We're in the final week of the 2013 provincial election. Five candidates are wooing voters in the hopes of being selected to represent West Vancouver-Sea to Sky in British Columbia's legislature — but no matter who wins it is clear that in many ways the riding itself is the star.
West Vancouver-Sea to Sky is huge. It covers an odometer-crushing 9,868 sq. km, starting in Dundarave on the North Shore and ending near D'Arcy well into the interior; the contenders must travel great distances to meet some of the 37,021 voters who are registered with Elections BC for the May 14 poll.
Keeping up with BC Liberal Jordan Sturdy, the NDP's Ana Santos, BC Conservative Ian McLeod, Green Richard Warrington and Independent Jon Johnson as they ping-pong around the riding is a time-consuming exercise that challenges my Toyota Yaris. I clock up almost 600 km in little over a week.
The variety in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky is almost ridiculous. There is the privileged urban, found in wealthy West Vancouver (with 9,685 registered voters in 2013). There is Bowen Island, part of the Islands Trust (2,501 voters). There is small-town Squamish going through sometimes-painful struggles from forestry-based industry to Vancouver satellite to "Canada's Recreation Capital" (12,959 voters).
There is the world-class ski resort of Whistler (7,726 voters), which is at least as much an international hub for millions of visitors as it is a small town. There is Pemberton, a kind of agricultural Shangri-La in a remote organic valley (1,937 voters). And there are two strong and ever-strengthening First Nations — the Squamish and the Lil'wat — living in small reserve communities throughout the region. The Lil'wat Nation has 1,163 voters; the Squamish Nation numbers are folded in with the town that bears the same name. Lastly, there is Lions Bay overlooking the Sea to Sky Highway and Howe Sound (1,050 voters).
"Others have described the riding as a microcosm of the whole province, and I certainly agree. That's the most apt description," outgoing MLA Joan McIntyre says. "Huge diversity, to be candid, is one of the great benefits for me. The riding is so interesting, the issues are so widespread. The communities are all at different areas of development and different interests and goals. It's been hard work keeping up, but that said, very interesting."