The NDP has kept its federal seat in Victoria, with environmental and aboriginal-rights lawyer Murray Rankin winning a tight byelection race against Green opponent Donald Galloway.
With all 256 polls reporting, Rankin had 14,519 votes to Galloways 13,368.
NDP leader Thomas Mulcair introduced Rankin to a packed, cheering crowd at the Empress.
Rankin, who took the podium with wife Linda Hannah and sons Ben, 25, and Mark, 22, vowed to fight the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, from Alberta to Kitimat: Today voters said a resounding no to the Enbridge pipeline. ... Well not be the energy Walmart of the world.
Rankin also thanked Galloway for a hard-fought campaign of issues and ideas.
Former Victoria NDP MP Denise Savoie, whose resignation in August triggered the byelection, said Victoria had elected the only party that can stand up to Stephen Harpers Conservatives.
In his concession speech, Galloway told supporters the partys showing was easily the best moment of my life.
I have been working with a group of people dedicated to a cause that is an important cause, he said. And we came this close, he added, holding up his thumb and forefinger.
He told supporters that the next time, the party will prevail.
The atmosphere at the NDP gathering in the Fairmont Empress ballroom was tense at 9 p.m., two hours after the polls closed, with the NDP leading with 36.9 per cent (5,168) to the Greens 36.4 (5,095) with 115 of 256 polls reporting. Ten minutes later, the two were neck and neck with 6,585 votes apiece, with 140 polls reporting.
Conservative Dale Gann and Liberal Paul Summerville were third and fourth most of the night, only a few hundred votes apart.
Were here because everybody [running] cares about Victoria, Gann said.
Several times early on in the vote count, Galloway pulled ahead, to the delight of a noisy crowd at Green party headquarters on Yates Street. Many huddled around a laptop while others called out results from their mobile devices.
Even when a glass partition shattered, people barely seemed to notice.
About 9:40 p.m., the room exploded in a chorus of Go Greens Go! when Galloway surged ahead by more than 300 votes with 178 polls counted.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May had dropped in when polls closed at 7 p.m., making a brief stop before heading back to Ottawa, where she had duties Tuesday, including work on the omnibus budget bill.
Liberal candidate Summerville focused his entire campaign on stopping the proposed $783-million sewage treatment plan that could cost the regions taxpayers up to $300 extra on their property taxes. He has no regrets.
The last three weeks have been really amazing, said Summerville at his Pandora Avenue campaign office. We gave voice to the issue.
The Conservative campaign brought in its heavy hitters in the beginning of the race, leaving the candidate to handle the rest on his own. Gann attended every all-candidates meeting and forum throughout the race.
A low point came when some people criticized the candidate for flip-flopping when, after listening to citizens and scientists, Gann said he wanted to delay building the regions sewage treatment plant until a better plan could be found. That put him at odds with the Conservative government, which gave one-third funding to the project.
Savoie called the night bittersweet, saying that even though shes out of electoral politics, shell always have politics in her heart and that Rankin is not an ivory-tower lawyer or academic, but someone who has done a lot for the community and B.C. and will do more.
Ive done what I feel I had to do, Savoie said.
With a well-oiled machine that saw Savoie elected in 2006, 2008 and 2011, and provincial NDP forces ready for a fight of their own on May 14 next year, the campaign had a host of resources to draw on, said NDP campaign manager Robin Steudel.
This is one of the strongest campaigns weve ever run, Steudel said as the results came in.
Savoie appeared at events throughout the campaign to support Rankins bid. Mulcair was here on Nov. 12, telling an overflow crowd of about 400 people at Victorias Conference Centre that Rankin is a strong voice for sustainable development.
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Preliminary results from Elections Canada
Murray Rankin, NDP 14,519, 37.2% of popular voteDonald Galloway, Green 13,368, 34.3%Dale Gann, Conservative 5,633, 14.4%Paul Summerville, Liberal 5,092, 13.1%Art Lowe, Libertarian 194, 0.5%Philip G. Ney, Christian Heritage 191, 0.5%
256/256 polls reportingVoter turnout: 38,997 of 88,886 registered voters (43.9%)
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