Near record low turnout to polls
British Columbia’s 40th provincial election was almost a record-setting affair, but in a bad way.
Only 50% of eligible voters turned out at the polls running up to and during the May 14 election, which saw Premier Christy Clark’s Liberal Party retain a majority hold of power in Victoria. However, Clark was defeated in her Vancouver-Point Grey riding to NDP candidate David Eby, creating a leadership vacuum for the time being.
Despite losing her riding, Clark retains the title of Premier. However, by not being an elected MLA, she cannot enter the legislature. While a course of action hasn’t been laid out yet, it is likely an elected MLA in a ‘safe’ riding will step aside, forcing a by-election for Clark.
B.C.’s chief electoral officer Harry Neufeld predicted the highest voter turnout in 20 years after a record high of 297,000 people voted in advance polls leading up to the election.
The Liberals return to power with 50 seats, compared to the NDP’s 33. The province also has a Green Party MLA for the first time in its history in the shape of Andrew Weaver who defeated incumbent and former cabinet minister Ida Chong in the Oak Bay-Gorden Head riding and an Independent MLA in Vicki Huntington who knocked aside the Liberals and NDP with 10,619 votes to seize Delta South.
In the East Kootenay’s two ridings, Columbia River-Revelstoke and Kootenay East, the election results mirrored the previous couple of elections with Norm Macdonald securing a third term as a member of the Official Opposition NDP and Bill Bennett nailing down a fourth term as a member of the ruling Liberal Party.
With 6,019 votes, Golden resident Macdonald earned 48.18% of the popular vote in Columbia River-Revelstoke, while Liberal challenger Doug Clovechok captured 36.37% of the popular vote with 4,543 ballots in his name.
B.C. Conservative Party candidate Earl Olsen impressively peeled 1,079 votes (8.64%) away from the Liberals/Clovechok, but his hat in the ring did not, at the end of the day, prove to be an undoing for the right wing vote in the valley.
Green Party candidate Laurel Ralston earned 851 votes (6.81%).
Cranbrook resident Bennett stormed back to power on the strength of 9,424 votes (63.3%), defeating NDP challenger Norma Blissett, whose tireless campaigning earned her 5,463 votes (36.7%).
Bennett’s margin of victory was larger in this election than in 2009, when he defeated NDP candidate Troy Sebastian 8,464 to 5,844 (by 2,560 votes).
Macdonald’s margin of victory was smaller this time around. In 2009 he defeated Liberal challenger, former Revelstoke Mayor Mark McKee by 2,326 votes (7,419 to 5,093).
A total of 12,492 people voted in the Columbia River-Revelstoke riding, while 14,887 voters turned out in the Kootenay East. Provincially, 1,628,524 people took the time to hit the polling stations and advance polls.
The Liberals captured 44.4% of the popular vote, with 723,133 people voting for them and the NDP finished with 643,069 votes, good for 39.49% of the popular vote. The Green Party finished with the third most votes (130,425) – good for 8.01% of the popular vote, while the BC Conservative Party was fourth with 77,770 votes (4.78%).
The stunning come-from-behind victory by the Liberals sees them with four more seats than they earned in the 2009 election, when they captured 46.
In a newer post-election twist many candidates took to Facebook to make statements.
In a Facebook post May 15 Norma Blissett wrote, “Thank you for your support throughout this election campaign. I had hoped for a stronger result both locally and provincially, but it was not to be. It has been quite a journey. I have had the privilege of meeting and working with so many wonderful people. Thanks for being there.”
Doug Clovechok stated on Facebook, “Well, it was one hell of a ride and I want to personally thank each and every one of you who not only voted for us but who provided support and encouragement throughout this journey. I am humbled by what you offered. I am
thrilled that the BC Liberals are back in government and so proud to have been part of Premier Clark’s team. She will lead our province into the bright and prosperous future that B.C. deserves. This was an amazing lifetime experience and am glad we shared it together. In life I believe that rather than the strength it takes to not lose, it’s the strength to stand back up after a loss that is always more valuable. THANK YOU!”
Kimberley’s Laurel Ralston said her election experience confirmed something she already knew. “My experience in this election campaign has only strengthened my conviction that Norm Macdonald is one of the classiest people in politics. Thanks for your encouragement and kind words, Norm, and congratulations on your re-election!” She noted on her Facebook page.
Christy Clark was concise in her Facebook message: “Thank you British Columbia. I am humbled.”
NDP leader Adrian Dix said, “Thank you to all the NDP candidates, staff and volunteers for all your efforts throughout the election campaign. I am very proud of all of you. And take heart, we will continue to fight for equality, for justice, for jobs and for a better world. People need our dedication now more than ever.”
In a completely different form of Facebook statement, Bennett posted May 16:
“BILL’S TOP TEN REASONS ‘EXPERTS’ GOT IT WRONG:
1. Experts don’t understand communication. Example, they believed Dix won debate!
2. People will not vote for a face they do not trust or like.
3. BCL supporters don’t talk to pollsters – too busy, well adjusted & not angry enough.
4. BCL Party is generally better on the ground than NDP. NDP over-rated.
5. Media, like horses, tends to suffer from herd mentality, except a few.
6. BCL product (leader, candidates, message) is superior.
7. Never underestimate the intelligence of the average voter.
8. Dix allowed us to make the campaign about the economy.
9. NDP suffered incredibly from smugness and over-confidence.
10. Christy Clark is a smarter, more talented politician than AD & Mike McDonald is a smarter, more talented strategist for B.C. than Brian Topp.”
Noting that while Dix stated he was proud of not running a negative campaign, Bennett provided three examples of negative campaigning in Kootenay East in another Facebook post this morning.
The first was a “surreptitious photo of me during the Cranbrook debate undoing buttons of my jacket circulated on Twitter and NDP candidate’s FB page saying I was sleeping during the debate; 2. Disappearance of all my signs from Highway 3 the evening of May 13th; and 3. Human excrement pasted all over campaign office door evening of May 14, which I personally cleaned up with a basin of hot soapy water and a brush. So much for NDP positive campaign.”
Norm Macdonald told the Revelstoke Current (http://www.revelstokecurrent.com) “I am very pleased with our local campaign. We ran a very positive campaign and spent less than a quarter of what the Liberals spent during the campaign.”
His take on campaigning tactics differs from Bennett’s.
Macdonald told the Current’s David Rooney that he blamed the Liberals’ attack ads for the change in political fortunes and said the negative ads concocted by the Liberals were a sign of things to come in provincial politics.
“I think we laid out a clear path forward so the provincial result was a surprise and a disappointment. The lesson learned across the province is that extreme negativity is a successful political tactic.”
In the adjacent Kootenay West riding, incumbent NDP candidate Katrine Conroy defeated Liberal challenger Jim Postnikoff 10,606 to 3,592. And in Nelson-Creston, incumbent Michelle Mungall re-upped for another term as a member of the Official Opposition NDP by defeating Liberal challenger Greg Garbula 7,576 to 4,348.
In the Shuswap, Liberal candidate Greg Kyllo earned victory over NDP challenger Steve Gunner by taking 11,342 votes compared to 6,972.
Mungall said on Facebook she is honoured to be returning to Victoria. “Many, many thanks go out to all who participated in democracy in this election. Thank you to the voters for giving me another mandate to represent Nelson-Creston. I am honoured to serve again. Thank you to my amazing team. I loved working with you. And endless thanks to my husband, Zak Matieschyn, for all your support and love. While not the overall provincial outcome we were hoping for, I will continue to press for what matters here in the Kootenays.”
Elections BC notes that final voting results will not be available until after the conclusion of the final count, which will take place on May 27.
For a breakdown on how the province voted go to: http://electionsbcenr.blob.core.windows.net/electionsbcenr/GE-2013-05-14_Candidate.html .