Conservative losses in Metro Vancouver suburbs mark biggest change for B.C. in status-quo election

·3 min read
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets supporters prior to his victory speech at Liberal Party campaign headquarters in Montreal, early Tuesday morning.  (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets supporters prior to his victory speech at Liberal Party campaign headquarters in Montreal, early Tuesday morning. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Did we learn anything?

It was the dominant question from coast to coast on election night Monday, as a campaign that began with many wondering why it was necessary ended with almost the exact results as the 2019 election.

"It reflects a certain degree of ambivalence," said University of British Columbia political scientist Gerald Baier, after the Liberals were left with another minority government.

Which meant, once again, that British Columbia was mostly on the sidelines, the fate of the next Parliament mostly known by the time votes beyond the Rockies were counted.

But while little changed in the big picture, there were small differences that are worth noting as the province's political map changes once again.

Conservatives lose in suburbs

To start with, the Conservatives failed to make inroads in Metro Vancouver — in fact, quite the opposite.

The party lost Cloverdale-Langley City, Port Moody-Coquitlam and both Richmond ridings. They declined in support in four of the five Surrey ridings. Middle-class, suburban, multicultural ridings — key to the Harper government's victories earlier this decade — slipped further away despite the party's best efforts.

"There were all kinds of things [Erin O'Toole] was talking about that were much more towards the middle," said Baier, "but voters were hesitant to really believe it."

He noted that there were key differences between the Conservatives and other parties, including a focus on child care and the environment, along with the Liberal promise of funding for a SkyTrain extension to Langley City.

But Ginger Gosnell-Myers, an Indigenous fellow with Simon Fraser University's Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue and Vancouver's first ever Indigenous relations manager, agreed that questions of authenticity might have dogged the Conservative campaign.

"I don't see very much space for conservative ideologies within our urban communities," she said.

"Was he speaking to the issues that we really cared about? Obviously not."

Nail-biter in Vancouver-Granville

But it wasn't just the Conservatives with a disappointing night in B.C.

The Green Party has long had its biggest national support here, but lost more than half their vote, going from 12.5 per cent of the provincewide total in 2019 to just 5.1 on Monday.

They seemed poised to lose Ladysmith-Nanaimo to the NDP, which would leave Elizabeth May as the party's only MP in the province.

That riding won't be determined for a couple of days, as Elections Canada gets set to count the nearly 200,000 ballots that were sent in by mail in the province over the past month.

It's likely that counting will be watched most passionately by NDP supporters and young progressives in Metro Vancouver, many of whom had coalesced around Vancouver-Granville candidate Anjali Appadurai in the last week.

The lead went back and forth between Appadurai and Liberal candidate Taleeb Noormohamed throughout election night, at one point separated by a single vote.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press
Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

And while the NDP can take heart in picking up Port Moody-Coquitlam and possibly taking Nanaimo-Ladysmith, it seemed clear the possibility of a climate activist taking a former Liberal seat from a serial house flipper in the heart of Vancouver carried greater emotional resonance.

"If Taleeb wins, it would signal perhaps voter apathy and not paying close attention in the election," said Gosnell-Myers.

"But if the NDP do win, it does signal that people are looking for change."

It may seem like a lot to pin on one of B.C.'s 42 electoral districts.

But in an election where so little moved electorally, it's hard to blame dissatisfied voters for grasping for any potential difference in the status quo.

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