A jubilant Ronna-Rae Leonard salutes the crowd at her victory party at the Avalanche Bar & Grill. (photo by Scott Stanfield)

UPDATE: Leonard declared early winner for Courtenay-Comox

NDP incumbent held similar margin of lead throughout the evening

This article has been updated to include comments from Green Party candidate Gillian Anderson.

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The NDP’s Ronna-Rae Leonard expects to get to sleep a little earlier this election night than she did in 2017.

After a razor-thin victory margin in a contest that went well into overtime last time out, the incumbent has been declared winner in Courtenay-Comox, at least based on preliminary results from voting day.

“I think we’re in a place right now where people can breathe a little bit easier,” she told the Record on Saturday night.

Mail-in and absentee ballot results are still expected to be many days away. However, with all 105 stations reporting, Leonard maintains almost 48 per cent of the vote. As soon as the first ballots started coming in, she was holding steady in the mid-40 per cent range.

Brennan Day of the Liberals has just above 30 per cent, which was were he sat much of the night since polls closed, while the Greens’ Gillian Anderson is at 21.38 per cent.

For Leonard, the preliminary results over the course of the evening allowed her to relax a little more and muse on the work of her campaign people.

“I think they’re being rewarded, at least for the time being,” she said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the team in Courtenay-Comox. I couldn’t be prouder of the leader.”

She credited NDP leader John Horgan for his efforts to lead the province through the pandemic and into the future, and she is looking forward to getting back to work in the legislature with her colleagues. Horgan is projected to form a majority government, barring some kind of major shift once all the final ballots are counted.

While half a million mail-in ballots are yet to be counted, preliminary election night results give the NDP a majority government with 55 seats, a 14-seat gain over 2017. The BC Liberals received 29 seats, a 12-seat drop since 2017, while the BC Greens won three, same as in 2017.

Saturday’s numbers indicate an increase in voter support for the BC Greens in Courtenay-Comox, which Anderson referred to in her statement to the constituency, filed Sunday.

“On behalf of my campaign, I would like to thank all of the voters in Courtenay-Comox who cast their ballot,” she said. “Our campaign is gratified to see the increased level of support in Courtenay-Comox this time around for BC Greens vision and platform.”

The Greens accounted for 18.36 per cent of the popular vote in the constituency in 2017.

Provincially, the Greens are presumptive winners of three seats. Incumbents Adam Olson (Saanich North) and party leader Sonia Furstenau (Cowichan Valley) retained their seats, and Jeremy Valeriote is projected to win in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky.

“The election of three BC Green MLAs shows that our message is resonating with British Columbians and we are expanding our appeal beyond Vancouver Island,” Anderson said. “BC Greens have a number of projected second-place finishes and our first MLA from the Lower Mainland. We are overwhelmed by the number of people who have supported us and expressed their concerns for the ecological health of our province.”

Anderson also acknowledged her Courtenay-Comox opponents.

“I congratulate Ms. Leonard on her success, and congratulate Mr. Day on his strong campaign,” she said, then promised to continue to champion the party platform. “In the face of the increasing threat of climate change and the massive loss of biodiversity and habitat in B.C., the BC Greens will continue to hold the government accountable to ensure they improve their record of environmental protection and create healthy and safe communities.”

For voters in Cumberland and the south part of the Comox Valley, the NDP’s Josie Osborne had already been declared winner, or at least front-runner, earlier in the night.

The projected majority means a little more security for Leonard and the NDP.

“I think it gives us a clear mandate to go forward,” she said. “I’m excited to be a part of it.”

When work resumes, she expects some of the top priorities will be to provide more stability for people struggling during the pandemic through measures like the one-time recovery benefit or rent freezes.

“We know how scary things are for so many people,” she said.

Other issues high on the agenda will be $10-a-day child care for families, along with the economic recovery investment fund and job creation.

“Those are the really concrete acts that we’re intending to take right out of the gate,” she said.

Even with a majority, Leonard expects the government to reach out to many different people for ideas and consider all interests in the province.

“We are going to work for everyone,” she added.

Last time, on election night Leonard won by only nine votes. When all the votes will finally counted, she still ended up with a victory margin of fewer than 200 votes.

(The Record has reached out to Brennan Day and will update this story later.)



mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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