Vancouver Island has always been a place of stark differences.
From inland mountains to the thin stretch of flat land along the Strait of Georgia, towns with history defined by mills or mines and a present often defined by environmental activism or tourism.
Not surprisingly, the contrast often creates stark political battles in the Island's seven electoral districts between the left-wing NDP and the dominant right-wing party of the day, leading to plenty of areas that have elected NDP, Reform, Canadian Alliance and Conservative candidates.
But another party has joined the fray that tends to be competitive across the Island.
Green hue to the island
That is, of course, the Greens — the party has made a foothold from Victoria to Port Hardy both provincially and federally, and has two MPs on the Island both seeking re-election.
But it will likely be a tighter battle in Nanaimo–Ladysmith, which Paul Manly won in a byelection in 2019. He was then re-elected six months later, but in both cases the Conservative and NDP candidates weren't so far behind.
This time around the Conservative candidate is Tamara Kronis, a lawyer who recently moved to the Island, while the NDP candidate is local school trustee Lisa Marie Barron.
3-way races north of the Malahat
The other ridings in the central and north Island are all held by the NDP, and all by MPs seeking re-election: Gord Johns in Courtenay–Alberni; Alistair MacGregor in Cowichan–Malahat–Langford; Randall Garrison in Esquimalt–Saanich–Sooke; Rachel Blaney in North Island–Powell River and Laurel Collins in Victoria.
The NDP won them by between 3,000 and 8,000 votes over the Green Party or Conservatives last election, so they will likely be competitive again. Aside from being close, they're also ridings where different parties have different areas of support — usually divided along age and income lines, but not always.
In North Island–Powell River, the NDP tends to get plenty of votes in Campbell River, Comox, Powell River, Alert Bay and Quadra Island, while the Conservatives do better in Port McNeill, Port Hardy, and the suburbs of Campbell River and Comox.
In Courtenay–Alberni, the NDP dominate in Tofino, Ucluelet, Cumberland and Port Alberni, but the Conservatives do much better with the older population around Qualicum Beach and Parksville.
And in Cowichan–Malahat–Langford, the Greens do well around Shawnigan Lake, the NDP in Duncan and lower Langford, while the Conservatives in Mill Bay and upper Langford.
But none of the NDP incumbents have suffered major controversy in the last two years and the other political parties haven't put forward "star" candidates — so all things being equal, the NDP will be favoured to hold on to those ridings if they remain above their 2019 results in polling.
4-way races near Victoria
The Liberal Party has never won more than a seat on the Island in any election since 1968, and didn't even finish runner-up anywhere in 2019 — but in elections where it forms a majority, the party is often competitive in Greater Victoria, where all large political parties have pockets of support.
In Esquimalt–Saanich–Sooke, NDP candidate Randall Garrison seeks a fourth term, and faces Colwood councillor Doug Kobayahsi running for the Liberals, environmental researcher Laura Frost running for the Conservatives, and biochemist Haley Gordon for the Greens.
And in Victoria, NDP candidate and former city councillor Laurel Collins seeks a second term, and faces Conservative Hannah Hodson, Green Nick Loughton, and Liberal Nikki Macdonald.
Exemplifying the diverse nature of the Island, it's the only riding in the entire country where the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Greens have all received at least 10 per cent of the vote in each of the last three elections.
Meaning for all parties, putting attention there is a capital idea.