Hot on the heels of a huge hometown rally with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh two nights earlier, incumbent MP Richard Cannings raised his arms in victory Monday after winning a second term in office.
It wasn’t an easy ride, though. At one point, Conservative challenger Helena Konanz was within 0.4 per cent, and polls leading up to election day had her within striking range of claiming the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding.
“Before the results started to come in there were some butterflies. It’s one of those things where you work for months and it comes down to the one day,” said Cannings. “We didn’t know what was going to happen … we were cautiously optimistic. It’s a very good feeling to be here tonight.”
Connie Denesiuk, the Liberal candidate, was first to concede to Cannings once the election had been called. Although the election didn’t go in her favour, Denesiuk received an outpouring of support from her supporters at the Penticton Liberal office. Many came to gift her flowers and their well-wishes with the announcement that incumbent NDP Richard Cannings has been re-elected.
“I have just spoken to Richard Cannings and have congratulated him on winning the riding. I am happy that it is a progressive voice moving forward. Again, not the repressive, negative politics but moving forward,” said Denesiuk. “So we talked about our similarities in terms of wanting good things, climate change action, and progressive things, better things for Canadians. Because that’s what government exists for and that’s what I believe, and that’s what all of you believe is that it exists to make lives better.”
Cannings said these are very interesting times in Canadian politics, and he is happy to have a voice.
“I would have liked to have twice as many seats (for the NDP) but we are in a very good position to carry forward our commitment to Canadians on affordable housing, on Pharmacare, on climate action,” said Cannings.
Konanz waited until later in the evening for her concession.
“I just got off the phone with Richard and congratulated him on a well-fought battle. Disappointing battle. I don’t know, is it more disappointing when it is really close?” said Konanz. “Every vote was hard fought for. Forty-thousand doors. Forty-thousand doors. Nobody got close to that. Thank you so much!”
The unofficial results have Cannings elected with 24,304 votes, a small edge over Konanz’ 23,508 votes. Denesiuk garnered 11,481 votes at that point, followed by Green candidate Tara Howse with 5,520 votes. Sean Taylor of the People’s Party had 1,588 votes and independent candidate Carolina Hopkins has 360 votes. Voter turnout, according to Elections Canada, was 67.72 per cent in South Okanagan West Kootenay, higher than the national average of 65.95 per cent.
In Rossland, the mood was upbeat at the end-of-campaign party for Howse at a brewpub in the resort town.
“I’m so happy to be in Rossland celebrating this night, I’m looking forward to the local Rossland results,” said the first-time candidate. “This town really supported me. I’m really glad I made the decision to be here.”
Howse said she felt good about her performance, despite the party being unable to crack about 10 per cent of the vote, edged out by the dominant NDP and Conservatives.
“I think I have been able to present as a strong candidate for the party,” she said. “And by no means am I trying to denigrate any other previous candidates, but I feel I represented a really great potential for this riding, to be able to marry that really strong environmental concern with the economic and social issues that we really have.”
Sean Taylor, running for the People’s Party and earning 1,353 votes, said he was thrilled with the experience.
“I’m blown away with how well I’ve been received down here, and the support from all the PPCers all over the riding. I would have preferred to have a longer runway, I feel like we were just hitting our stride now. I feel stoked, I think it went really well for us,” said Taylor.
On Oct. 19, Cannings was visited by party leader Jagmeet Singh along with three other NDP candidates from other ridings surrounded by hundreds of party faithful at a rally in the Lakeside Resort.
At the time of the rally, the 338Canada poll showed the riding to be a dead heat between the NDP and Conservatives.
By noon on election day, the polls for the riding had the NDP at on top at 37.5 per cent ahead of the Conservatives 29.3 per cent followed by the Liberals at 19.1 per cent and at the Green Party at 10.8 per cent.
“I don’t know how important it (rally) was to our success but I think it was just an indication of the local support that we have,” said Cannings. “It showed local people that there’s huge support in Penticton for the NDP and they really like our message and they like our leader.
“We had huge problems with way too many people showing up but that’s always a good problem to have.”
In the 2015 federal election, Cannings finished with 37 per cent of the voter share, ahead of Conservative Marshall Neufeld (30 per cent) Liberal Denesiuk (28 per cent) and Greens Samantha Troy (four per cent).
“Both were interesting campaigns but they were completely different, the first one there were no incumbents running so it was kind of an open field. There was a real sense that people were tired of the Harper government and wanted a change so that was kind of the theme but this time I’m the incumbent so I had to defend my record as an MP,” said Cannings. “I certainly prefer this campaign of our popularity certainly rising day by day that’s a very good feeling to run on.”