In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, one of nine ridings in the Fraser Valley — and one that was among the NDP's biggest disappointments four years ago.
1. It's a cliché to say that every riding in a provincial election matters — but Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows really matters.
Consider that the Liberals won the riding by 620 votes four years ago, their seventh smallest margin of victory, and that the NDP currently holds 35 seats and would need to win at least eight new seats for a majority government.
This used to be the only riding in the Fraser Valley the NDP held, winning in four of five elections from 1991 to 2013, until the Liberals took it from them in the last election.
Consider that in the first half of the campaign, Liberal Leader Christy Clark and NDP Leader John Horgan visited Maple Ridge multiple times.
And finally, consider that both parties made promises in the weekend before the election campaign began to reduce or eliminate tolls on the Golden Ears Bridge, which enters (or exits, depending on your perspective) the riding.
Little wonder then that the man who currently holds the riding, B.C. Liberal MLA Doug Bing, admits to the importance of his constituency.
"There definitely is extra pressure," Bing said.
"We certainly don't want to leave anything on the table, and wake up on May 10 and wish we worked harder. We're not going to be given a victory."
2. There's a few reasons Bing was elected in the first place, however.
One is the general realignment that happened in the 2013 election — while the NDP picked up four seats in Vancouver, Burnaby and Greater Victoria, it lost three seats to the Liberals in the middle-class, suburban seats of Delta North, Surrey-Fleetwood, Port Moody-Coquitlam and here in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows.
But the other is that Bing fits the profile of a person who has success in elections: he's lived in the region for 37 years, was a Pitt Meadows councillor for eight years prior to running for provincial office, and is the type of non-combative, constituency-focused politician that fits the profile of upper Fraser Valley MLAs.
"I tell them that as MLA I've tried to make things better for them, their community and province. I tell them I'm there to stand up for them in Victoria, even when I disagree with the government, and they respect that," said Bing.
3. Still, his NDP competition will be no pushover.
Lisa Beare, a trustee on the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school board who won the most votes in the 2014 election, was nominated for the NDP last year, and has plenty of time to knock on doors and hone her pitch to voters.
"I wanted to fix public education before I had children in the system," Beare said, referring to her 21-month-old toddler.
"I realized how difficult life has been for families. It's the stories I heard every day as a trustee that inspired me to run for MLA."
When asked what she is hearing from voters, she recites — almost word for word — the main pitch Horgan is giving voters, because after all, it is election season.
"Affordability has been a really big concern for families. I'm hearing daily that life is getting harder and more expensive under Christy Clark. Costs have been rising, and too many people aren't making that up, they're falling behind.
"People are feeling like after 16 years of the Liberals, no matter how hard they work, they're just not getting ahead."
The Green Party candidate is Alex Pope, chair of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows bicycle advisory committee, and the party's 2013 candidate in neighbouring Maple Ridge-Mission.
4. While Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows is part of Metro Vancouver, it shares many characteristics with more rural ridings.
There are 42 ridings in Metro Vancouver, but it's important to recognize that ridings in the 604 area code don't homogeneously share the same issues.
The improvements Bing speaks about in his district are proof of that. He cited a new MRI machine at Ridge Meadows Hospital and a third ambulance dedicated for the region.
"We're the rural part of the Metro area. Pitt Meadows is about 90 per cent agriculture," he said.
"When I first moved here, Pitt Meadows had 4,500 people and Maple Ridge had 20,000. Now Pitt Meadows has 20,000 and Maple Ridge has 80,000," said Bing.
"That's more traffic, more demand for more schools, and always a need to create more jobs."
5. Where does the NDP do best?
The party consistently does best in Maple Ridge's city centre along Dewdney Trunk Road and Lougheed Highway — but in general, the entire urban centre of Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge tends to be fairly split, with either party getting over 60 per cent of the vote at a polling station a rare occurrence.
6. What about the B.C. Liberals?
It does very well in Pitt Meadows, particularly in the agricultural areas north of Highway 7, along with Maple Ridge's Silver Valley neighbourhood to the northeast of the city core.
7. With such a close riding, in such a close election, it means the stereotypes about the strains of campaigning ring truer.
"Everyone jokes [about] the shoes you go through," said Beare.
"I've started counting through blisters. Do I have any blisters? No? Well then I'm not working hard enough."
MAP: Every polling station in the riding last election