Kootenay East is an interesting riding to look at because in the last 13 elections since 1966 it has been won by the NDP six times, Liberals four times and Social Credit three times.
Kootenay East Election Results from 1966 to 2013
The election that really stands out is 2013 because the Liberals won it with more votes than the 2001 NDP blow out election. This I believe is due to the personal popularity of local MLA Bill Bennett. So what happens now that Bill is retiring?
The riding was historically competitive between the right and left, it was certainly within range of the NDP to win. Erda Walsh's strong come back in 2005 gave people hope the NDP could win the seat in 2009 but even with the BC Conservative party leader running there the Liberal vote rose and the NDP vote fell. Bill Bennett's 2009 win is in fact the third largest margin anyone has won by. The only better margins are Bill's 2001 and 2013 wins. This very much speaks to this being a strong vote for Bill Bennett
Bill Bennett is known to have a very strong personal following in the riding and has a strong local BC Liberal organization that is loyal to him. I think the election results bear this out.
So, what happens in 2017?
Factors at play:
- The NDP has never managed to win a majority of the votes when they won while the Socreds and Liberals managed to win more than 50% of the vote five times. This says to me that without some form of third party cutting into the Liberal vote the NDP will have trouble winning - that 3rd party could be a Conservative, Green or strong local independent
- Bill Bennett will be active in helping the BC Liberal candidate win. I think a good part of the support for Bill will follow onto the BC Liberal candidate in 2016.
- The NDP seems to be getting weaker in rural BC. They have lost ground over the last three elections. It is very hard to judge how the NDP could do in Kootenay East when I do not have the fainest idea what the party's election strategy is for 2017.
- In the 11 elections since 1972 only once, 1986, was it not won by the government.
I suspect the BC Liberals will hold this seat but with a reduced majority and there is no danger of the NDP threatening to win the seat.