Whatever happens when the ballots are counted, Chilliwack and Chilliwack-Kent have been the ridings to watch this election.
Both ridings have been BC Liberal strongholds for decades, with little exception.
But on the very first day of early voting, the BC Liberals announced that Chilliwack-Kent incumbent MLA was no longer with their party. His resignation was too late for Elections BC, and so voters will still see him on ballot as such today.
Yet, if he wins the riding, he will sit as an Independent in the legislature.
The riding also saw an unusual move from BC Green candidate Jeff Hammersmark, who threw his support behind Independent Jason Lum but remains on the ballot as well.
Lum, a city councillor who a earned record number of votes in the past municipal election, has again gained a groundswell of support in the meantime.
And of course, the BC NDP’s Kelli Paddon is also to be considered, even as a newcomer in some voters’ eyes.
It’s all created a very intriguing race to Victoria, says Chilliwack former mayor, Clint Hames. He has been following politics for decades, and has even taken a run at MLA in the past with the BC Liberals.
The Progress spoke to him outside of Tzeachten Hall on election day, about how it has all played out. He’s been chatting with people privately and on social media, watching polls, and pulling on his years of experience and knowledge of B.C. politics to make some parallels and even predictions.
In Chilliwack-Kent, he says, Lum is a strong candidate, gaining about 70 per cent of the vote in the municipal election. So while he doesn’t have a party attached to his name, he has likeability.
“We would be well-served by him in Victoria,” Hames enthuses. But he’s also up against incumbent Throness — essentially another Independent.
But Throness is an Independent with a BC Liberal base, Hames adds.
“And his base is energized because they’re mad,” he says.
Then there is Paddon, who will “pick up the hardcore” BC NDP base vote, which hovers historically between 28 and 42 per cent in that riding, he says.
As for the Chilliwack riding, he is predicting BC NDP’s Dan Coulter to win, with 42 per cent.
“He’s a credible, well-known candidate,” he says, in a riding that often has lesser-knowns thrown in under the orange banner. Coulter is the current board chair of the Chilliwack School Board.
In addition to his name recognition, Hames also says party politics will play in Coulter’s favour. Incumbent BC Liberal John Martin has held the seat for seven years. However, Diane Janzen was stumping for the BC Liberals for a year prior to the election being called. She had been calling for a nomination process in the riding of Chilliwack, but that was denied to her.
So, she left the BC Liberals and announced she was joining the BC Conservatives.
While her campaign has been “don’t split the right, vote right,” Hames looks to recent history instead. In a 2012 byelection, with Throness as a first-time BC Liberal and Martin as a BC Conservative, they split the right vote. That gave way for the BC NDP’s Gwen O’Mahony to take the riding (then called Chilliwack-Hope.) She lost to Throness a year later in the general election.
Provincially, Hames is predicting an NDP majority. When it comes down to it, he says, they have handled the pandemic well and most voters will likely decide to “stay the course.”
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