Five ridings to watch in this fall's federal campaign

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      While the national media are chasing federal party leaders as they crisscross the country, here in the Lower Mainland there are some pretty sizzling races under way. Here are five races that are expected to be close.


      Vancouver Centre
      In this riding, all four national parties, including the Greens, are running high-profile candidates with lots of depth and/or political experience. Given how competitive this contest is, someone could take the seat with as little as 30 or 35 percent of the vote.

      Liberal MP Hedy Fry has easily held this seat since she defeated then–prime minister Kim Campbell in 1993. In 2006, she beat New Democrat Svend Robinson by almost 9,000 votes.

      This will be her toughest race yet, however, with the Greens running former provincial leader Adriane Carr; the NDP putting forward UBC political scientist, author, and human-rights advocate Michael Byers; and the Conservatives persuading two-term Liberal MLA Lorne Mayencourt to enter the race.

      Every candidate is quotable and has tons of media experience, and there are clear ideological and policy divisions between all of them. Very early in the race, Fry challenged Mayencourt to a debate about Insite, the supervised injection site located a few blocks east of the riding boundary. The facility has been condemned by federal health minister Tony Clement, a Conservative, whereas it has been strongly supported by Fry.

      Meanwhile, two other supporters of Insite, Byers and Carr, have been courting the riding's large lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, which has traditionally given Fry a great deal of support. Byers and Carr recently spoke at a rally for transgender political activist Jamie Lee Hamilton after the Non-Partisan Association refused her application to seek a nomination to run for the park board.


      It's the third consecutive contest between NDP MLA Bill Siksay and federal Liberal Bill Cunningham. Siksay won two squeakers, but this time Cunningham, a commercial banker, could pull off a surprise if Dion's environmental message catches on with voters. The riding includes SFU.

      The B.C. Liberals have held the constituency of Burnaby North for two straight elections, reflecting how this once-safe NDP area has evolved politically. According to census information, 64 percent of residents are immigrants. Siksay, a former NDP critic for citizenship and immigration, has courted new Canadians, many of whom traditionally vote Liberal. Meanwhile, the Conservatives have nominated Ronald Leung, a well-known Chinese-language media commentator and 25-year resident of the riding.


      North Vancouver
      This was a safe Reform and Canadian Alliance seat in the 1990s and in the 2000 election, but former District of North Vancouver mayor Don Bell took the seat for the Liberals in 2004 and retained it in 2006 by just over 3,000 votes. This time, he faces Conservative candidate Andrew Saxton, CEO of King George Financial Corp., a property-investment firm.

      Saxton is a heavyweight in the Vancouver business community. A law-and-order message plays well with many North Vancouver voters, which might explain why the Conservatives have been sending out pamphlets condemning drug dealers and criminals. However, one cornerstone of the Liberal campaign is the environment, another popular issue on the North Shore. So far, Saxton is winning the sign war, but it's too early to tell if that will translate into a Conservative victory on October 14.


      New Westminster–Coquitlam
      In 2004, Conservative Paul Forseth defeated New Democrat Steve McClurg by 113 votes; in 2006, Forseth was almost 3,000 votes behind the NDP's Dawn Black, who represented the old riding of New Westminster–Burnaby from 1988 to 1993.

      The incumbent Black has been her party's defence critic, which has boosted her profile. The Conservatives are running teacher Yonah Martin, who has a high profile in the Korean-Canadian community thanks to her work with the C3 Society. The Liberals have nominated Michelle Hassen, who has worked with the Red Cross and on international issues such as land mines and war-torn northern Uganda.

      Hassen doesn't have a great deal of name recognition. This could boost the likelihood of some voters choosing Black as the best bet to stop the Conservatives. But if Green candidate Marshall Smith, formerly an English teacher in South Korea, snares a large number of votes, it could make things far more interesting.


      Vancouver Quadra
      This West Side riding features a rematch of Liberal MP Joyce Murray and Conservative Deborah Meredith, who were separated by a mere 151 votes in a by-election in March. In 2006, Liberal Stephen Owen won by 11,811 votes here. Meredith, an instructor at UBC's Sauder School of Business, focused on law-and-order issues in the by-election campaign. The danger for Murray, a former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister who is focusing on global warming, is if Green candidate Dan Grice attracts enough votes to help elect the Conservative candidate as MP.