It’s been a remarkable election amidst a pandemic, but one that has left Kamloops at a loss, unless counting of mail-in ballots reveal an October surprise, according to political scientists at Thompson Rivers University.
The B.C. NDP is set to form a majority government following election night on Saturday (Oct. 24), securing 55 seats to the BC Liberals 29 and Green Party’s three, pending tabulation of about 500,000 mail-in ballots next month.
TRU political science professor professor Rob Hanlon told KTW it is clear the NDP will hold a majority in the legislature despite the mail-in ballots yet to be added to the tallies.
“There might be some ridings that change hands here or there, but for the most part, it’s looking like a clear NDP winner,” Hanlon said.
In Kamloops-South Thompson, Liberal Todd Stone won handily by 4,000 votes, but in Kamloops-North Thompson, Liberal Peter Milobar leads NDP candidate Sadie Hunter by about 800 votes, with an estimated 1,800 mail-in ballots to count.
“On the North Shore, it might be interesting. We know that, if we’re to believe polling, there was the suggestion that most of the mail-in voters were NDP voters, so there’s still some possible implications for that,” Hanlon told KTW at about 9:45 p.m.
He said close ridings like Kamloops-North Thompson or Fraser-Nicola may not be officially called for a few weeks.
Milobar has been declared the projected winner of the riding, though he told KTW he isn’t going “to go measure the drapes in the office anytime soon” as he awaits official results in the coming days.
While there were 5,744 mail-in ballots requested for Kamloops-North Thompson, Milobar said at his last check on Saturday, the number received by Elections BC was about 1,800.
Milobar said conventional wisdom would suggest the results of mail-in ballots will mirror what came in on election night.
“I’m assuming that’s why the projection is the way it is, short of a monumental collapse of the rest of the percentages,” Milobar said.
TRU political science professor Derek Cook said it’s probable Milobar will win a second term, but added Kamloops electing two opposition MLAs does not bode well amidst a majority NDP government.
“Hopefully, they’ll care about us anyway, but this is not a great situation,” Cook said.
For Kamloops, the question is whether Stone will secure the Liberal leadership moving forward, Cook said, noting that would “put us on the map.”
“Then we can’t be ignored at least,” Cook said.
Cook said there is no way B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson can stay on as leader and believes he’ll step aside once the mail-in ballots are counted, which begins on Nov. 6.
“He can’t stay on,” Cook said. “He came across as an irrational bureaucrat with sensibilities that were outdated — sort of a cold fish.”
In 2018, Stone sought the party leadership against Wilkinson and Cook believes Stone’s political background, personality and his strong electoral victory makes him a prime candidate for leader.
Hanlon, however, said he’s not sure if there will be a change in Liberal leadership, noting Wilkinson won his riding.
Political musings from the professors
With a majority government, Hanlon said the NDP has a clear mandate to continue doing what they have been doing in forming government for the second straight time — the second time the party has accomplished a repeat.
Hanlon noted the NDP picked up some traditional Liberal ridings in the Lower Mainland and it seems the electorate sent a message of wanting stability.
“I think John Horgan and the NDP made that political gamble to call an election, but they did it strategically,” Hanlon said. “It’s clearly paid off.”
Cook said it was also interesting to see the Greens make landfall in mainland B.C., as candidate Jeremy Valeriote is the projected winner in West Vancouver Sea-to-Sky.
“We’ll see in two weeks for sure,” Cook said.
The Greens took two seats on Vancouver Island, with leader Sonia Furstenau poised to return the Cowichan Valley riding and Adam Olsen the Saanich North and the Islands riding.
Cook pondered whether the NDP can retain young environmentalists under the majority mandate.
“This four years is very important for dealing with climate change. We don’t have a lot of time if we’re going to turn it around,” Cook said.
He said the NDP could do a few things to keep those voters in their ranks, such as cancelling the troubled BC Hydro Site C dam project and cutting oil and gas subsidies, of which they have given more than the Liberal Christy Clark government the New Democrats succeeded.
“It’s certainly an election to remember,” Hanlon said.