Thursday, July 5, 2012

B.C. federal riding boundary proposal analysis part 2 (City of Vancouver)

Current boundaries
Growth in the City of Vancouver has meant that the city will be getting a new electoral district, increasing its total from five to six. The total population of Vancouver, including the neighbouring University Endowment Lands (which might as well be part of the city) and the Musqueam Indian Reserve, is 618,000. This makes for six ridings that are very close, but a bit under the provincial average of 105,000.

In order to avoid too many of the problems associated with creating new ridings, the commission proposed creating a new riding (Vancouver Granville) small parts of all five existing ridings in the city. This leaves the remaining five ridings only slightly smaller than before. But, it might be enough to change the political landscape of the city. 

Proposed boundaries

Vancouver Quadra

Quadra has historically been Vancouver's western most riding. It consists of the western most part of the city, plus the University Endowment Lands and Musqueam Indian Reserve located on the western edge of the city's border. The riding is the slowest growing in the city, but it is still much too populated, with a population of 121,000. The commission proposes removing the eastern most part of the riding- east of Arbutus and West Blvd and giving that area to the new riding of Vancouver Granville. This removes the affluent neighbourhood of Shaugnessy from the riding, as well as part of Kerrisdale, another affluent part of the city. These changes bring the riding down to a population of 102,000. This is perhaps a little too low considering the low growth rate of the district.

Vancouver Quadra can be seen as the last true bastion of the Liberal Party in Western Canada.It has voted Liberal continuously since 1984, when then Prime Minister John Turner won the seat. This notoriety has meant that the Conservatives have been targeting the riding heavily, and only lost the seat by 2000 votes in 2011. The riding is polarized between the northern neighbourhoods of Kitsilano, West Point Grey and Dunbar that vote Liberal and the southern neighbourhoods of Shaughnessy, Arbutus Ridge, Southlands and Kerrisdale that vote Conservative. The proposed changes cut into this Conservative part of the riding, meaning that the riding will become more safe for the Liberals.

Vancouver Centre

Vancouver Centre is Vancouver's downtown riding, and is indeed its most eclectic. Due to the large condo boom in the riding, the population has ballooned to 137,000- making it the city's most populous riding. This has forced the commission to make what's also Vancouver's smallest riding (in geographical size) even smaller. The commission proposes moving the southern boundary of the riding up from 16th Ave to 6th Ave. This takes out most of the riding south of False Creek leaving only a small part of the Fairview and Mount Pleasant neighbourhoods left in the riding. The boundary shift proposal actually takes in a small part of Vancouver East around the 4th Ave and Quebec St area, but it is mostly commercial. These changes bring the riding down to a population of 104,000- just below the average- room to grow for an area that is growing rapidly.

Vancouver Centre is perhaps the most politically diverse ridings in the city, with all four major parties doing well last election. The riding has been held by Liberal Hedy Fry since 1993, when she defeated then Prime Minister Kim Campbell. Despite the fact that Fry has won this riding for a long time, she has never broken 45% of the vote, and won only 31% of the vote in 2011. That was Fry's worst showing since first being elected. Even still, she won fairly comfortably by 3000 votes over a weak NDP candidate and the Conservatives (who were separated from each other by just 2 votes). The Greens ran a strong campaign, getting 15% of the vote.

Due to its political diversity, the map of Vancouver Centre looks like a mix of all three major parties, especially south of False Creek. The NDP actually won the most amount of polls, thanks a strong showing in the West End area, and winning many polls in Fairview and Mt. Pleasant. The Conservatives saw much of their support in the Downtown core, and along the Harbour where the new Condos are going up. The Tories also won a splattering of polls south of False Creek, thanks to coming up the middle between the NDP and Liberals in many polls. Now, one weak point for the Liberals in this riding is their lack of real strength any where. Hedy Fry has managed to win the riding thanks to coming in 2nd in both the Conservative and NDP areas, but winning few of her own polls. But, if she has strength in any area in particular, its in the area south of False Creek.

The commission's proposal to chop off most of Fairview and Mt Pleasant will probably the final blow for Hedy Fry. This is the part of the riding that she is the strongest in, and it is going to be transferred to the new riding of Vancouver Granville. A stronger NDP campaign would probably result in her losing this seat anyways, even if there were no border changes. Without her strongest neighbourhoods, a loss seems inevitable for her. Of course, with the condo boom influx, the riding might just go Conservative due to demographic shifts.

Vancouver East

The working class east end of Vancouver is also the least populated riding in the city at 110,000 people. It is also experiencing the second slowest growth of the city's five ridings. This means only minor changes for the riding. The commission proposes shifting the southwestern boundary to Main Street down to Kingsway, and then down Kingsway to Prince Edward St. These changes take out just 5000 people, bringing the riding down to the provincial average. Most of the departing area will go to the new riding of Vancouver Granville, but a small part will go to Vancouver Centre.

Vancouver East is easily one of the safest NDP seats in the county. Since its creation in 1935, the riding has voted for the CCF/NDP in all but 2 elections (1974 and 1993). Every single poll in the riding went NDP in 2011 except one, where there was a tie. The area being proposed to be taken out went NDP of course, but its departure wont alter the make up of the riding.

Vancouver Kingsway

At 125,000 people, Kingsway is Vancouver's second most populous riding. This means that a large chunk of the riding had to be removed to make way for the new Vancouver Granville seat. The commission proposes moving the western boundary of the riding from Oak St to Prince Edward St. This shift removes the neighbourhoods of Sotuh Cambie and Riley Park from the riding. These changes bring the riding's total population down to just 101,000.

Vancouver Kingsway, located in Vancouver's working class east end has become a safe NDP seat since MP Don Davies first won it in 2008. His worst part of the riding was the southwestern corner of the riding around Queen Elizabeth Park. The commission has proposed removing this entire area from the riding, making it a super safe seat for Davies.

Vancouver South

The south end of Vancouver is very ethnically diverse, being home to large numbers of Chinese and East Indian populations. The population of the riding sits at 124,000, meaning it too will need to lose a large chunk of people to bring it down to size. The commission proposes moving the western boundary of the riding from Granville St to Heather St. This removes part of the Marpole and Oakridge neighbourhoods from the riding. This change reduces the amount of Chinese people living in the riding, as Oakridge especially has a high Chinese population. These changes bring the riding down to a population of 104,000 not to far below the provincial average.

The 2011 election featured a match up between candidates representing both ethnic groups. The riding is quite a bit more Chinese however, and thanks to a Chinese candidate and the general trend among Chinese Canadians to go Tory, this riding went Conservative in 2011 for the first time since 1988. However, from 1993 to 2011, the riding has been held by Liberal East Indians in Herb Dhaliwal and Ujjal Dosanjh. The East Indian parts of the riding are therefore more Liberal friendly, while the Chinese parts vote Conservative. Since the area being lost is mostly Chinese, these changes hurt the Conservatives in this riding, especially in their Chinese incumbent of Wai Young. She only won the riding by 4000 votes, and a strong Chinese or Indian candidate from the left will pose a tough challenge for her.

Vancouver Granville

What has been taken away from the other five ridings has created a new riding, in central Vancouver to make up the spine of the city. The new riding will be centred around Granville Street, and will therefore be named after this street. The riding will be home to a diverse group of people, but for the most part will be rather affluent. If you've been paying attention, you'll know that the riding will take in parts of the neighbourhoods of Fairview, Mount Pleasant, Shaughnessy, South Cambie, Riley Park, Kerrisdale, Oakridge and Marpole. The population of the proposed riding is 102,000, again slightly under the provincial average.

Vancouver Granville will be a blessing for the Conservatives, a party that holds just one seat in the city at present (and where they had none prior since 1988). The Conservatives will be benefited from the fact that this new riding takes in the most Conservative-friendly parts of Vancouver Quadra and Vancouver Kingsway in particular, and also takes in a mostly Conservative part of Vancouver South. While the north end of the riding will be more progressive, it wont be enough to overtake the Conservatives.


The redistribution proposal looks to be the most beneficial for the Conservatives who will see one super safe riding carved out of the middle of the city, seemingly just for them. The proposal will in all likelihood double the amount of seats they have in the city, and could result in an even split with each of the Liberals, Tories and NDP getting 2 seats. However, the Liberals should be very worried about this proposal. While they should feel comfortable knowing that Quadra will be a safer Liberal seat, this boundary plan may mean the loss of Hedy Fry. As for the NDP, they need not worry about their current 2 seats, and should feel good about their prospects in a more NDP-friendly Vancouver Centre.

As for the geographic merits of the proposal, it is pretty sound. While all of the ridings are either at or below the provincial average, Vancouver's expected growth will soon rectify that. And, the overall population of the city meant that extending any of the ridings outside of the city limits would not be worth the community of interest aspect. If I could make any change, it would be to make Vancouver Centre smaller, because it needs more room to grow thanks to all of the new condos there. I would also make Vancouver Quadra a bit bigger because it is seeing less growth. 

Bonus map! 
To help with future predictions of how the ridings in Vancouver will go, I made this handy "ideology" map of the city, with the proposed riding boundaries marked. Because with the shifting political landscape in the country, anything can happen over the next four years. But what will stay generally the same are people's ideologies marked on this map. The red areas tend vote NDP both federally and provincially and for Vision municipally. The blue areas vote Conservative federally, Liberal provincially and for the NPA municipally. The purple areas are a mix bag that has areas that swing back and forth. Some of these areas are the strongest regions for the federal Liberal Party. But, as they are in decline, look for the NDP and the Conservatives to fight for the purple areas to win seats like Vancouver South and Vancouver Centre.


  1. Here is another thing to consider. What if Wai Young decides to run in Granville since it grabs some of her strongest areas? The Liberal vote in Vancouver South was very inflated as a result of Dosanjh being the incumbent and a lot of people who would otherwise have voted NDP in Van South probably voted for him. So, what happens in 2015 if Wai Young flees to Granville, the federal Liberals are going no where and they run some non-entity who takes them to a "Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca post-Keith Martin-style" result and the NDP nominated a strong candidate from the Chinese community?

    I'm not saying an NDP win in Van South is likely, but its not impossible under those circumstances.

    1. I see your point on Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, but then again, it's a different voting culture. Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca is on the Island where the trend for many years has been NDP vs. Conservatives. Vancouver is a different story because despite their meltdown, there are still pockets of devout Liberal support. If ever the fed Liberals rebound even slightly in BC, it'll be in Vancouver.

      Southern Vancouver, as we've seen federally, provincially, and municipally is mostly centre-right. I can tell you (I am of Asian descent) that many Asian groups like the Chinese-Canadians are centre-right minded voters who want lower taxes, and so-called "tough-on-crime" and "family values" type policies. That's why the NDP will never win in Richmond, and will have a very hard time federally in Vancouver South.

      I also see your point about Dosanjh, but he is a polarizing figure. Even despite the intense conflict between the the Lib and CPC campaigns, the NDP ticked up only 1% despite the orange wave. The CPC candidate, despite being lodged with accusations, won with a solid margin. It shows the strength of centre-right support in Southern Vancouver.

  2. She could run in Vancouver Granville, especially if she lives there. Vancouver South is winnable for the NDP with the right candidate. But, running someone Chinese might alienate the South Asians and vice-versa.

  3. I think I read that there are two or three times as many Chinese-Canadians as there are Indo-Canadians in Vancouver South

  4. At least that, yes. However, Vancouver South loses a lot of its Chinese population in this proposal.

  5. This was certainly interesting. I'm just wondering if you have done poll-by-poll analysis of these ridings. Your analysis, while brief and to-the-point, are a little simplistic.

    First, I agree with your analysis of Vancouver Quadra (comfortably Liberal due to Kitsilano), Vancouver Centre (tight three-way), Vancouver East (NDP stronghold). I also agree with Vancouver Kingsway (solid NDP).

    Where I have issue is your analysis of Granville and South.

    For example, my analysis has Vancouver Granville looking much tighter (remember to factor in advance polling!). On the other hand, Vancouver South looks solid for the Conservatives. The CPC's best polls were actually in the Killarney area (heavy Chinese-Canadian population here), so cutting out Marpole (which the CPC did poorly in)and some of Oakridge doesn't really damage the Conservatives' comfy 8% margin in 2011. I'd encourage you to re-evaluate these two ridings.