BC Liberal candidates in Chilliwack will be part of a majority government in Victoria, after joining a stunning upset win over the BC NDP Tuesday night.
John Martin cruised to an easy victory in the riding of Chilliwack, while Laurie Throness won in Chilliwack-Hope.
They will join a majority Liberal government — something few pundits were expecting before the polls closed Tuesday evening.
Said Martin: “Did we kick some left-wing socialist butt tonight or what?”
The race was tightest in Chilliwack–Hope — a riding that the NDP only won in a byelection last year. But despite an early lead, incumbent Gwen O’Mahony finished nearly 15 per cent behind Throness, capturing only 6,884 of the votes cast, compared to Throness’ 9,533.
For O’Mahony, the sting of the loss was evident. As supporters watched hopes of a majority NDP government fade, she reflected on her loss.
“We respect what the electorate had to say and who they wanted to represent them. So, I congratulate Laurie Throness,” said O’Mahony. “This was a difficult place to be in. Over the year of being MLA, people talked as if I was going to be around forever. As a politician you have the face that fact that you might lose.”
She said she’s proud of what they’ve accomplished.
“We had such wonderful goals if we had formed government that I think they are still very important. Now is not the time to feel badly,” said O’Mahony.
The mood at the Liberal headquarters was decidedly different.
“I feel humbled that Chilliwack-Hope has placed its confidence in me and I will not disappoint them,” said a beaming Throness. “It’s a humbling and very proudful experience for me.”
In Chilliwack, the gap was wider. Martin garnered 48 per cent of the vote, easily outdistancing by 20 per cent Patti MacAhonic of the NDP.
As the numbers came in, it was quickly evident that they were not going to go MacAhonic’s way.
“I’m a little disappointed and I’m more disappointed with the big picture because when I talked to people out there, I really heard that they wanted change for the better,” she said. “But I think maybe change scares people too sometimes, and obviously people came out in droves and sent a pretty clear message that they don’t want change.”
Pre-election polls predicted a comfortable NDP majority, and the Liberals’ win came as a surprise even to supporters.
“The Liberal Party has surprised everybody. I didn’t expect them to do as well as they did,” said Dennis McDonald in Chilliwack.
School board trustee Heather Maahs was similarly shocked when she joined the celebratory party at the Best Western.
“I’m really happy to see the Liberals get back in, for economic reasons, to start with,” said Maahs. “I think it’s economics. Because Adrian Dix was talking about raising everybody’s taxes. I don’t think that went over.”
The NDP’s win in the 2012 byelection in Chilliwack-Hope, when O’Mahony took 42 per cent of the vote to Throness’ 32 per cent, seemed to have been a protest.
“There was some dissatisfaction. There was a split in the right-wing vote…The leadership took note, and wrote its platform to correct those issues,” said Throness.
In the 2005 general election, the Liberals won both Chilliwack MLA seats with 57 per cent of the vote, and 75 per cent in 2001. This year’s victory is a return to the status quo.
Finishing a distant third in the Chilliwack riding on Tuesday was BC Conservative Chad Eros, who captured 12 per cent of the vote.
Green Party candidate Kim Reimer was fourth with 8.3 per cent, while Michael Halliday of the fledgling BC Excalibur Party, managed just 0.85 per cent.
In Chilliwack-Hope, BC Conservative Michael Henshall finished third with 11 per cent.
Despite the loss, Henshall said he remains committed to helping build the party.
“We are a grassroots party provincially,” he said, as early numbers trickled in. “But we’ve doubled our presence since 2009.”
“I have a resolve to see a Conservative party established in this province.”
Finishing third in the riding was independent candidate Ryan McKinnon with four per cent of the vote. The Hope resident attributed his 784 votes to his rough-around-the-edges approach, which resonated with voters.
“It’s not as polished. People can relate,” he said. “Running for the first time, having no signage and having not a lot of publicity, I was quite happy with the result.”
The Liberals have swept through the Fraser Valley with force, claiming every seat from here to Surrey, and displacing established incumbents such as independent John van Dongen in Abbotsford South.
The initial count shows the Liberals with 50 seats, and the NDP with 33. The Green Party won its first ever legislature seat, and another went to an independent. The B.C. Conservatives received no provincial representation.
The final count will be concluded by May 30, 2013.
Michael Henshall BC Conservative Party 2,093 10.85%
Ryan Ashley McKinnon Independent 782 4.05%
Gwen O’Mahony BC NDP 6,884 35.68%
Laurie Throness BC Liberal Party 9,533 49.41%
Chad Elton Eros BC Conservative Party 2,327 11.94%
Michael Raymond Halliday BC Excalibur Party 160 0.82%
Patti MacAhonic BC NDP 6,018 30.88%
John Martin BC Liberal Party 9,376 48.12%
Kim Reimer Green Party of BC 1,605 8.24%
With files from Greg Knill, Alina Konevski, Jessica Peters, Kerrie-Ann Schoenit, and Eric Welsh.