By-election leads to historical appointment
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Staff Writer
On February 2, two new members of the legislative assembly were elected in the Lower Mainland following a by-election.
The seats were held until last year, when both occupants stepped down to run in the federal election. Jenny Kwan, the former Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA, was successful in her run, and is currently an NDP MP for Vancouver East. Former Coquitlam-Burke Mountain MLA Doug Horne ran under the Conservative Party despite being a BC Liberal. Horne’s run was unsuccessful.
Jodie Wickens and Melanie Mark, the newly elected MLAs for Coquitlam-Burke Mountain and Vancouver-Mount Pleasant respectively, are both members of the NDP. Both of the women’s elections mark historical significance. Wickens, 33, is now the youngest provincial politician in British Columbia. Mark, 40, holds the distinction of being the first woman of First Nations descent elected to the BC Legislative Assembly.
Wickens, who has a son with autism, is a former Executive Director for the Autism Support Network—a BC organization that provides resources for children and their families with autism. As stated on her website, Wickens “is a strong advocate working to ensure that our kids get the education they deserve.” Material from her website also asserts her dedication, which stems from having two children in the school district. Coquitlam currently receives the lowest education funding per student in the province.
Born and raised in the Mount Pleasant area, Melanie Mark has a long history of volunteering and working with organizations that help Aboriginal people, particularly youth. She herself grew up in social housing and foster care among Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, part of the Mount Pleasant riding and one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada. Mark is Gitxsan, Ojibway, Cree, and Nigsa’a, and a single mother of two children.
Mark’s victory came in a landslide, elected by over 61 per cent of the popular vote, compared to Green Party candidate Pete Fry at 26 per cent. Wickens’ win was much narrower at 46 per cent, compared to Liberal candidate Joan Isaacs’ 38 per cent. The victory in Mount Pleasant continues the NDP’s hold of the riding since its inception in 1991, whereas the NDP win in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain is the first since the riding’s creation in 2009.
A finalized count was released by Elections BC on February 9. Due to these results, the BC Liberals now hold 46 seats, with the NDP holding 35, and 2 spots held by independents. The next BC provincial election is currently scheduled for May 7, 2017.