The election to come: Chilliwack and Hope

We look at the races shaping up in the Fraser Valley's easternmost ridings.

It’s already been four years since BC’s 2020 pandemic election, which means it’s time for another vote—but things are looking different this time.

Re-shaped ridings and new party dynamics are mixing up provincial politics in the Fraser Valley. With some candidates already announced, and with just eight months until voters head to the polls in the Fraser Valley, the 2024 election is shaping up to be one of the most interesting and contested votes in the region’s political history.

Read our other preview stories on the upcoming provincial campaign in the Fraser Valley: Abbotsford & Mission | Langley

Significant population growths and a have caused the ridings to be dramatically re-arranged for the coming year. There are 10 different ridings that include substantial parts of The Current’s coverage area. You can familiarize with each through this online map.

Many small communities and a handful of larger neighbourhoods have been allotted to new or different ridings than four years ago. Such places include Yarrow, Deroche, Dewdney, Lake Errock, Rosedale, Popkum, Agassiz, and Aldergrove. West-central Mission and Abbotsford’s McMillan neighbourhood have also been shuffled to neighbouring ridings, meaning they’ll get a new MLA, whoever wins.

The races


Fraser Canyon, Hope, Harrison Hot Springs, Agassiz, Deroche, Dewdney and Hatzic Island. Map.

Incumbent: Jackie Tegart (BC United)

Running again? Yes

Challengers: Green - Jonah Timms; NDP - TBD; BC CP - TBD

Analysis: In 2020, the Fraser-Nicola riding sprawled from Hope and Manning Park in the south to Clinton in the north. The redrawing of electoral districts has roped Dewdney, Agassiz, and Harrison Hot Springs into the riding, while excluding Ashcroft. That’s notable because it’s the hometown of the riding’s incumbent, BC United’s Jackie Tegart. But though her home will be in a neighbouring electoral district, Tegart plans to run for re-election in Fraser-Nicola anyways.

Tegart has been an MLA for more than a decade, repeatedly winning close contests against her NDP opponents. If BC United continues to struggle, she’ll be in a tough race. But Tegart has also outperformed the party in recent elections. In a riding that has been hit by an array of natural disasters, Tegart, who doesn’t have opposition-critic duties, has focused her voice and advocacy work on local issues rather than the provincial matters that have bedeviled her party. That could save her. But the addition of a place like Agassiz—where voters will have little pre-existing knowledge of Tegart—to the riding will provide a boost to the Conservatives while offering the NDP a chance to sneak past a divided right.

The BC NDP and BC Conservative Party have yet to announce candidates. The BC Green Party does have a candidate: Lillooet resident Jonah Timms, who also ran for the party in 2020. In a sprawling, rural riding, the Greens usually do relatively well, and Timms garnered 13% of the vote in 2020.

Chilliwack North

The riding: Everything in the Chilliwack area between Highway 1 to the Fraser River, plus Greendale and northern parts of Sardis west of Vedder Road and north of Spruce Drive (including Chilliwack’s malls and the areas directly south and east of those shopping centres.) Map.

Incumbent: Dan Coulter (BC NDP)

Running again? Yes

Challengers: TBD

Analysis: The Chilliwack North riding is very similar to the previous Chilliwack riding, except Yarrow has been removed and Rosedale and Popkum have been added. Coulter easily won in 2020 with 41.5% of the vote and a significant split to his right, with the Conservatives running a strong candidate that drained support from the then-BC Liberals.

With Rosedale a slightly more conservative set of rural voters than Yarrow, Coulter could be challenged to hit his 2020 vote total. Coulter has also been serving as Minister of State for Transportation and Infrastructure, a prominent role that would normally be an asset, but may be a liability in a city consistently griping about the time it has taken the province to widen Highway 1 to Chilliwack.

But Coulter could also easily prosper from another vote-split on the right.

None of the opposition parties have announced their challengers for the seat, but both BC United and the BC Conservatives seem likely to field strong candidates with decent name recognition. Polls suggest the BC United vote has collapsed compared to last election, but unless the party sags to unfathomable lows in the valley—or unless the Conservatives implode—another right-wing split seems likely. Coulter will like his chances.

Chilliwack - Cultus Lake

Riding: The rest of Chilliwack, including most of Sardis south of the rail line, Garrison Crossing, and Promontory. Plus Yarrow, Cultus Lake, and the Chilliwack River Valley. Map. 

Incumbent: Kelli Paddon (BC NDP)

Running again? Yes.

Opponents: Michael Geoghegan (BC Conservatives); Others TBD

Note: Since this story was published, the BC Conservatives’ candidate has stepped aside, citing health issues.

Analysis: The Chilliwack-Cultus Lake riding is much the same as Paddon’s old Chilliwack-Kent district, except with the subtraction of Rosedale, Agassiz, and Harrison Hot Springs. That should bolster the confidence of Paddon, who won one of the valley’s most unique battles in 2020. On Wednesday, the BC Conservatives announced their candidate in the riding: Michael Geoghegan, a long-time political staffer, consultant, and lobbyist, but a newcomer to the Chilliwack area. In recent years, Geoghegan has unsuccessfully run both for Victoria’s mayor’s chair, and to be the BC Liberal candidate in a Cariboo riding.

Chilliwack-Kent had been a Liberal stronghold, but Paddon knocked off Laurie Throness, a staunch Conservative who had run for the BC Liberals before being removed from the party following a string of controversial comments, including the endorsement of conversion therapy. Chilliwack Coun. Jason Lum also ran in the election, claiming 24% of the vote as an independent, while the Green candidate garnered 8% of the vote.

Using the 2020 figures to predict the 2024 vote may be impossible. Lum is a progressive, and one reading would have centre-left candidates picking up 61% of ballots. But Lum’s total also likely includes a large slate of moderate and non-partisan voters who liked neither the NDP nor Throness. If BC United can capture a slice of those moderate-voter ballots and recapture some who may have preferred Paddon to Throness, it might hope to reclaim the seat. But the BC Conservative threat looms large. Geoghegan is new to Chilliwack with few links, but he has years of political activity under his belt and will be able to speak with authority on the issues. He should have enough political acumen to pose a threat to BC United—but whether he can outflank Paddon remains to be seen.

The riding is also becoming steadily less friendly to conservative politicians. The district is currently held by the NDP not only because of the vote-splitting from 2020, but because its newer subdivisions and developments are attracting families and residents from further west in the Lower Mainland. Unlike Geoghagan, those residents—who are coming from more-urban NDP-friendly centres—have generally chosen Chilliwack not for its politics, but for its lower home prices. And as newcomers have swelled the area’s population, the city’s politics has drifted markedly to the left. The changes are epitomized by the fast-growing neighbourhoods at the centre of the Chilliwack-Cultus Lake riding—Garrison Crossing and subdivisions along the Vedder River. Vote totals in recent school board elections show the area has become one of the region’s newest and clearest progressive strongholds. The subtraction of rural parts of the district will only further help the NDP.

A political newcomer four years ago, Paddon has served as the Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity without putting a foot wrong and doing little to alienate locals. Her riding will be hard to predict, but she may feel confident about hitting the 40% mark. If she does so, Paddon will be hard to beat.

Next time: we look at ridings in Abbotsford and Mission.

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