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B.C. election: Carole James concedes defeat as Campbell rides to a third term
The good news for NDP leader Carole James is that she has won her riding. That's more than Jane Sterk, the leader of The Greens, did. The bad news is the Liberals have run away with another B.C. election.
Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell won a rare third majority government Tuesday night, giving him a mandate to lead British Columbia through the recession and ensuring he’ll be premier during the 2010 Olympic Games.
Campbell’s Liberals were leading or elected in 49 ridings Tuesday night, compared to 36 for Carole James’ New Democratic Party.
Shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday, Carole James conceded defeat to Premier Gordon Campbell and told supporters she plans to keep his feet to the fire.
"A few moments ago I talked to Premier Cambell and offered my congratulations for his victory this evening," said James, "and assured him the New Democrats will work for the betterment of this province we all call home. As we all realize, the results aren't what we hoped for, but the views of our constituents will be very well represented by New Democrats elected tonight."
In claiming victory in his riding of Vancouver-Point Grey, Gordon Campbell gave thanks to his support team, saying, "One of the things I say to everybody is, you don't get to be premier if you don't get to be an MLA."
Campbell welcomed James' concession. "I appreciated her call, it was done in the right spirit, and it recognizes a lot of the problems we have in B.C. transcend political boundaries .... We have to listen to one another and learn from one another and I vow to do that as leader."
"We took the steps people told us not to take," said Campbell. "They weren't easy to take politically, but they were right to take. They can be done, they must be done and they will be done for the sake of our children."
"I appreciate the thousands and thousands of British Columbians who took the time to vote, whoever they decided to vote for," he added.
With a Liberal win, Campbell became the first B.C. premier in 26 years to win three consecutive elections. Former Social Credit leader Bill Bennett was last to pull off the feat, winning in 1975, 1979 and 1983.
The win also gives Campbell a mandate to push ahead with policies like his carbon tax, and the plan to keep the minimum wage at $8 per hour until economic storm clouds clear.
As of 9:45 p.m., B.C. Elections data shows 49 Liberal candidates in today's B.C. election to be leading in their ridings, while 36 NDP candidates have a break on their opponents. No Green candidates looks likely to pick up a victory.
In the popular vote, the Liberals have racked up 45.8 percent of votes counted, while the NDP is sitting on 42.1 percent. The Greens have polled 8.1 percent, indicating a fair-sized swing of former Green voters shifted to the NDP camp. The Conservatives sit on roughly 2.1 percent of the vote, with other parties struggling to grab enough votes to merit a mention.
In the referendum on electoral reform, British Columbians dealt what is likely to be a fatal blow to the Single Transferrable Vote system, appearing reject the idea for the second time in a row. At press time, only 39 per cent had voted for STV, well below the 60 per cent it needed to pass.
In the hotly contested seat of Delta South, Liberal star Wally Oppal has a one-vote vote break on independent Vicki Huntington with over half the ballot boxes counted.
Jenn McGinn of the NDP took a fall against Liberal Margaret McDiarmid in Vancouver-Fairview, with a 15 percent gap going to McDiarmid with a significant piece of the count locked away.
In what may be Carole James' sole consolation on the night, the NDP looked to tighten its political grip on Vancouver Island as the party battled provincial Liberal and Green contenders in traditionally strong New Democrat territory.
Results as of 9:30 p.m. showed the NDP with an early hold on most of Vancouver Island’s seats, however, several of the ridings were close battles separated by only a handful of votes.
In Cowichan Valley, where there was no incumbent, NDP candidate Bill Routley was declared winner over Cathy Basskin of the Liberals and Simon Lindley of the Greens.
NDP incumbent Maurine Karagianis was declared winner in Esquimalt-Royal Roads — she had a wide lead over Liberal Carl Ratsoy after initial polls were reported.
For the Green Party, the election meant going backwards. Green Party of B.C. Leader Jane Sterk, who was hoping to win the first legislative seat for the Greens, was trailing third in results, behind both Karagianis and Ratsoy.
At press time, the party had no seats and just over 8 per cent of the popular vote.
Sterk said she had hoped that her reputation as a former Esquimalt municipal councillor would win her seat, but NDP incumbent Maurine Karagianis surged ahead.
“I’m not surprised on one level. It was a long shot,” Sterk said.
Sterk said during the campaign she was forgoing a provincial leader’s tour this time to focus on winning her riding of Esquimalt-Royal Roads.
"We have a very strategic campaign, given the fact that we are not elected and we need to get people elected into the legislature," Sterk during the campaign.
"I don't have the luxury as the leader, like the other two do, where I can leave my riding for extended periods of time and assume that I'm going to win my seat," she added.
Sterk got 17 per cent of the vote in her riding Tuesday night.
Tuesday’s election returned many of Campbell’s top ministers from his previous cabinet including Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Mike de Jong, Health Minister George Abbott and Finance Minister Colin Hansen.
John van Dongen, who had to resign during the campaign as solicitor-general because his license was suspended, also won.
“I think things have been very positive,” said van Dongen Tuesday night.
Van Dongen admitted there have been some jokes about his tickets but said people have been “very supportive.”
“They know I’ve worked very hard for the riding for the last 14 years,” he said.
In Kootenay East, Minister of Tourism Culture and the Arts Bill Bennett beat held on to secure the southeastern riding that many thought might swing to the NDP.
“It’s quite humbling to have such a strong show of support with people who live in this rural riding,” said Bennett, who won in 2005 with fewer than 700 votes.
“When it comes to election time, you’re not always rewarded,” the three-term MLA said. “This is a swing riding. It swings to the NDP more than it swings to us.”
Despite those who held on, there were some cabinet ministers who looked in trouble.
Liberal cabinet ministers Ida Chong and Murray Coell faced tough battles in the ridings of Oak Bay-Gordon Head and Saanich North and the Islands, from NDP candidates Jessica Van der Veen and Gary Holman. The ridings were too close to call around 9:30 p.m.
While some ministers were in trouble, Campbell did see new faces that many have speculated could hold cabinet potential.
Kash Heed, who some are touting as a possible solicitor-general, won his Vancouver Fairview riding.
Moira Stilwell also carried her riding of Vancouver-Langara.
Regional breakdowns also played a key role Tuesday night.
Surrey voters appeared to stick to the status quo, with six incumbents leading in eight ridings.
In Surrey-Tynehead, Liberal incumbent Dave Hayer maintained a narrow lead over NDP rival Pat Zanon for most of the evening.
At press time, Hayer had 1,579 votes, about 200 more than the NDP’s Debbie Lawrance at 1,355 with 43 out of 125 polls reporting.
Hayer was left vulnerable after a recent shift in electoral boundaries added a swath of NDP-friendly Surrey-Whalley to his riding, but appeared to be hanging on.
In the newly-created riding of Surrey-Fleetwood, the race was also neck and neck, with NDP veteran Jagrup Brar holding on to a slight lead of less than 300 votes over Liberal upstart Jagmohan Singh.
Brar, who represented Surrey-Panorama Ridge in 2005, but jumped to the Fleetwood Riding after distribution, had 1,465 votes compared to Singh’s 1,187 at press time with 28 out of 138 ballot boxes reporting.
In Surrey-Panorama, Liberal candidate and political newcomer Stephanie Cadieux appeared headed to Victoria after pulling away with 60 per cent of the votes compared to NDP candidate Debbie Lawrance’s 34 per cent early on.
“I’m feeling pretty good, very anxious to see the final results,” said a cautiously-optimistic Cadieux, who was watching results slowly trickle in at her campaign office.
The Liberals maintained their hold over most of the North Shore Tuesday, with party candidates sweeping to victory in three of four ridings.
At press time, only two of the four crucial Burnaby ridings appeared to be decided, with Liberal Harry Bloy leading in Burnaby-Lougheed and NDP Raj Chouhan leading in Burnaby-Edmonds.
At press time, both Burnaby-Deer Lake and Burnaby North were too close to call.
On Vancouver Island, the NDP held its political grip Tuesday night. Results as of 9:30 p.m. showed New Democrats elected or leading in 10 of 14 Island ridings.
"It's been such an honour for me to work with thousands of British Columbians throughout this campaign through their struggles and successes.... To NDP workers, you've put in incredible hours, working phones, knocking on doors, putting up signs, thank you for your incredible hard work," said James.
"I've always said that politics and community service is a noble cause, and I believe that to this day. I urge you all to continue to speak out between elections because democracy isn't something that happens every four years."
For James, the election result will prompt countless post-mortems on her campaign, and will have some within the party questioning her political future.
James was elected leader of the NDP in November 2003, promising a modern vision for the party and a new relationship with unionized labour.
In 2005, James led the party to 33 seats from the three it had before. The Liberals took 46 seats in that election.
This time, new electoral boundaries have added six seats to the Legislature, meaning there are a total 85 seats up for grabs.
On Tuesday night, James’s party was leading or elected in 36 seats, which meant it gained seats from the 34 it had going into the election -- a factor that is sure to allow James a strong argument she should stay on as leader.
"I think we're all going to sit down and take a look and reflect on the results tonight, and I'll always do what's best for the party and for British Columbians," she said
James paid respect to Gordon Campbell for winning a third term; "It's a great accomplishment, he deserves congrats for his service to British Columbia and continued service as premier. We'll be going in as a stronger voice, we've got some new members in the legislature. I think we ran a very strong campaign, clearly the economy was a strong concern for people and they were looking at not changing horses in a tough time."
The Liberals nearly swept every seat in the 2001 election, winning 77 of 79 ridings. Cuts and layoffs leading up to the 2005 election led to a more balanced government with 46 Liberals and 33 NDP Members of Legislative Assembly.
-- With files from Doug Ward and Canwest News Service
Source: Vancouver Sun, CanWest Media