BAXYARD BANTER: Who makes or breaks a provincial election in the Skeena riding

Sentinel columnist Malcolm Baxter breaks down the numbers of the provincial election and sees how the NDP win.

Being an unrepentant political junkie, I dove into the official 2013 provincial election numbers released last month by Elections BC with enthusiasm.

What makes these fascinating is they give you not just the total tally in Skeena for the candidates, but also break down the votes into very specific areas.

So it is possible to see which way people voted in a group of a dozen or so streets in Nechako, Whitesail and Kildala neighbourhoods.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to get that crazy.

But what I do want to do is look at trends over a longer timeline than the usual comparison between the past election and the one immediately before.

So I am going back into the last millennium – specifically the 1996 election – to see if voting patterns have changed in the intervening 17 years.

I have chosen that year because the face of Skeena was quite different back then, as in there was still something of a logging industry in Terrace while Kitimat boasted three major industries.

By last year’s election Terrace had seen its forest industry all but vanish while Kitimat had suffered the closure of the Eurocan pulp and paper mill and Methanex methanol plant plus numerous jobs bleeding away from its only remaining industry, the aluminum smelter.

The idea was that comparing 1996 and 2013 should tell us what impact, if any, there had been from the de-industrialisation of the Northwest as far as the fortunes of the two major parties were concerned given unionised industries usually translate into extra NDP votes .

A couple of explanatory notes.

First, I have concentrated on the two major population centres of the riding – Terrace/Thornhill and Kitimat – since they theoretically would decide who won.

Second, I will deal only with margins of victory in those centres because looking at total votes will give a false picture given voter turnout plunged from about 70 per cent in 1996 to 55 per cent last year.

Third, I have not included the advanced poll results in those margins of victory because you cannot pin them down to a specific community.

Enough of the explanations, let’s get to the meat.

In 1996 the contest was between NDP incumbent Helmut Giesbrecht and Liberal Rick Wozney, then mayor of Kitimat.

In Terrace/Thornhill Wozney won by 197.In Kitimat it was Giesbrecht by 212.

So the battle of the centres went to the NDP by a mere 15.

In 2013 it was another NDP incumbent, Robin Austin, up against Liberal Carol Leclerc.

In Terrace-Thornhill Leclerc won by 289. In Kitimat it was Austin but by only 33.

Liberals prevail by 256, a stunning reversal but clearly the result of that de-industrialisation I mentioned earlier. Now compare that with the overall Skeena vote where in 1996 Giesbrecht won by 635 and in 2013 it was Austin by 522.

How is it that the Liberals can actually win (or come oh so close) in the major centres but get thumped overall?

Two words: First Nations.

In 1996 Gitanyow pumped up the NDP margin by 100. In Gitwangak it was 130, in Kitsumkalum 103 and Kitamaat Village 244.

And the pattern was repeated in 2013.

The obvious conclusion is that even though the de-industrialisation of the Northwest has favoured the Liberals in the major centres, they are never going to win Skeena unless there is a seismic shift in the First Nations vote.

Which would in turn require an equally dramatic shift in First Nations’ perception of the BC Liberals as being less sympathetic to their interests than the New Democrats.

Frankly, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

 

Just Posted

Coast Mountains School District No. 82 acting superintendent of schools, Janet Meyer, talks about policies and procedures relating to the death of Diversity Morgan, a LGBTQ+ student. (Black Press file)
School District 82 to revisit policy after transgender student’s death

Diversity’ death has created a deeper resolve for CMSD 82 to continue doing the work they started

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Outside the Kitimat RCMP police station, Diversity Morgan’s family and Kitimat RCMP come together for a pride flag-raising ceremony. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
With heavy hearts, the Kitimat RCMP hosted a pride flag ceremony to highlight the RCMP’s commitment to inclusion and diversification, as well as honouring the passing of 15-year-old transgender student, Diversity Morgan, from Kitimat.
Speeches were given by Staff Sergeant Graham Morgan, Mayor Phil Germuth, Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Crystal Smith, and Diversity’s father, Mike Wilson.
“We are gathered here for the pride flag ceremony, but in my mind, we’re gathered here in solidarity for anyone who’s ever experienced prejudice or discrimination. […] Today we celebrate what makes us all unique individuals,” Mayor Phil Germuth said in his speech at the pride flag ceremony.
Struggling to get the words out, Crystal Smith, Haisla Nation’s chief councillor, emphasized her condolences to Diversity’s family in her speech sharing her similar experiences as well as acknowledging the need for education around these subjects.
Diversity’s father, Mike Wilson, said he wished that everyone was there under different circumstances but was grateful to see the turnout and the support from the community.
In honour of Diversity, the Kitimat RCMP also lowered their Canadian flag to half-mast, to bring awareness for people who are experiencing discrimination and are in need of additional support.
The Kitimat RCMP also stated that they will be lowering their Canadian flag around this time every year as a visual representation of LGBTQ+.
Kitimat Save-On-Foods also donated water and snacks for the ceremony.
Kitimat RCMP host pride flag ceremony in memory of Diversity Morgan

“We’re gathered here in solidarity for anyone who’s ever experienced prejudice or discrimination”

(Haisla First Nation logo)
Haisla Nation host walk for strength and series of virtual sessions for Indigenous History Month

The purpose of the walk is to bring Haisla Nation members together and show their collective support

The District of Kitimat will be awarding business owners with a store front up to $5,000 to cover up to 50 per cent of exterior renovations. (Norhtern Development logo)
The District of Kitimat is awarding $5,000 to storefront owners for exterior renovations

The district has set aside $20,000 this year and non-profits are also eligible

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

The Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Monday morning. (Theresa May Jack/Facebook)
Two churches on First Nation land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

In the first election with public money replacing corporate or union donations, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan take part in election debate at the University of B.C., Oct. 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. MLAs ponder 2022 ‘sunset’ of subsidy for political parties

NDP, B.C. Fed call for increase, B.C. Liberals have no comment

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Most Read