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Opinion: Path to disaster or a majority for Trudeau runs through B.C.

Trudeau has a thin margin
File Photo: Justin Trudeau at an event in Kamloops in January 2019. (via Brendan Kergin)

The “Election No One Wants” is sleepwalking through the dog days of summer and it remains far from clear whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s gamble that an early vote will secure him a majority government will pay off.

Many analysts agree that to form a majority, the Liberals will have to hold onto their B.C. ridings and perhaps add a few more, chiefly at the expense of the Conservatives.

Trudeau and his party may well accomplish that feat, but for now the issue that seems to be winning out the most is apathy and disinterest. That can work for Trudeau, as it makes it harder for his opponents to be heard but it can also bite him if he cannot motivate his voting base to get out and vote.

This province has 42 ridings and about 15 of them are strongholds for the various parties.

The Conservatives, whose 17 seats are the most of any party, are almost unbeatable in the eastern Fraser Valley, some of the Interior and most of the northern region of the province.

The Liberals, with 11 seats, are entirely confined to Metro Vancouver when it comes to areas of strength. Especially in Vancouver and Surrey, where they won six of nine ridings in 2019.

The NDP is strongest on Vancouver Island, where it won five of seven ridings last time around (the Green Party won the other two) and the east side of Vancouver and nearby suburbs.

Unless there is a significant shift in voting patterns, only about a dozen or so ridings can be considered truly competitive and liable to change hands on Sept. 20.

Most of these ridings are located in Metro Vancouver, particularly in the suburbs, where the NDP is strongest provincially.

For example, the Conservatives won Port Moody-Coquitlam in 2019 by a mere 333 votes over the NDP, in what was the tightest three-way result in the province. Another nail biter was right next door in Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam, which the Liberals won by a tiny margin (339 votes) over the Conservatives.

The Liberals won Burnaby North-Seymour over the NDP by fewer than 1,600 votes with the Conservatives well back (after candidate Heather Leung’s campaign imploded).

What is interesting about these three ridings is they cover ground that is, for the most part, NDP-friendly at the provincial level. In fact, in last fall’s provincial election the NDP won all five of the seats that fit inside the boundaries for the federal ridings.

The NDP also boosted its support by significant numbers of votes in places like Langley and Maple Ridge. Does that potentially put a couple of ridings in those areas currently held by the Conservatives into play for the party?

Situations like these ones raise the real possibility the NDP will improve its seat count in B.C. come Sept. 20 and, if so, that could be bad news for Trudeau and the Liberals to the point of them falling short of a majority.

Throw in that NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s personal popularity has grown, along with the fact he is a more seasoned campaigner (and more effective communicator) now and we could see surprisingly positive results for the federal NDP come election night.

But the campaign will be in sleepwalk mode for a while yet.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.