COVID-19 changed the world. What about Vancouver-Point Grey?

One of the most unusual election campaigns in British Columbia’s history is entering its final stretch.

But how have the atypical circumstances shaped the votes Vancouver-Point Grey will cast?

On October 24, British Columbians will head to the polls and decide whether to give John Horgan’s NDP government another term in office or more move on to either the BC Liberal Party or the Green Party.

The home riding of UBC’s Vancouver campus is one that the NDP scored in the 2017 election on the back of incumbent MLA David Eby. Eby is running for re-election against Liberal candidate Mark Bowen and Green candidate Devyani Singh.

COVID-19 likely won't have any significant impact, according to UBC political science professor Allan Tupper. Vancouver-Point Grey is an unusual riding demographically, split between those living on the UBC campus and those living in the affluent West Kitsilano neighbourhood. Kitsilano tends to lean slightly towards the BC Liberals, and the neighbouring Vancouver-Quilchena riding elected BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson by 28 per cent in the last election.

However, the UBC-associated electorate tends to heavily favour progressive parties, especially the NDP — offsetting the BC Liberal advantage in West Kits in recent elections. Elections BC advance voting data from last election shows that the votes cast at advance polling stations on campus were largely for the NDP.

COVID-19 could diminish this demographic’s role. In a normal election, thousands of UBC students would be registered to vote in Vancouver-Point Grey, but many are away from campus and will either be voting in their home constituencies or not voting at all if they live out of province.

With the UBC electorate a skeleton of its normal self, could the riding swing BC Liberal? Not likely, Tupper said.

“The Liberals couldn’t retain it when the candidate was premier-in-wait Christy Clark and she had to go to Kelowna,” he said. “[Eby] certainly has a strong base of support. I can’t see that being altered by any force at this point.” In 2017, Eby won nearly 56 per cent of the total vote, as opposed to just 33 per cent for the BC Liberals and 10 per cent for the Greens.

Even with a much smaller student population, such a massive lead will be difficult for Bowen to overcome. According to Tupper, “anything can happen in an election but this is not a riding where one would anticipate the Liberals or Green Party winning.”

All this to say that this election is the NDP’s to lose in Point Grey, but COVID-19 may be the biggest factor in whether that happens. With the pandemic still ongoing, the NDP will be judged on their response to the coronavirus.

Early on, BC managed to flatten the curve quickly compared to other provinces. Despite a recent uptick in cases, government officials, especially Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix, garnered praise for allowing Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to lead the province’s response, which many credit for its effectiveness.

“Citizens seem to be not impressed, but satisfied with the government’s response,” Tupper said.

However, the spike in cases could cause the government’s hold on the situation to slip away, which could severely affect the NDP’s support from British Columbians.

As election day approaches, if there is to be a change in MLA for this riding, the tide will have to turn quickly.