The shape of campaigns to come - The Orca

The shape of campaigns to come

Maclean Kay

North Island MLA Claire Trevena faced a room of frustrated forestry workers wondering where she and her government have been. This might be a sign of real trouble for the NDP.

By now, you’ve seen the video.

Transportation Minister and North Island MLA Claire Trevena, stared down by a room of angry forestry workers, frustrated and bewildered by near-complete government inaction during a six-month strike specifically, and the provincial forestry crisis more generally. (For a detailed breakdown and analysis, check out Vaughn Palmer’s brilliant column and advice.)

Much of the focus has been on Trevena, and some of her awkward responses to pleas for help. But for the NDP, it might be part of a broader problem: the rapidly cementing impression they have become an exclusively urban party. Maybe not exactly hostile to rural concerns, just indifferent to them.

So what, the cynic might say – more British Columbians live in major cities, and the NDP are in power, so they must’ve found a winning formula.

It’s not that simple.

Because they’re in government, the NDP are justifiably seen as having “won” the 2017 election. But in many ways, they’re playing from behind. Watching the legislature on a day to day basis, it doesn’t always feel this way, but the opposition BC Liberals actually won more votes, which doesn’t really matter, and two more seats, which does.

Why is this important? The next election is less than two years away – at most. The NDP will be in the odd position of a governing party that needs to gain seats to stay there. Losing even one held seat to the BC Liberals may well be the difference between government and opposition.

Look at the electoral map, and set aside the reasonably safe seats on either side. It’s hard not to conclude the NDP may have peaked. Barring a complete and permanent shift away from historical trends, they’re not likely to (almost) run the table in Burnaby, the Tri-Cities, and Maple Ridge indefinitely – there is usually at least some reversion to the mean.

Yes, there are also some BC Liberal-held ridings in play, including Skeena, Vancouver-False Creek, and the NDP will throw the kitchen sink at Jas Johal in Richmond-Queensborough. But right now, it looks like there are simply more vulnerable NDP ridings. In any tradeoff of seats, the NDP need to come out ahead.

Claire Trevena

Is Trevena herself in trouble? Perhaps not personally. Since 1979, North Island has been safe NDP territory, only briefly slipping away in the 2001 massacre. Despite facing some strong candidates, Trevena has won the past two elections by eight and 12 points, respectively.

Trevena might still be relatively thick ice, but she can’t afford to be seen as an absentee MLA. Because the NDP can’t take any of their usual ridings for granted; losing even one might be fatal – even if the tradeoff of swing seats is a draw.

Maclean Kay is Editor-in-Chief of The Orca


  • Speaking of Transportation Minister Claire Trevena, here’s Maclean Kay on the plan to have a plan to replace the replacement for the George Massey Tunnel.
  • Why are forestry workers so frustrated? Dene Moore shares Kim Thomas’ story, who’s not working at a sawmill for the first time in 26 years – and doesn’t know what’s next for her family.
  • Suzanne Anton looked at the results of the federal election and sees a strong minority – and a way forward.