It was a historic campaign, and a result filled with drama and suspense.
The 2017 provincial election, which took place on May 9, could not have gone any more differently in the two Cowichan ridings.
Over in Nanaimo-North Cowichan, incumbent NDP MLA Doug Routley knew relatively early in the evening he’d be cruising to an easy victory, and on his birthday, no less.
Routley’s 12,275 votes bested runner-up Liberal candidate Alana DeLong’s 7,380 by multiple thousands while Lia Versaevel’s 6,244 votes was good enough for third. Independent candidate Anna Paddon got 274 of the 26,173 overall votes cast.
It was the third provincial election in a row in which Routley won by a significant margin.
“What I have noticed and really enjoyed about this campaign was so many families and young people getting engaged,” he said at the time. “We had a lot of fun and people were so captured by it and I think it points to the new direction we need to take with politics.”
Speaking of a new direction, in the Cowichan Valley electoral district, history was made as Green Party candidate Sonia Furstenau became part of the province’s first ever Green Party caucus. She was one of three Greens elected that night, along with Green Party leader Andrew Weaver (Oak Bay-Gordon Head) and Adam Olsen (Saanich North-The Islands).
It was a nail-biter for Furstenau and her supporters because unlike Routley’s routine victory, the Cowichan Valley riding’s polls were significantly tighter, with it becoming clear quite early in the evening that Furstenau and NDP candidate Lori Iannidinardo were in for a dogfight for the top spot with Liberal candidate Steve Housser also knocking solidly on the door.
Adding to the dramatic events, four other candidates also ran, stealing 1,164 votes from the Big Three.
Independent Ian Morrison led the rest of the pack with 502 of those votes while Libertarian James Anderson, independent Samuel Lockhart, and independent socialist Eden Haythornthwaite earned 393, 145, and 124 votes respectively.
Furstenau ultimately got word about 10:40 p.m., in one of the province’s last results of the night, that her 11,475 votes had earned her the role of the Cowichan Valley’s new MLA.
“That is historic,” she said. “We’re going to demonstrate that politics can be done differently. We have a lot of work to do and we’re going to do it together.”
When the dust settled, Liberal Premier Christy Clark was ousted and replaced by NDP leader John Horgan after a vote of non-confidence. The NDP was handed control of the provincial government when an alliance with the three Green members was granted by Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon, giving them a slight upper hand when it comes to voting for new legislation.
Clark offered “a true, sincere congratulations” to Horgan on his opportunity to lead, adding that “he is inheriting the best balanced books in the country, the strongest economy in the country, the best job growth in Canada and a great fiscal situation.”
The Liberals had run the B.C. government for 16 years.
-With a file from Tom Fletcher and Ashley Wadhwani