North Island-Powell River: Incumbent Rachel Blaney handily earns second term

New Democrat incumbent Rachel Blaney will return to the House of Commons for a second term as the member for North Island-Powell River.

The Campbell River resident and former executive director of the Immigrant Welcome Centre of North Vancouver Island defeated Conservative candidate and four-term Port McNeill councillor Shelley Downey, Green Party candidate Mark de Bruijn and Liberal Peter Schwarzhoff.

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“I’m really elated and really honoured that the constituents of North Island-Powell River have allowed me to go back to Ottawa and fight on their behalf. So I’m just feeling really grateful and humbled and really excited to get back to work,” said Blaney.

With 225 of 251 polls reporting, Blaney captured 38.3 per cent of the vote. Downey, with 31.8 per cent of the vote, placed second. The Greens were third with 14.5 per cent of the vote, followed by the Liberals at 13 per cent.

The top priorities for the NDP are climate change and affordability, said Blaney.

“We want to see action on this. We want to see how we can work collaboratively with industries to see them moving in the right direction,” said Blaney. “It’s super important for the NDP to look at how we’re going to protect jobs but we need to address climate change and the actions needed for the Paris Agreement.”

As she campaigned for re-election, Blaney met constituents who were struggling to make ends meet, pay for medications and find affordable housing. “Those things will be priorities for me.”

Even though the NDP lost seats in the election, Blaney said she is elated by the party’s chance to hold the balance of power in the minority government.

In Ottawa, Blaney has been an advocate for seniors and veterans. Married to Darren Blaney, chief of the Homalco First Nation, she was vice-chair of the standing committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs.

Conservative Downey said constituents were concerned about cost-of-living increases. She said she ran to help people get ahead — not just get by.

De Bruijn, a school principal and high school science teacher, almost doubled the vote for the Greens from the 2015 election. De Bruijn said climate change is the issue that drove him to run. He’s concerned about mill closures, declining jobs, homelessness, poverty, income and food security.

Schwarzhoff, a former Environment Canada scientist, says the loss of environmental safeguards has left First Nations and others with little faith in Ottawa's ability to protect their interests.

Also in the race were Carla Neal for the Marxist-Leninist party, Brian Rundel for the People’s Party and Glen Staples, Independent.

North Island-Powell River is the largest of Vancouver Island’s seven ridings, encompassing 57,911 square kilometres.

The riding includes the area from Comox north, with the exception of Courtenay. It takes in the regional districts of Mount Waddington and Strathcona, most of the Powell River Regional District, Texada Island and part of the Central Coast Regional District.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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