The B.C. NDP flipped the key battleground riding of Vancouver-False Creek on Saturday night, on its way to winning nine of 11 seats in the City of Vancouver.
New Democratic candidate for False Creek Brenda Bailey had collected 5,295 votes to 4,512 votes for the two-term incumbent Liberal Sam Sullivan.
The win in False Creek, a riding Simon Fraser University political scientist Stewart Prest called Vancouver’s “clearest battleground” for the 2020 election, was part of a very good night in the Lower Mainland for the B.C. NDP.
During the campaign, the B.C. Liberals seemed to “micro-target” certain local issues like crime and safety, Prest said, and that strategy was on display in False Creek. During the campaign, Sullivan took a “harder line” on drugs than voters had seen from him in the past, Prest said, including vocally opposing a plan approved last week by Vancouver city council to open an overdose prevention site in the riding.
Bailey , a tech entrepreneur and political newcomer, was not available for comment by deadline Saturday.
Spencer Chandra Herbert, the re-elected NDP MLA in the neighbouring West End riding, said he heard on the campaign trail that in addition to core questions like COVID recovery and the economy, social issues were still crucial for many Vancouver voters.
“I did find it surprising that in 2020 the Liberals would run somebody who was opposed to rainbows,” said Chandra Herbert, referring to a Liberal candidate in Langley who opposed a rainbow crosswalk meant to support the LGBT community.
“What voters told me all the time is it felt like the NDP got them, that we were listening to them,” Chandra-Herbert said, elected to his fifth term as an MLA. “Whereas the Liberals felt like they were from another era. … That’s a party from yesteryear.”
Reached Saturday night, Sullivan said: “I knew I was up against some pretty stiff headwinds. … I accept whatever the voters decide.”
It marks Sullivan’s first electoral loss, following two terms as MLA for False Creek, a term as Mayor of Vancouver, and four terms on Vancouver council.
In addition to flipping False Creek, the NDP held the other eight Vancouver ridings they won in 2017: Point Grey, Fairview, Fraserview, Hastings, Kensington, Kingsway, Mount Pleasant, and West End.
The only two Vancouver seats the Liberals won were Langara, and Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson’s riding of Quilchena, which he won comfortably.
But in suburbs around Vancouver, including Richmond, Surrey and North Vancouver, more ridings were flipping from Liberal to NDP.
Asked about the NDP’s gains around Metro Vancouver, Sullivan said the Liberals had difficulty with their “urban presence and approach.”
The B.C. Liberals had held Vancouver-False Creek ever since the riding’s creation in 2008, but their share of the vote narrowed every election since then, from 56 per cent in 2009, to 52 per cent in 2013, to 42 per cent in 2017.
A total of 13,365 mail-in ballots in False Creek had been issued as of midnight Friday, which is among the highest totals in the province. However, the number of ballots returned is not expected to be released for several days, as mail-in votes and other absentee ballots cannot be counted for at least 13 days.