Premier Christy Clark has called by-elections in two Lower Mainland ridings, with voters in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant and Coquitlam-Burke Mountain scheduled to go to the polls 15 months before B.C.'s next general election.
The by-elections on Feb. 2 could provide a glimpse of what's in store for Ms. Clark's Liberal government next year in her second election as Premier.
Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, a New Democratic Party stronghold, had been held by Jenny Kwan since 1996. Ms. Kwan is now serving as a federal MP after winning a seat for the NDP in last fall's federal election.
Coquitlam-Burke Mountain had been represented by B.C. Liberal Doug Horne since 2009. Mr. Horne ran for the federal Conservatives last fall but lost. The B.C. Liberal Party is not affiliated with the federal Liberals.
Hamish Telford, an associate professor of political science at the University of the Fraser Valley, said by-elections can serve as a referendum on the government of the day.
"People can vote without any risk of consequences. Even if the Liberals lose both of these, they're still going to be the government," he said in an interview.
However, Prof. Telford said he expects the NDP and the Liberals to reclaim the ridings they previously held.
"By-elections can also be very local affairs and really take on the issues of the particular ridings at play. I think we're likely to see a bit of those things, but I'm guessing probably more local than provincial," he said.
Prof. Telford said issues such as transit, housing and resource projects could influence voters.
In Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, Melanie Mark was named as the NDP candidate in June, giving her several months to meet with constituents. The Liberals nominated Gavin Dew last month.
Ms. Mark worked for eight years at B.C.'s Office of the Representative for Children and Youth. She is Nisga'a, Gitxsan, Cree and Ojibwa, and she served as president of the Urban Native Youth Association from 2000-06.
"I've been tackling tough issues my whole life and I've been able to deliver," Ms. Mark, who was born and raised in the riding but now lives outside it, said in an interview. "That's what people are looking for: Someone who's experienced and can advocate on tough issues."
Mr. Dew said he knows it will be difficult to win what has for decades been an NDP riding.
"There's no question this is going to be an uphill battle. I know that I'm the underdog in this fight," he said in an interview.
However, Mr. Dew said it's time voters in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant had a representative who's actually a member of the governing party.
Mr. Dew said he plans to talk to residents about issues such as supporting the technology and craft-brewing sectors, the new St. Paul's Hospital and transit. He, like Ms. Mark, lives just outside the riding. Mr. Dew's background is as a small-business owner, running a consulting firm.
The Green Party will be represented in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant by Pete Fry. In a statement, Mr. Fry said he expects by-election issues to include unaffordability, economic development and Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline.
In Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, the Liberals will be represented by Joan Isaacs, while Jodie Wickens is running for the NDP. Joe Keithley is the candidate for the Greens.