As of press time the NDP seemed to be bucking a national trend on Vancouver Island, with leads in six of seven ridings, the exception being the Green stronghold of Elizabeth May in Saanich – Gulf Islands.
By 8:45 p.m. Sheila Malcolmson had been declared winner in Nanaimo-Ladysmith with a lead of 32.7 per cent. Liberal Tim Tessier was sitting second at 24.6 per cent.
Alistair MacGregor had been declared and was pulling ahead of his opponents in Cowichan-Malahat-Langford at 35.4 per cent, compared to Conservative Martin Barker, who sat second at 24.1 per cent.
If that picture holds Vancouver Island will be a bulwark for two opposition parties: the NDP and the Greens. The NDP was leading or elected in only 35 seats nationally; May was the only Green candidate elected.
The outcome is a huge disappointment for the NDP, which started the campaign in August sitting high in the polls. It also comes as a disappointment for May, who had hoped to gain some ground on Vancouver Island.
On Saturday, Oct. 17, May visited Nanaimo-Ladysmith to bolster the campaign of Paul Manly. But with 60 of 254 polls counted, Manly sat in fourth spot with 19.6 per cent of the votes cast.
May and the Greens were also hoping for a breakthrough in Victoria, but incumbent Murray Rankin had a 3,290 vote lead over Green candidate Jo-Ann Roberts, and easily retained his seat.
Malcolmson said she and her campaign team had “a really strong sense from the voters that we were talking to today, but we never underestimate the strength or the Conservative base, so we are relieved and honoured to be getting some good news at the end of the night.”
Asked why the vote was so strong for the NDP on the Island, Malcolmson said, “I like to think that voters were compelled by our positive vision, and our support for social safety nets, stronger environmental regulations, and undoing the damage that the Conservatives have wrought.
“On Vancouver Island the choice to overturn that was New Democrats.”
She said the strong NDP presence on Vancouver Island will give politicians here a ‘common cause’ when it comes to the issues.
“We’ve got an emergent agriculture industry that’s value added,” she said. “We’ve got a real push and a common cause around value added forestry and doing what we can from the federal side to roll back raw log exports.”
She emphasized an “extremely strong push on repairing the damaged relationship with indigenous peoples.
“I feel we can work well with the Liberals on that, but having a strong NDP caucus on Vancouver Island is going to make our work that much more effective.”
Asked about electoral reform, Malcolmson said, “I’m deeply committed to it, I’ve seen it work very well… I am confident we will be able to bend the Liberals’ ear on that one.”