B.C. becomes campaign’s final battleground as party leaders descend on Lower Mainland

B.C. becomes campaign’s final battleground as party leaders descend on Lower Mainland

The final day of the federal election campaign saw the four major party leaders all descend on Greater Vancouver and Vancouver Island for the first time in recent memory.

That’s because B.C. could become the province that decides the entire race, one expert says.

Each party has vulnerabilities on the South Coast. The Liberals are looking to hold onto the outer suburban ridings in cities like Surrey, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, all of which the Conservatives want back.

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The NDP, meanwhile, is fighting to keep their foothold in Vancouver, where the Liberals are also mounting an aggressive attack. And on Vancouver Island, the Greens are aiming to make any gains they can.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau made stops in Vancouver, West Vancouver, Port Moody and Surrey before flying to Victoria for his final rally of the campaign. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was in Vancouver and West Vancouver, later holding his own closing rally in Richmond at a Vancouver airport hotel.

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Leader Elizabeth May had no plans for evening rallies, instead focusing on meeting with voters on the streets: Singh in Vancouver and Surrey, May in Vancouver and Victoria.

Stewart Prest, a political science professor with Simon Fraser University, says all of these races and more will likely make for a long election night.

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“In Metro Vancouver and on the island, there’s a lot up for grabs,” he said Sunday. “The seats are unsettled, the margins are thin and many of these ridings are two and even three-corner contests where (any party) could make a splash.

The latest Ipsos poll exclusive to Global News found that if an election were held tomorrow, 33 per cent of decided voters throughout Canada said they would choose the Tories, while the Liberals have captured 31 per cent of support. The poll’s credibility index is plus or minus two percentage points.

Ipsos pegged the NDP‘s support at 18 per cent of the overall decided vote across the country, while the Green Party is at 6 per cent. Both parties are down two points, but up from where they began the campaign.

Yet Prest says the question of who will come out on top in B.C. is a lot tougher to answer.

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“I’m really not confident with where Metro Vancouver is going to go in particular,” he said. “But [that result] could have an influence on the outcome for the whole country.”

Prest says the Conservatives have a shot at picking up some outer suburban seats in Metro Vancouver, and even Vancouver South if the odds work in their favour. The NDP, meanwhile, have a chance to steal some ridings in Burnaby and New Westminster that went Liberal in 2015.

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In the end, all of the party leaders need to address what Prest says are the key issues affecting British Columbians, particularly the South Coast: housing and the environment.

“Each of the parties have given a distinctive answer” to both issues, Prest said. In terms of the Trans Mountain pipeline, he says the leaders have all had to “thread a needle” to appeal to both supporters and opponents to the project. But housing is where things get even more complicated.

“The Conservatives talk about rule of law and trying to get illegal money out of the market, the Liberals are talking about helping people get into the market with a mortgage, and the NDP telling a different story and focusing on helping people with rent,” Prest said.

“Given just how serious the issue is in the Lower Mainland, however … I don’t know if anyone has a comprehensive answer that will make everyone happy.”

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Federal election 2019: Here’s what you need to know to vote in B.C. on Election Day

With his fellow experts agreeing that an extremely close result is the likely outcome, Prest says it’s a testament to how split the country is right now — and B.C. is no different.

“We’re not going to see some kind of consensus built,” he said. “Its divided country, and we’re going to see a divided result.”

You can learn about each B.C. riding and the major issues affecting voters in the province in our election guide here.

—With files from Kerri Breen

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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