2017 British Columbia election: Vancouver-Mount Pleasant riding profile

2017 British Columbia election: Vancouver-Mount Pleasant riding profile

In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, one of 11 ridings in Vancouver — and one where the only real question come election night will likely be margin of victory.

1. Every MLA claims they they'll have to work hard to be re-elected. But how do you believe that when you live in the safest NDP riding in the province?

If you're Melanie Mark, first elected in a 2016 byelection, you look back at your upbringing. 

"When you grow up the way I did ... I grew up without a lot, with a single mom in poverty. I don't take anything for granted," said Mark, who is B.C.'s first female Indigenous MLA . 

"Work hard, play hard, do as much as you can in a day, do the best you can. It's been one year, I hope constituents can see I've done my best to be out there."

2. Still, Mark faces little threat of losing her seat. 

It's one of two seats in the province the NDP has never lost. 

Outside of 2001, when the NDP were reduced to two seats, they've won every general election by at least 6,500 votes. 

In the 2016 byelection, the B.C. Liberals received just 11.3 per cent of the vote, their worst result anywhere in the province in 25 years. 

And it's a riding where the two biggest provincial stories of the last two years — drug overdoses and housing affordability — are acutely felt by local residents.  

There are few certainties in elections, but an NDP victory in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant is about as certain an outcome as you can get. 

3. Opposition candidates will still work hard in hopes of a miracle, though.

Running for the B.C. Liberals is Conny Lin, a vice-president with the Canadian Mental Health Association. For the Green Party, it's Jerry Kroll, CEO of ElectraMeccanica Vehicles Corp., which produces one-person electric commuter cars. 

Former NDP strategist Bill Tieleman says some candidates in long shot ridings tend to me more realistic than others.

"Some of them are absolutely convinced they have a good chance of winning, and others a little more sanguine about it," he said. 

"You're not going to get the pick of the litter campaign managers, you're not going to see a big ad buy if you're in a riding you can't win, you're going to be relying on local volunteers. Every campaign will have a minimum they'll spend - you need an office, you need signs - and you can't write off a riding absolutely if you're a major party, but outside of that it'll often be bare bones." 

4. The amount of issues Mark has to deal with can be a doubled-edged sword. 

From frustration over development in Chinatown, to questions about what the new hospital will mean for traffic, to fentanyl and housing affordability, to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Main Street gentrification to countless other issues, the small riding has no shortage of large debates where an opposition MLA can speak out. But Mark says that presents its own challenges.

"Before getting elected, I thought I had challenging jobs. It's a job what you make it … balance is struck by just making sure that I feel that people are getting enough exposure in not just one corner, but all four," said Mark, alluding to all the different constituency groups that want her support. 

"It's very challenging in opposition to try and advocate for change without any power. All I can do is keep raising the issues, raise the flag, and say something has to be done, but fundamentally it is up to the government."

5. Where does the NDP do well?

Dude Chilling Park could very well be called NDP Square: the polling stations surrounding the park regularly give the party at least 70 per cent of the vote. The party also does well in the apartments between Commercial, Clark, Venables and Broadway. 

6. What about the Liberals? 

It didn't win a single polling station in the riding in 2013 — but has some success in the past in Chinatown and the western part of Strathcona.   

7. Mark is aware of her unique place in the legislature — one that, given the political culture of her riding, she'll have as long as she wants it. 

"It's a great opportunity to celebrate our diversity in this province, how far Indigenous people have come," she said. 

"Is there pressure? I think there's some major social, economic and environment issues that are affecting Indigenous people ... and I'm one of those people that gets to amplify those issues in the legislature. That's exciting, it's an opportunity."