Cariboo-Prince George a stronghold no more
By Bill Phillips
It used to be that Prince George carried the day when it came to voting.
At least that’s the way it was for the Cariboo-Prince George riding, not so much for the Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies riding. Even so, winning Prince George was key to taking both riding.
Or so we thought.
Poll-by-poll results of the October 19 federal election, released by Elections Canada this week, show Conservative Todd Doherty, who won the Cariboo-Prince George riding, polled behind Liberal Tracy Calogheros and New Democrat Trent Derrick in Prince George. Doherty managed 6,391 votes in Prince George to Derrick’s 6,741, and Calogheros’ 8,112. In Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies, Liberal Matt Shaw garnered 3,297 Prince George votes, while incumbent Conservative Bob Zimmer captured 3,038. New Democrat Kathie Dickie secured 2,004 Prince George votes.
So what does all this mean?
Firstly, it blasts the myth that Prince George is a Conservative stronghold. The split vote that allowed Doherty to win showed that in October. Now we see that Prince George, given viable alternatives this past election, took them.
What does that mean for Doherty and Zimmer?
For Zimmer, not much. He still won the Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies riding handily. He knows he needs to work on representing Prince George better, but he also knows he doesn’t need Prince George to win.
For Doherty, if he wants to be more than a one-term wonder, needs to build support in the largest city in the riding. He didn’t just lose in Prince George, he lost big here. More than twice as many Prince George residents voted for someone other than Doherty. That should be concerning for Doherty.
One can easily argue that the riding is more than Prince George, and it is. While Doherty lost Prince George, he won most of the other areas of the riding … Vanderhoof, Quesnel, Williams Lake, and the Chilcotin.
Doherty needs to work on Prince George voters but there is another spanner in the works. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed that the 2015 general election was the last one using the first-past-the-post voting system. Trudeau favours preferential balloting, which sees voters rank the candidates in order of preference. If no one achieves 50-per-cent-plus-one on the first count, then the candidate with the lowest number of votes is dropped off the ballot, and their second choices are counted.
It’s probably safe to make the assumption that in 2015 a majority of those who voted NDP would have made the Liberal candidate their second choice. In Cariboo-Prince George, that would have resulted in Liberal Tracy Calogheros being elected, not Doherty. Of course Trudeau and the Liberals like this system because in most ridings, it favours the Liberals.
The challenge for Doherty, whether our voting system changes or not, is to win more Prince George voters to his side. Whatever happens, it’s unlikely Cariboo-Prince George will be a stronghold for anyone anymore.
Bill Phillips is a freelance columnist living in Prince George. He was the winner of the 2009 Best Editorial award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s Ma Murray awards, in 2007 he won the association’s Best Columnist award. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist category and, in 2003, placed second. He can be reached at email@example.com