Election 2019 in the North Okanagan-Shuswap riding was both usual and unusual.
On the ‘usual’ side, Conservative MP Mel Arnold was re-elected. It’s usual to elect a Conservative in the riding, at least since 1988 when it was represented by NDP MP Lyle MacWilliam.
Different from last election was the degree to which voters supported Arnold. According to preliminary results, he received 48.8 per cent of the popular vote or 35,753 votes on Oct. 21, compared to runner-up Liberal Cindy Derkaz with 22.7 per cent – that’s 26 percentage points between them.
In the 2015 election, Derkaz garnered 29.95 per cent of votes compared to Arnold’s 39.30 – a much smaller 10-point difference.
“I’ve worked hard over the last four years, making sure I got out to every part of the riding to make sure I knew what was important to the people. That way the constituents knew that I was listening,” Arnold said.
“We also had a great team of volunteers who made sure we got the voters out. The results are there. I think they speak well.”
Also different was the level of advance voting. The riding was one of the 10 highest in B.C. In 2015, the number of advance voters was 16,329. In 2019, it ballooned to 20,243.
Asked about the toughest part of the campaign, Arnold points to attacks on social media.
“As candidates, we’re not allowed to lash out or respond… It’s really tough for spouses, partners to put that aside.”
Arnold says it’s likely Parliament won’t convene until January.
First the returning officer must verify the votes. Then comes the swearing in in Ottawa of all 338 MPs. And the election of the speaker.
This term he’ll be more effective as an MP, he says, now that he has established more contacts with people in the riding and in Ottawa.
One of the issues he’s passionate about is aquatic invasive species, particularly quagga and zebra mussels.
As deputy shadow minister of fisheries last term, Arnold was able to keep an eye on the issue. He said more needs to be done, and preventing the spread is the only solution. He adds that the distribution of funding to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species is unfair.
“Eighty per cent of funding goes to two species on the Great Lakes,” he explains, with 20 per cent for the rest of Canada.
And of all the issues he heard over the course of the campaign, he said affordability ranked at the top in the riding – people wanting their debt load and taxes lowered, having trouble attracting workers and finding affordable housing.