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b.c. election 2017

British Columbia NDP Leader John Horgan speaks to a reporter after unveiling his election campaign bus in Burnaby, B.C., on Tuesday April 4, 2017. A provincial election will be held on May 9.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

The B.C. New Democrats' path to power hinges on holding their seats in the current provincial election, and closing the voter gap in about a dozen seats they came within about 10 points of winning in the last election.

"That's the plan, man. That's why we're doing this," NDP Leader John Horgan said Thursday at a news conference in the Okanagan Valley community of Osoyoos, where the NDP candidate in 2013 came within about 1,400 votes of winning the seat.

Since the New Democrats launched their campaign earlier this week, party leader John Horgan has been touring the three ridings in Vancouver, Port Moody and Kelowna that Premier Christy Clark has held in her political career in what the NDP declares is a bid to underline her shortcomings as a politician. Mr. Horgan has called her a "political vagabond."

But as that phase of the campaign came to an end Thursday, NDP deputy provincial director Glen Sanford said the leader's tour will begin to focus more heavily on those battleground seats the party came close to winning in 2013 when a widely expected BC NDP win turned into a fourth majority mandate for the BC Liberals.

The gaps ranged from 0.9 per cent of the vote in Delta North to 9.6 per cent of the vote in Surrey-Panorama. Some of the seats the NDP hope to regain because of the small gap in votes last time are actually seats that the Liberals have held on to in the last few elections, such as Port Moody and Boundary-Similkameen.

But others such as Delta North are ridings the NDP have traditionally held in the past and want back.

Mr. Sanford declined to say whether those seats get special treatment from the party, but said local campaigns are well aware of the need to close the gap.

That's a task that looms large for New Democrats such as Colleen Ross, the party's candidate in Boundary-Similkameen, which the Liberals also won in 2009. The riding was created for the 2009 election with parts of three 2005 ridings, two of which the NDP won then.

In 2013, the New Democrats fell 1,386 votes behind the Liberals in the riding, and now Ms. Ross, a farmer, is working to turn things around on May. 9.

"My approach is: Call them out," Ms. Ross said, referring to the BC Liberals, who now hold the riding.

She said she does not like to refer to it as an "attack approach," saying it's more about being truthful and stating facts.

Her position is informed from lessons learned from 2013. Then, party leader Adrian Dix advanced a positive politics approach that played down harsh criticism of the government. Internal party reviews after the campaign said the NDP should have been tougher on the Liberals, especially around prosecuting the government on various issues.

Ms. Ross said she was not involved in the 2013 campaign.

"There's people who talk about [how] we should have come out harder," she said in an interview in a corridor of the community centre where Mr. Horgan held an event.

As dissolution of the legislature looms, the BC Liberals have 47 seats, while the New Democrats have 35 seats and the BC Green Party has one. There are two independents.

Early Thursday, Mr. Horgan campaigned in Kelowna, hosting a roundtable with seniors and area candidates. While Mr. Horgan and candidates were bullish about winning seats in the city, the NDP has been routinely far behind in the area.

That reality left Mr. Horgan saying he is not concerned about voting patterns of the past, but making a case ahead of voting day on May. 9 to change deeply held voting patterns.

"I'm a team-sports guy. If you don't play the game, you won't know the outcome."