NDP’s Gary Holman wins Saanich North and the Islands riding by 163 votes

The NDP’s Gary Holman was declared MLA-elect for Saanich North and the Islands on Wednesday, after a hard-fought three-way race that came down to the final ballots.

Holman widened his slim election-night lead over Liberal Stephen P. Roberts to finish 163 votes ahead after the final count of absentee and special ballots.

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Green party candidate Adam Olsen was 379 votes behind Holman.

The final results from Elections B.C. marked the end of one of B.C.’s closest election races. It also ended 22 years of Liberal control of the riding.

“The job starts as of now,” said Holman, a 64-year-old economist and former Saltspring Island director for the Capital Regional District.

“It’s been a bit frustrating because for two weeks I haven’t allowed myself, or even felt it was appropriate, to be acting as an MLA. So time’s a wasting.”

Holman attended an NDP caucus meeting in Vancouver on Wednesday rather than watch the final vote count in his riding.

Liberal candidate Roberts called the results disappointing.

“It is what it is,” he said. “I had hoped we’d prevail in the end.”

Roberts, a former finance executive and first-time political hopeful, called the tight race “a baptism by fire for a rookie candidate.”

He said the Liberal party made a mistake by launching his campaign so late. Longtime Liberal Murray Coell announced his retirement as MLA in July 2012. Roberts said he began talking to the party in the fall but there wasn’t a scheduled nomination race until February 2013, and he didn’t win the party nod until March.

The late launch raised eyebrows among political observers at the time, who questioned if the Liberals had fumbled the chance for early campaigning in a tight race. Roberts spent considerable money on early advertising in an attempt to boost his public profile before the May 14 election date.

“I’m totally regretting that I didn’t have extra time,” he said. “It would have helped hugely.”

Roberts said the strong turnout for Olsen and the Green party “was obviously bad for us.”

“Clearly, our [Liberal] voters lacked faith … They decided to explore a little,” he said.

Holman’s margin of victory, though slim, is enough to avoid an automatic judicial recount, according to B.C.’s election law.

The final count process involved tallying ballots that were not counted toward the total on election night, such as absentee ballots, mail-in votes and special ballots from hospitals and long-term care facilities.

The end of Elections B.C.’s final count process left the B.C. Liberals with 49 seats, the B.C. NDP with 34 seats, the B.C. Greens with one seat, and independent Vicki Huntington with her seat in Delta South.

The riding of Coquitlam-Maillardville is set for a judicial recount.

Voter turnout was 54 per cent of eligible voters, which amounted to an increase from the record-low voter turnout of 51 per cent in 2009.

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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