Black Press staff
The winds of change blew through the north half of Vancouver Island on Monday night, as the New Democrat Party claimed both Comox Valley ridings, including the newly created Courtenay-Alberni riding.
With 100 per cent of the polls reporting in the Courtenay-Alberni riding, Gord Johns was a convincing winner, taking 38.1 per cent of the votes (26,595). Conservative candidate John Duncan was a distant second, at 28.2 per cent (19,631). Liberal Carrie Powell-Davidson finished with 21.8 per cent (15,166), and Green candidate Glenn Sollitt had 11.7 per cent of the vote (8,190).
Marxist Leninist candidate Barbara Biley had 137 votes.
“We fought hard and got our message out,” Johns said to a happy crowd at the Quality Inn Bayside in Parksville. “We had more than 300 volunteers, people from across political lines. I want to thank my family for supporting me.”
Johns said it was not an easy campaign and acknowledged his opponents.
“It was a hard campaign. John Duncan served Vancouver Island for two decades. Glenn Sollitt ran a hard campaign and Carrie Powell-Davidson came a long way. We won this race because we had an incredible campaign team — there were a a lot of people who didn’t sleep. Tonight let’s enjoy our victory, tomorrow let’s get to work.”
Duncan, who was a sitting MP in the old Vancouver Island North riding, was shocked by the results.
“Obviously it’s a sad night for a lot of my friends, my colleagues. This was not the result I was anticipating at all,” he noted during a concession speech.
Duncan noted he is most disappointed that his fellow Conservative candidates he was mentoring on Vancouver Island did not succeed.
“It’s kind of tough … it’s kind of tough, yes. I know that everyone worked as hard they could and I actually thought we had a good message.”
He admitted the national campaign dictated voters, and added “there’s no way around it. That’s what happens.
“And obviously on this occasion, that’s what happened big time.”
Appointed in 2010 as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Duncan said his most proud moment came in the appointment, particularly in nation building. He added he never stopped caring and working for the community and the greater Island.
He said he will spend the next few days clearing out his three offices and preparing for life out of the public eye.
“All good things do come to an end at some point.”
Liberal Powell-Davidson made it a close race for second place, in her first-ever federal election campaign.
She was gracious in defeat.
“Congratulations to Gord, job well done,” she said. “I don’t have any regrets at all, my team and I worked our tail feathers off for the last year, I’m really satisfied with the job we did and the way we built the presence of the party in this riding.
“We’re a little disappointed in not getting this riding but we’re absolutely thrilled with the way it went nationally, so we’ll be celebrating regardless.”
Powell-Davidson has not given any thoughts to her political future, saying the only thing she sees in her immediate future is a good night’s sleep.
“I’ll definitely stay in connection with the party going forward. I just don’t have any answers about what’s next.”
She considered this a learning experience from the outset.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for the federal politicians,” she said. “I’ve learned that we have a really fabulous riding and everybody’s really engaged.”
She closed with a special thanks to everyone who worked with her on her campaign.
“The people that we’ve attracted to our team have just wowed me every day, they’re so dedicate they work so hard,” she said.
“Its been a great experience, I can’t say enough what a great experience it’s been.”
Despite being a distant fourth in voting, Sollitt wasn’t crying the blues.
“All things considered, actually it’s going OK,” the Green candidate said, from Qualicum. “I had so many positive interactions. I feel silly saying this, but I wouldn’t have been shocked to have won tonight. It felt that good going in…I’m just trying to reconcile the extent to which I was wrong.”
While a second-place finish would have been “palatable,” fourth is a little tougher to swallow.
“Where is that disconnect? It’s going to take some time to figure out. If it was just our riding, that’s one issue, but we didn’t elect a second Green MP anywhere.”
Party leader Elizabeth May, who became the Green’s first elected MP in 2011, retained her seat by a landslide in the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Sollitt said. “She’s loved. We’re sending her off by herself again for four years. I really wanted to be part of a team that was there to help her. I feel badly putting this burden back on Elizabeth May.
“We see such a willingness from so much of the population to embrace the change we felt we had, yet it didn’t transfer into votes,” Sollitt added. “Are we incorrect in our assumption of what people want? If it was a real close race I would have blamed fear and fear alone in people. We’ll have to re-assess and figure it out.”
In the 2011 federal election when the constituency was Vancouver Island North, Green candidate Sue Moen placed fourth in voting.
As for running again, Sollitt said a campaign requires unlimited time and money — neither of which he has.
“How do you climb back on that horse? It’s a hard decision to make… But I’m definitely not saying no.”
Marxist-Leninist candidate Barb Biley placed fifth in the Courtenay-Alberni riding. She could not be reached for comment.
– with files from Scott Stanfield, Erin Haluschak and Terry Farrell (Comox Valley Record);
Candace Wu and Auren Ruvinsky (Parksville Qualicum Bay News)