New Democrat Party candidate and incumbent Gord Johns has been re-elected for a third term in the Courtenay-Alberni riding, pending official declaration.
Johns fought off a spirited challenge from Conservative Party of Canada candidate Mary Lee—who held a brief lead early on in the returns—with Liberal candidate Susan Farlinger a distant third.
With all but one of the 269 polls reporting (99.63 per cent) Johns holds a 7,413-vote lead, accounting for 43.9 per cent of the votes. Lee is second, at 19,696 votes (31.9% ) and Farlinger sits third, with 8,162 votes (13.2%).
Green Party candidate Susanne Lawson has 3,433 votes (5.6%); People’s Party of Canada candidate Robert Eppich has 3,258 votes (5.3%); and Marxist Leninist candidate Barbara Biley has 118 votes (0.2%).
Mail-in votes, and votes of those who registered on election day have yet to be calculated. Results will be made official at that time.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Johns of his win. He met with several media members in his Port Alberni campaign office after a virtual “party” with his supporters. “It’s a humbling experience to get re-elected.”
He thanked his family, campaign volunteers, voters and fellow candidates for their support and their work throughout the election.
Johns said this campaign was “very difficult” compared to his last two campaigns, mostly due to COVID-19 and ensuring the safety of his volunteers.
“[The New Democrats] win on the ground, we win at the grassroots level,” said Johns. “Engaging constituents one-on-one in conversations about issues that matter with them. So we’ve had to use different vehicles—a lot of phone calls, a lot of different ways of doing our regular engagement. Our message resonated very much with people.”
Some of the biggest issues that Johns heard from his constituents throughout the campaign related to affordability, climate change, the opioid crisis and Indigenous reconciliation. He also said that people were concerned about finding a safe place to live and a health care system that supports people.
“You don’t win elections without people,” said Johns. “People really stepped up in this unusual campaign, this campaign that none of us wanted. People were very clear that they want to see us tackle inequality. They resonated with our commitment to treating the climate crisis as an emergency and ensuring that people were front and centre.”
He said he is “excited” to continue to bring messages from his Courtenay-Alberni constituents to Ottawa.
“Now that it’s potentially looking like it’s going to be another minority government, we’re going to be sure that New Democrats are going to put people at the centre of policies moving forward,” Johns said.
Farlinger said she’s happy to see her party will return to power, nationally.
“I think any party in government would wish for a majority government, but I’m very happy that the Liberal Party is doing well,” she said on Monday evening. “I think that overall, the policies that the Liberal Party has put forward and the government has put in place are really the only ones that I’m personally comfortable with – which is a strong recognition of the challenges in front of us with climate change, the performance in the pandemic and the need for reconciliation, which is enormous in this riding.”
She also congratulated Johns on his victory, and thanked her fellow candidates for a good, clean campaign.
“I’m not surprised that (Johns) is doing well,” said Farlinger. “He’s a decent fellow. I think my fellow candidates have done a great job, and I feel like we’ve done a good campaign here, too.”
Lawson was gracious in defeat.
“I am very happy that Gord Johns won,” she told Black Press Media. “He is an astute politician and now has considerable experience. It was a pleasure to work with him as well as all the other candidates at the forums in this riding.”
She also gave a shout-out to all her supporters.
“I want to thank all the great people who supported me through this fast-paced and brief election,” said Lawson. “These are challenging times and there are many people out there who understand the seriousness of the issues we are facing. With their dedication and efforts, we will weather the stormy times together and find the positive solutions to move forward. Thank you for this opportunity…Hish uk Ish tsawalk…we are one, everything is connected …in the Nuu Chah Nulth language.”
Voter turnout in the riding was 61,776 of 105,605 registered electors (58.5%). That number does not reflect electors who registered on election day.
Lee was unavailable for comment Monday night.
— With files from Terry Farrell, Mandy Moraes, Elena Rardon and Andrew Bailey.