By Keven Drews
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Vancouver: Battles focusing on economic and social issues have broken out in two Vancouver-area ridings in advance of byelections that could serve as a barometer for Premier Christy Clark’s government.
Feb. 2 votes were called Tuesday by Clark for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant and Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, ridings left vacant last summer when Jenny Kwan and Doug Horne decided to run in the federal election.
Kwan won for the New Democrats, while Horne lost for the Conservatives in the October vote.
Under provincial law, a byelection must be called within six months after the Chief Electoral Officer has been notified that the seat is vacant.
Hamish Telford, associate professor of political science at the University of the Fraser Valley, said byelections can allow voters to express their approval or disapproval of the government and raise issues of concern.
“There can be an opportunity for voters to have sort of a mini referendum on the government, and, therefore, to sort of express their displeasure if they’re unhappy with government, or express approval if they’re happy with the government,” he said.
Transportation, Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline expansion and housing-and-rental costs could become factors in both races, he said.
Clark was quick to frame the campaign, focusing on the economy and investments in infrastructure.
“Today, B.C. is a leader in Canada, with a growing and diverse economy, a balanced budget, a triple-A credit rating, and globally recognized plan to fight climate change,” she said in a statement.
“We have achieved this because of the hard work of British Columbians, and because we have a plan to control spending, create opportunity today and for future generations, and return dividends to British Columbians through investment in infrastructure, health care, education and more.”
Liberal candidate Joan Isaacs, who is running in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain and has worked for three decades in the financial-services industry, said she wants to build a sharing economy and welcome technologies like Airbnb, Uber, Lyft and Rover.
Gavin Dew, who is running for the Liberals in Vancouver-Mount-Pleasant, called his riding a “unique economic
hub,” as it is home to Port Metro Vancouver, a growing technology sector and a “thriving” hospitality industry.
Dew, who completed an MBA at Oxford, studied crisis-management at Harvard and now runs a communications’ business, said he wants to see better transit across Metro Vancouver and is committed to building a new St. Paul’s Hospital in his riding.
NDP Leader John Horgan was unavailable for comment, but Melanie Mark, who is running for the NDP in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, said she wants to do something about the affordable-housing crisis in her riding “so that people don’t get squeezed out.”
She said the issue is “top of mind for everyone,” but she also wants to focus on poverty reduction, support for students and teachers and the environment.
“I’ve got lots of gas in this tank to do some work for the next 40 years,” said Mark, 40, who is of First Nations’ heritage and worked previously for B.C.’s representative of children and families.
Jodie Wickens, who is the executive director of the Autism Support Network and will run for the NDP in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, said in a news release that Clark’s government has failed local families.
“I’m running to ensure residents have a strong voice who will fight for better transit services, more funding for education and improved health-care services,” she said.
The B.C. Liberal Party holds 48 seats currently in the legislature, the NDP has 33 seats, and an independent and Green Party member each hold one seat.