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Election 2021: Which B.C. ridings did the leaders target, and what it tells us about their campaigns

Coquitlam, Surrey, Burnaby, Vancouver and the North Shore were targeted by the leaders, trying to pick up new ridings or protect existing ones.

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Final score: Jagmeet Singh, 4. Justin Trudeau, 3. Erin O’Toole, 3. Annamie Paul, 1.

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The NDP leader flew to B.C. four times during the election campaign, while the leaders of the Liberal and Conservative parties came here three times, each making multiple stops in various ridings. The embattled Green leader visited once, her party’s only two federal seats being from this province.

What’s particularly telling about the leaders’ sojourns is which ridings they targeted, and whether they were on offence (trying to steal the seat from another party) or defence (trying to stop another party from stealing it). Trudeau, O’Toole and Singh were in Metro Vancouver in the campaign’s last week, and the pressure would have been mounting because a recent Leger poll showed support among decided B.C. voters locked in a near blue-red-orange dead heat.

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In the last federal election, British Columbians voted in 17 Conservatives, 11 Liberals, 11 NDP, two Greens and one Independent.

The top politicos visited the Tri-Cities the most during this campaign as it’s home to two of B.C.’s tightest races: In Port Moody-Coquitlam, where Tory Nelly Shin beat the NDP’s Bonita Zarillo by just 153 votes in 2019, the two are now locked in a fierce battle with Liberal Will Davis. And in Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam, Grit incumbent Ron McKinnon, who narrowly won in 2019, is now in a three-way contest with Conservative Katerina Anastasiadis and the NDP’s Laura Dupont. (No one is running for the Greens in either riding.)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh with Port Moody-Coquitlam NDP candidate Bonita Zarrillo in August.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh with Port Moody-Coquitlam NDP candidate Bonita Zarrillo in August.

“Port Moody-Coquitlam is a fascinating riding given that, in 2019, all three parties finished within two percentage points of each other. So I expect that’ll be another close battleground as well, where all three of the major parties here have a real shot at picking that seat up,” said Simon Fraser University political scientist Stewart Prest.

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Both Trudeau and Singh visited Port Moody-Coquitlam during their first stops in B.C. in mid-August. O’Toole was there in early September to try to shore up support for his incumbent.

And Trudeau was in Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam last Monday to bolster his incumbent’s efforts to hold the riding.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau campaigning in Port Coquitlam on Sept. 13.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau campaigning in Port Coquitlam on Sept. 13.

Surrey was also on the leaders’ itineraries, with Trudeau making at least three campaign stops and O’Toole one. Of the city’s five ridings — three held by the Liberals, two by the Conservatives — several could be flipped.

Trudeau targeted the two blue ridings, Cloverdale-Langley City and South Surrey-White Rock, where Liberal incumbents were upset by Conservatives in 2019; Trudeau wants those seats back.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in Surrey on Sept. 13.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in Surrey on Sept. 13.

Both O’Toole and Singh, though, visited Burnaby-North Seymour, where Liberal incumbent Terry Beech fended off an NDP attack in 2019 and is now under pressure from the NDP’s Jim Hanson and Conservative Kelsey Shein.

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Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole poses for a selfie with a supporter in North Vancouver on Sept. 3.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole poses for a selfie with a supporter in North Vancouver on Sept. 3.

The question in this riding, said SFU political scientist Sanjay Jeram, is whether Beech can overcome the lack of enthusiasm there for Trudeau or if he will be steamrolled by the public’s greater support for Singh, who represents the neighbouring seat of Burnaby South.

“That riding is interesting because you have (Beech), someone personally popular in the riding, and you wonder if that’s going to be sufficient enough to sort of hold off the NDP challenge,” Jeram said. “You’d think that if the NDP were to make any gains, (Burnaby-North Seymour) has to be one they have to win.”

Jagmeet Singh with wife Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu and Burnaby North NDP’s Jim Hanson on Aug. 18.
Jagmeet Singh with wife Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu and Burnaby North NDP’s Jim Hanson on Aug. 18.

Trudeau, O’Toole and Singh at least once visited vote-rich Vancouver, with its six ridings (which elected three Liberals, two NDP and one Independent in 2019).

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Singh last weekend was in Vancouver Granville, where Liberal-turned-Independent Jody Wilson-Raybould nudged out Liberal Taleeb Noormohamed in 2019. With Wilson-Raybould not running again, Noormohamed seemed sure to win, until he was rocked by house-flipping revelations. The race has now opened up for Conservative Kailin Che and the NDP’s Anjali Appadurai.

The diverse riding stretches from apartment dwellers in the north who vote NDP, to Shaughnessy mansion owners in the middle who tend to lean Conservative, to a large Indo-Canadian population in the south that typically goes Liberal, said B.C. pollster Mario Canseco.

Erin O’Toole greets West Vancouver candidate John Weston on Sept. 12.
Erin O’Toole greets West Vancouver candidate John Weston on Sept. 12.

Another riding with a mixed set of voters is West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, and O’Toole was recently photographed with Conservative candidate John Weston. That seat, which was held by Weston until 2015, when it was snatched away by the Liberals, is in the Tories’ crosshairs.

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But this large riding, which includes high-end homes in West Vancouver and Whistler, as well as the more laid-back communities of Pemberton and Sechelt, is also one where the Greens and NDP attract many votes.

“(The diversity) creates these enclaves where each of the parties think they can get votes in the riding,” said Jeram.

Singh also visited Nanaimo-Ladysmith, a former NDP stronghold held since 2019 by the Greens’ Paul Manly. That riding is locked in a three-way green-orange-blue tie, according to the 338Canada.com poll tracker.

Green Leader Annamie Paul in Toronto.
Green Leader Annamie Paul in Toronto.

Paul made an 11th-hour stop Saturday to hit the hustings with Manly and veteran Green MP Elizabeth May in her Saanich-Gulf Islands riding. But until this weekend, Paul, who faces infighting within her party, spent no campaign time in B.C.

Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada, which Leger says has the support of four per cent of decided B.C. voters (tied with the Greens), toured this province on the Labour Day weekend, visiting Abbotsford, Vancouver, Kelowna and four northern ridings.

PPC Leader Maxime Bernier in Vancouver on Sept. 4.
PPC Leader Maxime Bernier in Vancouver on Sept. 4.

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