. In the last Census people here reported incomes of over $104,000. While the area’s natural beauty and abundant outdoor recreation contribute to an interest in environmental issues, when it comes to the ballot box, voters have tended to stick with what they know. Voters in this part of North Vancouver helped federal Liberal Terry Beech hang on to his seat despite the controversy over the TransMountain pipeline.
It remains to be seen whether Thornthwaite’s recent ill-advised sexist comments about fellow MLA Bowinn Ma will have any impact on the vote.
Transportation remains a perennial issue in North Vancouver, where traffic gridlock has impacted businesses’ ability to hire employees, local residents’ ability to get to work and even the cost of materials being delivered to the North Shore for major projects. Residents hope a North Vancouver highway interchange project – started under the Liberals and continued under the NDP – that is nearing completion, will help. But they also want better access to rapid transit that would link to other areas of the Lower Mainland. A study is currently underway that is looking into both the geotechnical and economic feasibility of options in a very preliminary manner.
Housing affordability is another constant issue in the riding. Prices for single-family homes hover around $1.6 million. Many people who have grown up in the area find their children can’t afford to stay here when they reach adulthood and downsizers face limited options. Many of the area’s limited number of apartments and condos are reaching the end of their lifespan. Redevelopment of those buildings has inevitably led to displacement of existing renters. Vacancy rates are low and rents are high – and getting higher - in North Vancouver.
And while there is an urgent need for affordable housing, many of those currently living in the riding aren’t keen to see a lot of increased density, fearing that will lead to more traffic congestion.
The pandemic has brought a series of blows to North Vancouver. On the health front, the first long-term care home to suffer an outbreak of the virus at the Lynn Valley Care Centre was in the riding. Lessons were learned from the way the virus tore through the care home, but not before 20 people died and many of the serious shortcomings in care for the elderly were revealed. Since then, businesses in the riding have said the pandemic has also left them reeling, without many of their regular customers, difficulty getting employees and government help that is either too little or too late.