After more than 20 years as the Conservative stronghold of John Duncan, the newly configured riding of Courtenay-Alberni boasts a newcomer in charge.
NDP candidate Gordon Johns convincingly unseated longtime MP Duncan with a win declared before half the polls were reported in what was forecasted to be one of the tightest races in Canada. Johns said the need for more jobs, more environmental protection for the coast and more attention to aboriginal issues were factors in a victory that left him “very humbled and honoured” by voters’ trust.
He said he wasn’t aware of NDP results across the country and why he bucked them.
Duncan’s defeat means there are no Conservatives among seven seats on Vancouver Island. First elected in 1993, Duncan was the last remaining original Reform Party MP other than Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Liberal candidate Carrie Powell-Davidson nipped at Duncan’s heels from the get-go and finished with 23 per cent of votes, compared with 26 per cent for Duncan and 37 per cent for Johns.
Johns said that people wanted a stronger voice on central Vancouver Island on everything from seniors issues to health care. “They felt that they needed change and strong voice in Ottawa on these issues. The economy was a huge one. One in three kids in the Alberni Valley lives in poverty, one in five in the Comox Valley — it’s unacceptable,” Johns said.
The riding has one of the largest proportions of aboriginal people on the Island and Johns, 44, said he received the “historic endorsement” of the hereditary chiefs of the Nuuchahnulth people.
Duncan had to resign as Aboriginal Affairs Minister in 2013 after improperly advocating to the Tax Court on behalf of a constituent.
Johns said his opponents invested huge dollars in the riding, but that local voters connected with the NDP’s understanding of the local issues.
He noted that Duncan supported cuts to marine traffic control centres and “omnibus bills that gutted Canada’s environmental laws,” along with snubbing NDP efforts to deal with derelict vessels in the past.
Johns, a former Tofino councillor and businessman, was class valedictorian at Mount Douglas high school in 1988.
The showing by Powell-Davidson, a former Parksville councillor, marked a huge increase from less than seven per cent of the votes in 2011 for the Liberals.
Green candidate Glenn Sollitt upped the Green showing to nearly 12 per cent, from about seven in the last election, but the engineer finished a distant fourth.
with 272 of 272 polls reporting
Gord Johns, NDP — 26,595
John Duncan, Conservative — 19,631
Carrie Powell-Davidson, Liberal — 15,1663
Glenn Sollitt, Green — 8,190
Barbara Biley, Marxist-Leninist — 137
Marxist-Leninist Barbara Biley 137 0.2 %
Conservative John Duncan 19,631 28.2 %
NDP-New Democratic Party Gord Johns 26,595 38.1 %
Liberal Carrie Powell-Davidson 15,166 21.8 %
Green Party Glenn Sollitt 8,190 11.7 %