BALDREY: B.C. might determine the results of upcoming federal election

The federal election campaign is right around the corner and once again, there is the looming possibility that the riding outcomes in B.C. may determine its outcome.

It is conceivable – although, by no means a sure thing – that by the time we start counting the ballots in this province and determine how B.C.’s 42 seats are claimed by the parties, neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives will have won enough seats in the rest of the country to form a majority government.

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Of course, this kind of scenario has been predicted before and it has fallen flat on its face. In 2015, for example, a huge victory by the Justin Trudeau-led Liberals seemed almost certain while British Columbians were still at polling stations (the Atlantic provinces were coloured Liberal red on election night by 6 p.m. Pacific time).

But perhaps on Oct. 21 (election day), B.C. will truly prove to be a kingmaker. If so, about 16 or so ridings will prove to be the keys to victory for either of the major parties (as well, B.C. riding results may have a disproportionately large impact on the very future of the other two parties – the Greens and the NDP).

Barring some kind of seismic shift in voting patterns, about half the ridings are usually won by the same party every election. The NDP owns most of Vancouver Island and the east side of Vancouver, the Liberals are strongest in the west side of Vancouver and some of its suburbs and the Conservatives are always strong in the North and the Interior.

But every election is different in some way and this fall’s is shaping up to be a fascinating race in many ridings.

For example, can the Liberals hang onto ridings seemingly won because of that wave of Trudeaumania that swept the country in 2015 but which seems to have ebbed considerably since then?

I’m referring to ridings in the Okanagan, Surrey, Delta, Langley and even North Vancouver – all areas once dominated by the Conservatives. Will those seats revert back to the Conservative fold, or is there enough lingering Trudeaumania to keep them in the Liberal win column?

Then there is the real wild card riding: Vancouver Granville, where the current MP – Jody Wilson-Raybould – is running as an Independent. This could be a genuine four-way close fight, with the eventual winner perhaps not even needing 30 per cent of the vote to bring it home.

As for the NDP, the party looks like it is about to take a beating at the hands of the voters in the rest of Canada, particularly in Quebec. However, things look a lot brighter for it in this province.

It is hard to see the party losing its traditional strongholds on Vancouver Island, with the possible exception of Victoria, where its popular incumbent MP Murray Rankin is not running again. However, the other parties do not seem in great enough shape at this point to grab that seat.

Add the party’s usual wins in the east side of Vancouver and some suburbs and it may well turn out that the federal NDP becomes a B.C.-centric political party with little representation anywhere else in the country.

Over coffee last week, party leader Jagmeet Singh told me his party is also hoping to win a couple of seats in Surrey and if that happens, that may stand as the party’s biggest accomplishment on election night. Singh, by the way, struck me as relaxed and realistic about his party’s chances come October (look for him to spend much of his time during the campaign on Vancouver Island and in Surrey and some suburbs).

As for the Greens, any momentum the party seemed to have in public opinion appears to be slipping, although party leader Elizabeth May seems to be a lock for her Vancouver Island seat. The NDP, Singh told me, has made reclaiming the Vancouver Island seat lost to the Greens in a recent byelection a top priority.

So the table is set for B.C. determining, potentially at least, whether or not either the Liberals or the Conservatives form a majority come the fall.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.

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