NDP Murray Rankin easily held onto his seat in Victoria despite his party’s collapse under the steamroller of a Liberal wave.
“Thank you, Victoria,” said Rankin, smiling broadly to a cheering crowd gathered at his Yates Street campaign office. “What a strange, long campaign it’s been.”
Rankin, 65, a Harvard-educated expert in environmental and public law, defeated Green Jo-Ann Roberts, a former CBC host.
As of 10:30 p.m., with about 83 per cent of polls reporting, Rankin was about 5,200 votes ahead of Roberts.
The win was bittersweet for Rankin. He campaigned on getting rid of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, but envisioned himself as part of a minority government led by NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, a government in which the NDP leader said Rankin would play a critical role.
It was not to be.
“I hope people will remember the amazing role Tom Mulcair and the NDP opposition [played],” Rankin told the Times Colonist following his win.
“We were the ones who held [Harper ] to account day after day after day in Parliament … and I think Canadians will be grateful to us that we started that ball rolling.”
Rankin called the Liberals’ sweep amazing and said he will work with the party on affordable childcare, housing and environmental protection.
“To the people of Victoria, I am honoured to have served as your MP and am deeply humbled by the trust you have again placed in me today,” Rankin told the crowd.
The campaign started out with Roberts having lunch with Rankin prior to announcing her candidacy for the Greens in Victoria in January and ended with her calling Rankin Monday night to congratulate him on his win.
“To those who voted for another candidate, I honour your choice and pledge to represent everyone in this community, to the best of my ability,” Rankin told supporters.
Roberts was surprised by the loss.
“I’m disappointed, really disappointed. I felt I was feeling this momentum this week, a lot of encouragement … It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Roberts, 59, said the Greens changed the conversation in this election campaign — something she is pleased about.
“But in the end, [voters] wanted change and what we saw, maybe, was some of the pitfalls of strategic voting,” Roberts said. “People were voting for change to stop Stephen Harper … and here on the Island I guess people felt a New Democratic vote was a way for that change.”
Liberal Cheryl Thomas, who withdrew on Sept. 30 over past Facebook comments about the conflict in the Middle East, was reflective Monday night.
“The sacrifice was worth it,” said Thomas, 60, a business consultant.
“I had a choice to try to make an issue of the cyberbullying in a very tight race, but I saw a red tide coming and I said I’m not going to get in the way.”
Thomas said the Liberal majority win is bittersweet in that it means the government will get Canada back on track. “I’m also a bit sad because we could have won this riding,” Thomas said.
John Rizzuti, 66, a former school principal, said he was proud to represent the Conservatives. “Canadians have voted, and I respect their vote. I am proud of the campaign I ran.”
Rankin regards himself as a “linchpin” in the compensation deal the Conservative government created for victims of Thalidomide — a drug prescribed to pregnant women in the 1960s for morning sickness that caused stunted and missing limbs in their babies. He cites it as a highlight from his first term in office.
Rankin rose to the position of health critic from critic for pensions and national revenue.
Mulcair told the Times Colonist Rankin was “one of my most trusted confidants, advisers and, frankly, a brilliant and experienced individual.”
The issue that prompted Rankin to run in 2012 continues to be at the forefront for him — stopping Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat. Other priorities include affordable housing and childcare, improved access to health care, and environmental protection and climate change.
More locally, Rankin wants to preserve or attain federal funding for sewage treatment, the proposed $18-million Belleville Terminal and homelessness.
Born in Belleville, Ont., Rankin is married to Linda Hannah, whom he met at a founding board meeting for the Western Canada Wilderness Committee. He has two adult children, Benjamin, 28, and Mark, 25.
with 253 of 253 polls reporting
Murray Rankin, NDP — 30,147
Jo-Ann Roberts, Green — 23,577
Cheryl Thomas, Liberal — 8,482
John Rizzuti, Conservative — 8,425
Art Lowe, Libertarian — 528
Jordan Reichert, Animal Alliance/Environment Voters — 198
Saul Andersen, Independent — 121