Alistair MacGregor following his election night win in October. (Photo by Lexi Bainas/Cowichan Valley Citizen)

2019 in Review: NDP holds Cowichan-Malahat-Langford the riding after federal election

Even two weeks before voting day, pollsters were predicting a tight race

Before Oct. 21, the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding was one of the country’s federal election hot spots. Eyes from across the country dialed in on the long-time NDP stronghold as the incumbent MP, Alistair MacGregor, was facing serious challenges from Conservative candidate Alana DeLong, the Green Party’s Lydia Hwitsum and Liberal candidate Blair Herbert.

Even two weeks before voting day, pollsters were predicting a tight race, as the numbers were showing all four candidates each had more than 20 per cent of the vote.

The NDP had held the riding since Jean Crowder first won in 2004. MacGregor and the NDP hung on to retain the seat in 2015 after Crowder’s retirement despite a change in riding boundaries for the 2012 federal election that narrowed the gap between the NDP and its challengers. Could MacGregor come out on top again? He hit the ground running first, being the first to announce his 2019 candidacy way back in December of 2018. DeLong announced in July of 2019 that she was the Conservative Party candidate and former Cowichan Tribes chief Hwitsum followed suit for the Green Party in August. Herbert’s announcement in September brought the list of main contenders to four, though Rhonda Chen and Robin Stanbridge also ran for the People’s Party of Canada and Christian Heritage Party, respectfully.

In the end MacGregor pulled through.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for the amount of hours you’ve put in,” he said to his supporters after his win was official. “This campaign would not have come home without all your efforts so thank you, thank you for all of that.”

MacGregor earned 23,519 votes, just over 36 per cent of the ballots cast. Conservative candidate Alana DeLong was second with 16,959, followed by Lydia Hwitsum of the Green Party with 13,181.

“I’m sorry we didn’t make it, but we found thousands that believe what we do,” DeLong said. “So many people have put their lives into this. It’s been fantastic.”

Herbert, who earned 10,301 votes was in an interesting position on election night.

Relatively early in the evening he knew he was not going to be elected himself but, with about 20 enthusiastic supporters at his campaign headquarters in Duncan, he was excitedly watching his party get ready to take power again in Ottawa.

“I’m disappointed with the local results in Cowichan-Malahat-Langford. I’m not surprised,” he said. “The NDP are pretty locked in here and have been for a number of years. I’m not surprised at the way it went locally. But, I’m happy with the way it went nationally. So, I guess all around I’m happy.”

Hwitsum was gracious in her defeat, saying while she lost the riding to the NDP, the Green Party across Canada continues to grow and build its strength.

“We need a Green voice to speak for us. I really wanted to win tonight, but I knew it was an uphill battle.”

All told, there were 65,228 valid ballots cast in the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding, and another 282 rejected ballots for a total of 65,510 votes from the 92,637 elegible voters — that’s 71 per cent voter turnout, higher than the national average of 66 per cent.

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