The majority of the country may be red, but the new riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen-Nicola is blue – barely.
Conservative Dan Albas earned his seat by a slim margin Monday night, bucking a national trend that saw the Liberals capturing 184 seats, Conservatives 99 seats, NDP 44, Bloc Quebecois 10 and the Green Party 1.
“It was a lot tighter than we expected it to be,” Albas said about his fight to return to Ottawa.
Early in the night Albas had a more than 15 per cent lead on his closest rival Liberal Karley Scott. Media outlets called the election within the first 90 minutes of the polls closing but in the remaining hours the gap was closed to a mere 2.2 per cent difference.
The final result was Albas with 24,425 votes; Scott 23,028; NDP Angelique Wood 11,939 and Green Robert Mellalieu 2,428.
Because results were so close, Albas put off interviews with the press until counting was almost complete. He spoke with the Review only after 230 of the 231 polls were counted.
“We knew it was going to be a close election. It’s good to see that the people want to have an experienced member of parliament…. someone who can work with anyone. I think the people are always right,” he said during a phone interview from his celebration party in West Kelowna.
Albas was first elected in 2011 as Conservative MP for Okanagan Coquihalla. Electoral boundaries were adjusted in 2012 to reflect current population trends. The new boundary includes Princeton, Keremeos, and stretches north to Logan Lake, Merritt and east to West Kelowna.
Albas, a former Penticton city councillor, moved to West Kelowna in 2012.
During his time as MP, he served a majority Conservative government.
He is now part of the official opposition and said he looks forward to the challenge.
When asked to comment about the overall standings of the Conservative Party following the election he expressed sympathy for all MPs who were not re-elected.
“So many good people from all sides of the house aren’t returning to Ottawa in what will be the 41st session of parliament… there were many great candidates all across Canada,” he said.
He expressed appreciation for his fellow candidates in Central Okanagan Similkameen-Nicola adding they ran “very honourable campaigns.”
Liberal Karley Scott came in a close second only losing by 1,397 votes.
Scott did not conduct interviews with the media until the final polling station results were filed.
Although disappointed she did not win, she was also optimistic.
“We’ve been knocking on doors since March. We knew we would perform well in this riding and I think it is a testament to the amazing campaign run nationally on hope, optimism and sunny ways,” she said. “Of course I would have liked to have won. We worked hard for a win but I’m optimistic that there will be a Liberal majority for the next four years.”
Angelique Wood, who ran for the NDP and the only candidate to live in the Similkameen received about 20 per cent of the vote. Wood, who was in West Kelowna during election night, did not return phone calls Monday but did submit a statement to the Review Tuesday morning.
“I’m surprised by the results but congratulates (sic) all the other candidates on a campaign well-contested. We all worked hard and kept it clean and did our parties proud,” she stated.
Wood as surprised with the results from her local riding as she was with the overall finish of the NDP nationally.
“(I’m) surprised but I can understand that with an influx of young voters we see a younger person represent themselves. Very glad to see the Harper Conservatives out of the Majority position.”
Green Party candidate Robert Mellalieu said he was disappointed his party only managed to secure one seat – that of party leader Elizabeth May who was re-elected in the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.
“I expected more. I thought there was going to be a few seats in Vancouver,” he said from West Kelowna.
Mellalieu said he plans to run Green again in the 2019 election and expects his party to do better if the Liberals live up to their promises.
“(Liberals) said they would take care of electoral reform. This will be the last past the post election so we’ll see how we make out next election,” he said.
Unofficially voter turnout was estimated at 71.8 per cent in Central Okanagan Similkameen-Nicola. No comparisons from previous elections are available as it is a new riding.
Voter turnout nationally was estimated at about 67 per cent well over the 2011 turnout of 61 per cent.