An anticipated three-way race in Cariboo North could raise the profile of the riding, according to the newly nominated NDP candidate.
Rancher Duncan Barnett defeated Quesnel city councillor Shushil Thapar at a nomination meeting Sunday night in Quesnel. Barnett is trying to keep the riding in the NDP column, but will be going up against independent sitting MLA Bob Simpson and Liberal challenger Coralee Oakes.
"I think voters in Cariboo North are really lucky because they've got three good candidates and it's probably going to be an exciting race," Barnett said. "I hope we get a lot of good discussion and debate on the issues. We're going to raise the profile of Cariboo North at the very least."
Simpson won the last two elections while carrying the NDP banner, but was kicked out of the opposition caucus after a spat with then leader Carole James in 2010. Both of his wins over Liberal challengers came by narrow margins, suggesting this spring's election has the potential to be a three-way race.
Oakes, a former two-term Quesnel councillor and executive director of the Quesnel and District Chamber of Commerce, was acclaimed as the Liberal candidate in November.
The Green Party has already announced it won't be fielding a candidate in Cariboo North in an effort to boost Simpson's chance of winning re-election. The Conservatives have yet to nominate anyone.
"The NDP has won the last two times and this one is going to be more interesting," Barnett said.
He expects issues like timber supply, meat inspection and mining will all be a focus in the riding alongside the major provincial issues including health care and education.
Barnett spent 10 years as a regional director with the Cariboo regional district and is a former president of the Cariboo Cattleman's Association. He said his interest in politics goes back to childhood.
"Politics is a bit of calling for me," he said. "I've always been interested in it since I was a kid. I've been in leadership positions and I like to get involved in things, it probably goes back to some values about community service that were instilled in me as a kid."
With the election less than four months away, the NDP continue to hold a significant lead in public opinion polling - both provincially and regionally. According to numbers released Monday by Angus Reid, the NDP are the party of choice for 46 per cent of decided voters province wide, with the Liberals in second place at 31 per cent. Both the Greens and the Conservatives are at 10 per cent.
It's a similar story in the north, with the NDP getting the support of 45 per cent of those polled compared with 32 per cent for the Liberals and 13 per cent for the Greens. The Conservatives, who have yet to nominate candidates in the Prince George ridings, are sitting at seven per cent.
The NDP lead in every region of the province, according to the poll, except the Interior where they're tied for first with the Liberals.
NDP leader Adrian Dix leads in the best premier question (29 per cent) versus Liberal leader and sitting Premier Christy Clark (19 per cent). He also bests Clark in every single issue polled by Angus Reid, with the closest margins coming in economy (25 per cent for Dix to 23 per cent for Clark) and federal/provincial relations (23 per cent to 21 per cent).
The poll, conducted online from Jan. 17-18, surveyed 802 people and is considered accurate plus or minus 3.5 per cent.