Did those election signs change anyone’s mind in Langley? Something did. (Joti Grewal/Langley Advance Times files)

Did those election signs change anyone’s mind in Langley? Something did. (Joti Grewal/Langley Advance Times files)

Painful Truth: Demographic transition an election fairy tale

It turns out people in Langley actually can change their minds

The snap election is over, and the map of B.C. politics has been radically altered.

John Horgan’s canny opportunism has made him the first NDP leader to be reelected as premier, something neither Dave Barrett nor Mike Harcourt were able to pull off.

How did he do it?

Hindsight is 20/20, but I am already having some doubts about one of the explanations being bandied about, namely that this was a matter of changing demographics.

For example, Langley has been seen as a bastion of small-c conservatism in Metro Vancouver, along with Abbotsford to the east.

So the federal Liberals and the provincial and federal NDP have long pinned their hopes on the fact that it’s also one of the fastest-growing communities in the province.

More people are moving here all the time! And they’re different, younger, more diverse! They’re new Canadians, and they’re also young families from Vancouver and Burnaby and the Tri-Cities. Surely that would tip the scales a bit towards the center, maybe even the center-left?

But is there another explanation possible for the big swing in the Langley and Langley East ridings?

What about Andrew Wilkinson’s terrible campaign? The Liberal leader’s facial expression often resembled Wile E. Coyote’s, just after he realizes he’s run off the cliff again.

What about the fact that it was a COVID-19 referendum, and that voters had already decided the NDP was doing a fine job, no need to change horses mid-pandemic?

Those are definitely part of the reason. But it tends to undercut the argument for demographic transition, doesn’t it?

After all, the NDP didn’t even campaign much in Langley before 2020. This year, all of a sudden, the polls told them it was worth trying, and for all the doubts that it would work, lo and behold, they’re leading.

And there’s no way that’s down to demographics alone.

In 2017, Mary Polak won in Langley with about 45 per cent of the vote to 35 per cent for her NDP rival.

The current count (pre-mail-in) is almost reversed, 44 per cent for the NDP’s Andrew Mercier, 34 per cent Liberal.

There has not been that much of a demographic upheaval in Langley in just three years.

No, this vote was something else. It was people actually changing their minds.

Part of that change was about how they viewed the parties, but a lot of it is just a change in what matters. There’s COVID, sure, but in addition, Langley is more urban. It has urban problems, like homelessness, affordability, and transit. More people than ever are concerned about the climate crisis. The NDP looked like the better option – this time.

See, this is both a boon to the NDP, and a warning. Just as the voters left the Liberals, they could swing again, maybe back to the Liberals, maybe to the Greens, depending on their concerns.

If voters are up for grabs, all parties are going to have to keep up.

BC Votes 2020ColumnLangleyOpinion

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An RCMP officer got more than bargained for when stopping a vehicle with a broken brake light. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
Langley RCMP puts the brakes on pair found with drugs, knife and cash

The passenger was wanted on a warrant, and the driver faces various changes.

The online poster for Joel Goddard, who left his Willoughby home Nov. 10, 2020, has been updated by his family and friends who received word that he’s been found.
Langley man missing since Nov. 10 found alive and safe

Family of the Willoughby area man had been searching for days and announced that he has been found

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson leaves the stage after announcing he is stepping down as party leader, during a news conference in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Painful Truth: Which party breaks up first?

Political parties under pressure can fracture, here and abroad

Small and local shops are vulnerable to the second wave of the coronavirus. (Langley Advance Times files)
Our View: Save jobs, shop local in Langley

The fight to preserve local businesses and employment is underway now

Loblaw, the parent company of the Shoppers Drug Mart chain, announced Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020 that a staff member at the 20159 88th Ave. location in Langley tested positive for COVID-19. (Google)
Two Langley businesses and multiple schools issued COVID-19 exposure alerts

Neither business is listed as site of public exposure by Fraser Health

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

A UBC study recommends an multi-government investment of $381 million to protect 102 species at risk in the Fraser River estuary. (Photo supplied by Yuri Choufour)
102 Fraser River estuary species at risk of extinction, researchers warn

UBC team develops $381-million strategy to combat crisis, boost economy

FILE – A paramedic holds a test tube containing a blood sample during an antibody testing program at the Hollymore Ambulance Hub, in Birmingham, England, on Friday, June 5, 2020. (Simon Dawson/Pool via AP)
Want to know if you’ve had COVID-19? LifeLabs is offering an antibody test

Test costs $75 and is available in B.C. and Ontario

File photo
Surrey RCMP arrest man accused of threatening city councillor, prime minister

Surrey Councillor Jack Hundial said he received a death threat ‘that basically said to put a bullet in me’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The grey region of this chart shows the growth of untraced infection, due to lack of information on potential sources. With added staff and reorganization, the gap is stabilized, Dr. Bonnie Henry says. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 tracing to keep up with surging cases

People now notified of test results by text message

Construction cranes tower above condos under construction near southeast False Creek in Vancouver on February 9, 2020. A study from Canada Mortgage Housing Corp. says over 11,000 condos were added to the housing supply pool in Metro Vancouver last year, spurred in part by taxes on empty homes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vacancy taxes put more rental condos in Metro Vancouver market: CMHC study

Vancouver council voted to increase empty homes tax from 1.25 per cent to three per cent for next year

Most Read