Todd Stone’s re-election in Kamloops-South Thompson was secured early in ballot counting, with the incumbent B.C. Liberal candidate jumping out to a large lead and never looking back.
Stone’s victory over NDP candidate Anna Thomas and Green candidate Dan Hines was the silver lining on a dark cloud of an election for his B.C. Liberal Party, which lost more than a dozen seats, based on election night vote counts and pending tabulation of about 500,000 mail-in ballots next month.
Voter turnout is estimated at 39 per cent.
The NDP rolled the dice on a snap election and rolled to a majority government win, securing 54 of 87 seats as of election night counting. The Liberals have 29 and the Greens are holding on to three seats — the same number they held at dissolution.
Incumbent MLA Stone said he is “grateful” for his landslide victory on Saturday night, which breaks a 117-year streak in the riding of voters electing a government MLA.
“I’m grateful that the people of Kamloops-South Thompson have placed their trust in me for another four years to represent them,” Stone said, adding he is also grateful for volunteers who worked on his campaign, Kamloops-North Thompson B.C. Liberal running mate Peter Milobar and family support.
Asked what went right during the campaign, Stone said he and Milobar demonstrated in the last term that working together gets results for the community.
“Certainly, we stand up day in and day out and fight as hard as we can,” Stone said. “I’m sure that these two constituencies are well represented and are the centre of the government’s attention. That will continue. We put in front of our constituencies a range of specific commitments and priorities that we’re going to advocate.”
Stone said at the top of the list is improved cancer care. During the election campaign, he and Milobar and the Liberals promised a cancer care facility in Kamloops and noted Premier John Horgan, also re-elected on Saturday night, announced a similar promise the following day.
“That’s something it would appear we can find common ground with John Horgan and the NDP, so we’re going to make darn sure that the NDP follow through on their commitment this time and not betray the community, as they did the last time a cancer centre was promised by the NDP,” Stone said, referring to a broken NDP promise in 1991.
While Stone secured a landslide victory, his B.C. Liberal party dd not fare as well, in line to lose more than a dozen seats, pending about 500,000 mail-in ballots to be counted as of Nov. 6.
Stone said internal reflection within the party will occur in the not-so-distant future to examine what did and did not work. He noted the party lost a number of seats in Metro Vancouver, but highlighted the fact the Liberals elected fresh faces and strong veterans.
Asked if party leader Andrew Wilkinson — who defeated Stone in the 2018 leadership race — should step down as leader, Stone touted his intelligence and focus and said he supports Wilkinson. He said the decision is Wilkinson’s and the party will have time for reflection later.
If Wilkinson steps down will Stone again run for leadership?
“Totally hypothetical and too early to start thinking about that kind of stuff,” he said.
Pushed on his support, he said the message from a local perspective resonated.
“On a provincial scale, let’s see what happens when all the votes are counted over the next two or three weeks. We’ll see what happens and then go from there.”
Hines said he was disappointed to come in third place, noting he was hoping for more votes. However, he said he still felt good overall about the campaign he ran.
Hines said he was not surprised by the result of a NDP majority government, noting snap elections favour incumbents, which have teams together and name recognition.
“A snap election is a huge advantage and it’s pretty hard to overcome,” Hines said. “We knew that.”
Hines called it a “party vote” and that the NDP pandemic response also played a factor.
Hines said he hoped the NDP calling the snap election would have been a deeper concern for voters during the pandemic.
“The big story of the night is that the NDP are being kind of rewarded for making that call,” he said. “They basically got the result they wanted, which is deeply sad, but it’s the way it goes.”
Pundits questioned how many seats the Greens would pick up. The party entered the election with a new leader and the NDP broke its agreement with the party to govern for another year under an agreement reached after the 2017 election.
Despite having lost the balance of power, Hines said he is happy with how the party fared, pointing to the B.C. Liberal party that lost many seats to the NDP.
“As a Green, I’m pretty happy with the results tonight,” he said. “Overall, for coming to this snap election, it’s pretty good for us to end up with three or four seats.”
Asked if he would run again, Hines said he will reassess down the road.
“I’m just really grateful and thankful for everyone who contributed and jumped in, with the little bit of time we had to mobilize,” he said.
Thomas watched the election results with her immediate family at home in North Kamloops. Her first time running for public office, Thomas said with a laugh that she doesn’t know any different.
“Usually I’m on the other side, but this year I’m behind the scenes,” Thomas said. “Front row, actually.”
Thomas said it was “exciting,” labelling the campaign an amazing experience that went well.
“I have awesome volunteers. Kamloops-South Thompson committee worked so hard,” Thomas said. “They did such an amazing job guiding me any way they can. It made it a little easier. I don’t know how easy,” she said with a laugh.
Earlier on Saturday, Thomas spent time with friends, met her Kamloops-North Thompson NDP running mate Sadie Hunter and waited for her sister to arrive from Calgary.
She said she tried to make her day as normal as possible.
“I’m feeling really good,” she said. “It’s all been a learning process. I’m just thankful. It’s just really exciting to be part of the NDP movement and carve space for other women such as myself or people that have similar life experiences as me that, you know, I got to do this. I’m out here doing it.”