Premier Christy Clark staged a remarkable comeback Tuesday to win a fourth straight Liberal majority government despite trailing in opinion polls throughout the campaign.
On a night when the B.C. Green Party made history by electing Andrew Weaver in Oak Bay-Gordon Head, the Liberals were poised to increase their majority by as many as five seats.
The stunning turn of events resulted in Clark, 47, becoming the first female premier to win a B.C. election. She did, however, lose her own seat in Vancouver-Point Grey to the NDP’s David Eby.
“Well, that was easy,” Clark quipped in a speech to supporters.
“Tonight, we have received a mandate from the people of British Columbia and I say to the citizens of British Columbia you have humbled us with this opportunity and the tremendous obligation you’ve placed on our shoulders.”
Clark, who won the election on her late father’s birthday, pledged that the Liberals will share the province’s economic benefits, continue the B.C. Jobs Plan, balance economic and environmental issues, and strive to eliminate the provincial debt.
The NDP, which led by as much as 14 percentage points in opinion polls at the start of the campaign, saw its lead evaporate in the final days of the campaign.
They were projected to win as few as 32 seats — down from 36 at the dissolution of the legislature.
Norman Ruff, a veteran political scientist, called the results “astonishing.”
“It says to me the strong focus that Clark showed in the campaign, the effectiveness, the single mantra on emphasizing the economy, and plus no doubt the spillover from the negative attacks on [NDP leader Adrian] Dix, it looks like they paid off,” Ruff said.
“The NDP looked like they were trying to take the high road and that appears to have cost them.”
Said Nanaimo NDP MLA Leonard Krog: “If my party had won, it would have signaled a significant change in B.C. politics. Clearly, that’s not what resonated. The high road was not the winning road this time.”
Ruff predicted that if Clark failed to win her riding, one of her MLAs would give up their seat for the party leader.
The election results dealt a severe blow to the fortunes of NDP leader Adrian Dix. The election was characterized as his to lose and the inability to deliver a victory could put his future in doubt.
“Never a dull moment in B.C. politics,” Dix said in a speech to supporters after calling Clark to congratulate her.
“Elections belong to the voters and the voters have decided and it’s our responsibility, our duty, to accept that decision and to accept responsibility for that decision.”
Dix urged his party to continue to fight for change and for the issues that matter, such as child poverty and inequality.
“So tonight we’re disappointed, but we are unbowed,” he said.
Weaver, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change, was projected the winner over Liberal Aboriginal Relations Minister Ida Chong and NDP challenger Jessica Van der Veen in Oak Bay.
Weaver’s victory appeared to be the most significant change on Vancouver Island, where the NDP held their seats, while the Liberals kept Comox Valley and Parksville-Qualicum.
The race in Saanich North and the Islands, which was vacated by the retirement of long-time MLA Murray Coell, was too close to call with a three-way race shaping up between the Liberals, Greens and NDP.
Elsewhere, Vicki Huntington won in Delta South becoming the only independent MLA in history to win re-election.
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Elected or leading:
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WINNERS IN GREATER VICTORIA RIDINGS
Victoria-Beacon Hill - Carole James, NDP
Victoria-Swan Lake - Rob Fleming, NDP
Juan de Fuca - John Horgan, NDP
Esquimalt-Royal Roads - Maurine Karagianis, NDP
Saanich South - Lana Popham, NDP
Oak Bay-Gordon Head - Andrew Weaver Green
Saanich North and the Islands - too close to call
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