Scott Fraser, the incumbent NDP MLA for Alberni-Pacific Rim, has won the battle for his seat.
But his party has lost the war with the election of a Liberal majority government on Tuesday.
Fraser took the riding with 9,829 votes. Liberal candidate Darren DeLuca had 5,981, and BC Conservative candidate Enid Mary Sangster-Kelly earned 1,377 votes.
Officials reported an overall BC voter turnout at 48 per cent.
“I’m grateful for…a resounding endorsement from the voters of Alberni-Pacific Rim,” Fraser said. “Darren put up a good fight and I always expect a fight.”
Fraser circulated about the room at the Steelworkers Hall on Montrose Street, which was filled with a who’s-who from Port Alberni labour: Steelworkers, ADTU, district labour council and others.
Province-wide the Liberals took 50 seats to the NDP’s 33.
Vancouver Island remains an NDP stronghold, having won 10 of 14 seats. The Liberals won two seats. The Green Party established a beach head, electing their first member in Oak Bay-Gordon Head.
The Liberal majority shocked Fraser. “I traveled across BC and most people said that they were ready for a change,” he said.
Fraser said he’ll continue to fight for issues that are pertinent to the Alberni Valley. Raw log exports need to be reduced, and the value of logs has to be increased in relation to jobs, he said.
The forest industry needs to be better managed, and the Raven Underground Coal Project bears watching, he added. “Those checks and balances need to be there so we don’t end up losing what we already have.”
The NDP may be in opposition again but there’s still an obligation to hold the Liberal government to account, Fraser said.
Across town at Liberal headquarters, challenger Darren DeLuca said he gave it his best shot. “I came out of the gate late but we gave it a good run,” DeLuca said.
Business types, city councillor Hira Chopra and Federal Conservative MP James Lunney milled about DeLuca’s campaign headquarters on the old Nanaimo Highway. “I was at Liberal offices here in past elections and we were lucky to get 12 people and a sleepy dog out. Tonight there’s about 100 people here,” DeLuca said.
The Liberal platform of jobs and the economy resonated with voters, and a majority government validates their staying power, DeLuca said.
“Win or lose, our community is looking for leadership with those issues,” he said.
DeLuca spoke often about a Highway 4 connector. The issue is prominent, needed, and is now part of the Valley’s agenda. “No matter who or what party leads, the people want someone who can get that done,” DeLuca said.
The prospect of an NDP majority spooked voters, DeLuca said, and the NDP record of the 1990s was the ghost that came back to haunt the party. “Adrian Dix and Moe Sihota (party president) were two of three architects of that decade,” DeLuca said. “People don’t want or need their lives turned upside down again.”
On CBC Radio, NDP leader Adrian Dix, who retained his seat in Vancouver-Kensington, addressed a hushed crowd at the NDP campaign headquarters.
“Elections belong to the voters and the voters have decided,” Dix said. “It’s our responsibility, our duty, to accept that decision.”
Liberal leader Christy Clark spoke confidently about her party’s win.
“Tonight, we have received a mandate from the people of British Columbia,” she said on CBC Radio. “I say to the citizens of British Columbia, you have humbled us tonight with this opportunity and the tremendous obligation you’ve placed on our shoulders.”
Clark’s fight isn’t over yet though.
She lost her Vancouver-Point Grey riding, to the NDP’s David Eby 10,162 - 9,377.