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Seven ridings with very different electoral dynamics

1. Liberal refuge


Vancouver Centre

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Incumbent: Hedy Fry (Liberal); won by 9.4 percentage points (5,318 votes)

2004: Liberal. 2006: Liberal. 2008: Liberal.

For all but the Liberals, the densely packed urban riding that features an inlet called False Creek has been the graveyard of the Pacific.

Hedy Fry has held the seat, which stretches from Stanley Park in the north across the city core to the glistening condo towers of Yaletown in the south, since 1993. That year, as a rookie candidate, she defeated Kim Campbell – then prime minister.

Some would argue Ms. Fry has beaten tougher challengers since. In 2006, the immensely popular NDP candidate, Svend Robinson, took her on, threatening to undermine her support in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community. But when the ballots were counted it wasn't even close – Liberals, 26,000; NDP, 16,000.

"Hedy is almost impossible to beat," said Michael Byers, who ran against her – and lost – for the NDP in 2008. "She is one of those community-based MPs who throughout the year goes to every event … and she's one heck of a campaigner."

What will unseat her? Try retirement, Mr. Byers said.

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This time out she faces Conservative Jennifer Clarke, a three-term Vancouver City Council member; the Greens' Adriane Carr (who more than tripled her party's vote between 2006 and 2008, going from 3,000 to 10,000); and anti-poverty activist Karen Shillington for the NDP.

2. Cracking the urban fortress


Vancouver Quadra

Incumbent: Joyce Murray, Liberal, won by 8.7 percentage points (4,832 votes)

2004: Liberal. 2006: Liberal. 2008: Liberal.

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The city's westernmost riding, Vancouver Quadra takes in the University of British Columbia campus and leafy residential neighbourhoods that have been a Liberal stronghold for decades. In this election, Conservative challenger Deborah Meredith will be trying to storm the fort.

The riding has been represented by a Liberal MP since 1984, when former prime minister John Turner won the first of two elections in which he ran to represent the riding. Mr. Turner was succeeded by Edward McWhinney and then by Stephen Owen, who dominated three elections before he stepped down in 2007.

Current MP Joyce Murray, who served on the provincial Liberal cabinet before shifting to federal politics, squeaked past Ms. Meredith by 151 votes in a March, 2008, by-election.

Ms. Murray won by a wider margin, of nearly 5,000 votes, over Ms. Meredith in the October, 2008, general election.

This time around, Ms. Meredith, a professor at UBC's Sauder School of Business, is campaigning on Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's tough-on-crime policies and economic track record and attacking her rival's "irresponsible" private member's bill to ban tanker traffic off the B.C. coast.

Ms. Murray proposed the legislation in light of the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, which would feature twinned pipelines running from Alberta to the B.C. coast and tankers that would carry oil to export markets.

Laura-Leah Shaw is running for the Green Party and Victor Elkins is the New Democratic Party candidate.

3. Courting the ethnic vote


Vancouver South

Incumbent: Ujjal Dosanjh (Liberal), won by .05 percentage points (20 votes).

2004: Liberal. 2006: Liberal. 2008: Liberal.

Ujjal Dosanjh, former NDP premier and federal Liberal cabinet minister, got the political scare of his life on election night, 2008, when his mighty 9,000-vote margin from 2006 dwindled to a mere handful of ballots. Conservative challenger Wai Young is back for another shot at toppling the political veteran in one of the most diverse ridings in Canada, where immigrants comprise 60 per cent of the population. Chinese-Canadians are by far the largest ethnic group.

The riding has been targeted by Tory strategists as part of their all-out bid for a majority. They believe their tough-on-crime approach and emphasis on the ethnic vote play well in Vancouver South. Mr. Dosanjh, who calls himself the underdog in the campaign, has been running hard ever since his narrow victory.

NDP candidate Meena Wong is a potential spoiler. Fluent in both Cantonese and Mandarin, she could attract more than the 17.6 per cent of the vote the NDP claimed in 2008. If that happens, however, it's unclear which candidate would be hurt more, Mr. Dosanjh or Ms. Young.

The Green Party candidate is Jodie Emery, married to prominent pot activist Marc Emery, who is behind bars in the United States for selling marijuana seeds.

4. Battling pundits



Incumbent: Bill Siksay (NDP), won by 1.69 percentage points (798 votes)

2004: NDP. 2006: NDP. 2008: NDP.

Kennedy Stewart is no stranger to critiquing politicians. For years, the Simon Fraser University public policy professor has weighed in on federal and provincial issues.

So what advice would Mr. Stewart, the oft-quoted political pundit, give Mr. Stewart, the NDP candidate for the riding of Burnaby-Douglas?

"If you're going to ask me as a political scientist what somebody should do in a campaign, they should go into their good areas early, areas that have been favourable to them, door knock, phone. That's what we've been doing."

The Burnaby-Douglas race is expected to be tight, as retiring MP Bill Siksay barely squeaked out a win last time. Mr. Siksay has held the riding since 2004, when he took over for long-time NDP MP Svend Robinson.

Mr. Stewart's primary competition – both for votes and juicy sound bites– is expected to come from Conservative candidate Ronald Leung, a current-affairs commentator for Fairchild Radio. Mr. Leung was the riding's runner-up in 2008.

Burnaby-Douglas has a population of about 112,000 and includes the SFU campus. More than 35 per cent of the riding is made up of people aged 20 to 44. Mr. Stewart said many of the campaign issues raised by constituents are of the "kitchen table" variety.

"I haven't had a lot of grand discussions about Canada's role in the world. It always comes back to the recession and unemployment," he said, adding he's heard a great deal of anger about the harmonized sales tax.

The Liberal candidate for the riding is Ken Low, while the Green candidate is Adrianne Merlo.

5. The unpolitician



Incumbent: Dona Cadman (Conservative), won by 3.18 percentage points (1,110 votes).

2004: Independent. 2006: NDP. 2008: Conservative.

Once again, there's a Cadman on the ballot in this riding held through three terms by ponytailed Chuck Cadman, a Reformer, member of the Canadian Alliance and independent prompted to become an outspoken advocate for victims rights after the death of his teenaged son.

Mr. Cadman's widow, Dona, is vying to hold Surrey North for the Conservatives. The NDP's Penny Priddy captured the riding in the election a year after Mr. Cadman's death, but Ms. Cadman won in 2008 after Ms. Priddy did not seek re-election.

Liberal Shinder Purewal, who once ran against Mr. Cadman, is back on the ballot, but the party came a distant third in 2008. This is shaping up as a Tory-NDP battle.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has yet to visit, but the NDP's Jack Layton was here within 24 hours of the start of campaigning, launching his B.C. campaign in Surrey North and suggesting support by B.C's Tory MPs for the unpopular harmonized sales tax would harm Conservative incumbents like Ms. Cadman.

The soft-spoken Ms. Cadman, whose palpable discomfort with the media, some have said, extends to her dealings with voters and community groups, skipped the HST vote in Parliament after suggesting 85 per cent of her constituents opposed the tax.

This week, Ms. Cadman said a vote against the HST would have been akin to poking her party in the eye, and subsequently noted that British Columbians will have a say on the matter in this summer's referendum.

But Surrey North's NDP candidate, Jasbir Sandhu, said the issue is resonating with voters. "What I hear on the doorstep is people are really upset with the way the HST went down, especially the way Dona responded to all of that," the 43-year-old program co-ordinator at the Justice Institute of B.C. said.

Bernadette Keenan is running for the Greens.

6. Green sprouts


Saanich-Gulf Islands

Incumbent: Gary Lunn, Conservative. Won by 4.07 percentage points (2,621 votes).

2004: Conservative. 2006: Conservative. 2008: Conservative.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has drawn about 30 University of Victoria students around her one sunny afternoon this week on campus. "We can totally rock the House of Commons," she tells the group, urging them to get out to the polls and help make history.

Ms. May is seeking to become the first elected Green in the House of Commons. Her party has picked what it hopes is a winning seat, but this is a riding that has delivered a Reform/Canadian Alliance/Conservative MP to Ottawa since 1993.

Gary Lunn has won here five times in a row, while the Greens took just 10 per cent of the vote in the last election. Ms. May insists this is a two-way race between her and Mr. Lunn. The fact that she is battling for a spot in the television debates has helped raise her profile – and although she's been in the province for only two years, she's exploiting that battle to win votes: "Come on, you're going to shut B.C. out again?"

Mr. Lunn, who benefits from the vote-splitting on the centre-left, is unruffled by the attention Ms. May has drawn as a national party leader. He is counting on the New Democrats' candidate, Edith Loring-Kuhanga, and Liberal candidate Renée Hetherington to blunt Ms. May's challenge.

But he was scrambling to prepare for the election. "I didn't order signs, I didn't see an election coming," he said in an interview. In fact, just hours before the government fell, he had urged his wife and teenage sons to head off to Palm Springs for spring break. "I said get on the plane, go."

7. Tory, Tory, Tory!


South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale

Incumbent: Russ Hiebert; won by 36 percentage points (19,701 votes).

2004: Conservative. 2006: Conservative. 2008: Conservative.

An affluent riding along the Canada-U.S. border, South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale has been a solid Conservative/Reform Party seat for decades. The riding has one of the highest concentrations of seniors in the country, especially in spring and summer. The median income for all families in 2005 was $79,630, compared with $62,346 for B.C. in general and $63,866 for Canada.

Conservative MP Russ Hiebert has won by increasingly bigger margins ever since he edged out incumbent Valerie Meredith for the nomination in 2004. But Mr. Hiebert is facing a backlash this year over his designation as the Conservative candidate without a nomination meeting, his use of government funds two years ago to routinely bring his family to Ottawa, and his low profile on constituency work and local issues.

Liberal candidate Hardy Staub, a Harper Conservative who served three terms as mayor of White Rock, quit the Conservative Party to run against Mr. Hiebert. Mr. Staub is counting on his experience in solving local problems and his popularity in municipal politics to overshadow national campaign issues.

Larry Colero, who was also once an active Conservative Party member, is running for the Green Party even though he says he has never been an environmentalist. Mr. Colero is concerned about issues of democracy and fundamental human rights. The NDP candidate is Susan Keeping, executive director of the Newton Advocacy Group Society.

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