Despite a Liberal wave that washed across the country Monday night, the party didn’t take any seats on Vancouver Island but did make gains.
Nothing, it seemed, (other than Elizabeth May) was going to burst the orange bubble that is Vancouver Island.
“We worked really hard and it made a difference in the campaign [though] we didn’t quite get there,” said David Merner, the Liberal Party candidate who came close to upsetting NDP Randall Garrison in the Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke riding.
“The fact that we didn’t win in this riding is just a small part of a much bigger picture, and the bigger picture is fantastic,” Merner said.
Merner actually led early in the evening but finished with 18,573 votes to Garrison’s 23,816. Green Party Frances Litman had 13,578 votes and Conservative Shari Lukens 11,885.
“We had expected more,” said Liberal Tim Kane, who was third in the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding. “But we are very happy with [close to] 17 per cent of the vote. We were at six per cent in 2011.”
Incumbents won all three of the Saanich area ridings. May took an overwhelming 37,076 votes in Saanich-Gulf Islands, ahead of Conservative Robert Boyd (13,263), Kane (11,430) and NDP candidate Alicia Cormier (6,181).
The question is whether it’s a major sign of growth for the Liberals, which jumped up from 4,208 in the 2011 election, or as May suggested, a strategic voting anomaly due to a significant anti-Harper sentiment on the West Coast.
In the Victoria riding, several eyebrows were raised when Liberal Cheryl Thomas garnered 8,482 votes despite withdrawing from the race (too late to have her name omitted from the ballot).
NDP MP Murray Rankin handily won the Victoria riding with 30,147 votes to journalist turned Green Party candidate Jo-Ann Roberts’s 23,577.
“People voted massively for change. I guess in Victoria I’m proud that I was the vehicle for that change,” said Rankin, who was disappointed with the NDP’s overall results.
“Obviously I was hoping for a different result for the NDP, but I am delighted that people have decided that it’s time for getting rid of Stephen Harper’s vision of Canada.”
Garrison echoed that it was a bittersweet moment for the NDP on the Island.
He pledged to continue his work to bring the shipbuilding jobs to Esquimalt that the Conservatives had promised, and to put pressure on the Liberals to repeal Bill C51.
A fourth-place finish in Saanich-Gulf Islands was not the result the NDP’s Cormier had expected, yet her campaign office in Sidney was still buoyed from the sight of a wholesale change of government in Canada.
“This was a general desire to change the government,” said Cormier. “That was the main issue. It was not the result we had hoped for, but obviously the Liberal campaign worked.”
Outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s resignation as party leader comes as a disappointment for Saanich-Gulf Islands Conservative candidate Boyd. The 28-year-old had asked Harper to remain on.
“I am a little surprised at the result across the country, but we have been in power 9.5 years,” said Boyd, who still believes the riding can return to its historically Conservative past.