Mayor, professor and former MP are expected to be among new NDP MLAs for Island

A mayor from the Island’s west coast, a former federal MP, a University of Victoria professor and a North Island city councillor are among the new NDP MLAs expected to head to the B.C. legislature under John Horgan’s majority government.

The election-night count showed Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne winning the Mid Island-Pacific Rim seat with 56 per cent of the vote. The riding was previously won by Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser.

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Sitting with her small team in her campaign office in Port Alberni, Osborne said she was taken by surprise by how quickly the results came indicating a victory.

“I think really it came down to British Columbians really wanting strong, solid capable leadership that would help us recover from the pandemic in a way that was fair and equitable for everyone,” Osborne said.

If the mail-in ballots, which will be counted in about two weeks’ time, confirm her win, Osborne will submit her resignation as Tofino’s mayor, paving the way for a byelection.

The projected win is bitter-sweet for Osborne, a marine biologist who says she’ll miss her role as mayor of the west coast tourist town, a post she’s held since 2013.

“I’m excited, I’ll be able to work for Tofino in a new way,” she said.

In Oak Bay-Gordon Head, 47 per cent of voters backed Murray Rankin on election night. He served as NDP member of Parliament for Victoria from 2012 to 2019 and was house leader for the federal NDP. Rankin’s NDP star power has led to talk that he could be tapped for a cabinet position but on Sunday, he said Horgan has “a lot of talented people that were elected in this unprecedented majority government.”

Rankin said the fact that voters in the riding tend to buck party loyalty “tells me that there’s a lot of independent thinking people and that it matters who the individual is and I take that as a vote of confidence in what I hope to bring to represent them in the legislature.” In the recent past, the riding has voted Social Credit, NDP, Liberal and, in the 2017 election, Green.

Rankin said health care was the defining issue of the campaign and one of the first thing he wants to work on as an MLA is getting adequate home support for seniors so they don’t have to leave their home for a long-term care facility.

Grace Lore, a University of Victoria professor, is the likely winner in Victoria-Beacon Hill, where she had 50 per cent of the vote on election night. Lore said she’ll await the final count of the mail-in ballots to ensure everyone’s voice is heard.

Lore said once she is confirmed the winner, she’ll be “stepping into the biggest shoes in the province” as she takes over from universally respected veteran MLA and deputy premier Carole James.

“Her leadership has been one of compassion and collaboration, on being focused squarely on the difference politics can make in people’s lives,” Lore said. She said the idea of following James, who decided to retire after she was diagnosed as having Parkinson’s, gives her the motivation to serve the community as best she can.

Lore — who has been running a half marathon every Sunday in the month leading up to the election with friend Lise Berube, currently battling stage four cancer — spent election day running 20 kilometres around the riding and spent Sunday cuddling with her kids, six-year-old Eve and four-year-old Asher.

Lore said her priority once in the legislature will be the issues of mental health, homelessness and addiction, issues which she said are not new but have been magnified by the pandemic.

With almost 48 per cent of the election-night vote, Michele Babchuk, a Campbell River city councillor, is the probable winner of the North Island seat, which was held by Transportation Minister Claire Trevena; she chose not to turn again. Babchuk was not available for an interview Sunday.

NDP candidate Adam Walker is the front-runner in the Parksville-Qualicum Beach riding with 39.78 per cent of election-night votes to Liberal incumbent Michelle Stilwell’s 34.65 per cent. The winner could be determined by the mail-in votes.

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