While the final outcome of Tuesday’s provincial election will not to be known for another couple of weeks when absentee ballots are counted, the winners of the three Central Okanagan seats—incumbent Liberals Norm Letnick, Steve Thomson and party leader Christy Clark—all say it’s business as usual.
“I know Norm, the premier (Clark) and myself, we are looking forward to celebrating tonight but then the work starts again for us right away,” said Thomson in his acceptance speech Tuesday night after taking 58 per cent of the vote in Kelowna-Mission.
He said his party, and his campaign, had a plan and a message that was stuck to and seemed to resonate on the doorsteps in the riding during the campaign.
Letnick said going forward one of the main issues he wants to see addressed is campaign financing.
“In the next election, this cannot be an issue,” said Letnick, re-elected in Kelowna-Lake Country for the third consecutive time. He took 60 per cent of the vote in his riding and was the first MLA declared a winner by television stations covering the election.
The Liberals have promised to put together an expert committee to advise the government on how the current, unregulated political donation system can be improved.
B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver has said taking big money out of the B.C. political system is something that has to happen and the issue will be a “deal-breaker” for him if either the Liberals or the NDP want the support of Green MLAs in the next B.C Legislative session.
On election night, the provincial tally had 43 seats for the Liberals—one short of a majority—41 for the NDP and three for the Greens. If those results hold, B.C. will have its first minority government since 1952 when another B.C. premier from the Okanagan, WAC Bennett, led his Social Credit Party to power.
But the election night numbers could change when the absentee ballots are counted May 22 as there are several close results in other parts of the province, including in Courtenay-Comox on Vancouver Island, where the NDP candidate leads her Liberal challenger by just nine votes.
Here, Clark, Letnick and Thomson were all re-elected easily in their respective ridings by large majorities. The Liberals took all but two of the seats in the B.C. Interior. The NDP, whose strength appeared to be in the Lower Mainland, saw its share of the vote here slip slightly while the Greens increased their share of the vote substantially. Letnick’s Green Party challenger Alison Shaw took just over 19 per cent of the vote in Kelowna-Lake Country, one of the strongest showings by a Green candidate in the Interior.
All three Liberals vowed to continue on the path the party set out in its election campaign platform, with a focus on jobs, growing the economy and keeping taxes as low as possible.
For now, the trio will continue in their current cabinet roles with Letnick as agriculture minister and Thomson as forest, lands and natural resource operations minister. Clark said he had spoken with B.C.’s Lieutenant-Governor and was asked to continue on as premier until the final election results are known.
If the current results hold, Weaver, with his three Green seats, would hold the balance of power.
On election night, as the results rolled in and then ground to a halt with the Liberals and NDP separated by just one seat, nervous Liberal supporters watched wondering will happen next.
One supporter predicted “deal-making like you’ve never seen before.” Asked about that, Thomson said he expected talks between the Liberal, NDP and Green leaders had already started.