There are fewer than 100 days to go before B.C. residents head to the polls and the campaign for the next provincial election is beginning to heat up.
Both the governing Liberals and opposition New Democrats have been beefing up their advertising campaigns in advance of the May 14 election day. Candidates have started door knocking, fundraising efforts are in full swing and it's only a matter of time before election signs start popping up around the region.
Incumbents Pat Bell in Prince George-Mackenzie and Shirley Bond in Prince George-Valemount will be looking to become the first Prince George MLAs to win four consecutive terms in office since Ray Williston carried the Social Credit banner to Victoria six after straight elections between 1953 and 1972. Liberal Henry Perry represented Fort George five times between 1920 and 1945, but his term was broken up by a loss in 1928.
Their main competition is likely to come from the NDP, who are looking to end a three election losing streak both locally and provincially. Bobby Deepak in Prince George-Mackenzie and Sherry Ogasawara in Prince George-Valemount have been nominated for months and are ramping up their campaigns.
Both the Green and Conservative parties intend to run candidates in both Prince George ridings, but have yet to hold nomination meetings and don't have any scheduled.
The Greens hope to have all their candidates named by the end of March, but party leader Jane Sterk said they're focusing first on the urban areas of the province.
"We do have a group of local people recruiting for candidates in those two [Prtince George] ridings," she said.
Both Bond and Bell were re-elected with more than 50 per cent of the vote in their respective ridings in 2009, but are expected to face stiffer tests this time out. The NDP holds a double-digit lead over the Liberals in province-wide public opinion polls and Prince George has traditionally been home to bell-weather ridings.
Since 1920, Prince George has elected 37 members to the legislature - with representation ranging from one to three members per election - and 33 of those have sat with the government. The last opposition member was Paul Nettleton, elected as a Liberal in Prince George-Omineca when the NDP won government in 1996. The one and only time Prince George didn't have a single representative on the government benches was 1945 when John McInnis of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation won in Fort George but a centre-right coalition won the most seats.
Bell, Bond and the rest of the current members of the legislature still have plenty on their plates prior to election day. The legislature will resume sitting on Feb. 12 for the first time since last May with a speech from the throne. A budget is slated to be tabled a week later.
The provincial legislature's website lists 11 sitting days scheduled for February, eight for March and 14 for April, however with the writ expected to drop in early April it won't be possible to get all of those in before the campaign begins in earnest.