Election 2015: High voter turnout helps propel NDP to victory in SOWK

“We had a tremendous turnout, again because I think people were so desperate for change.” ~ Richard Cannings

New Democrat MP Richard Cannings says he’s humbled and proud to be the new MP for the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding.

But mostly, the first time federal politician is relieved the long campaign is over and he can take a short breather before moving onto business in Ottawa.

“I am happy it ended this way, of course,” Cannings said from his home Tuesday morning. “We worked hard, all the candidates worked hard, and I’d like to thank all of them for running a good, civil campaign.”

While he awaits a call from the country’s capital, Cannings reflected on matters he heard from constituents during the 20-plus local forums he attended.

“I really enjoyed the process of hearing from people and answering their questions,” Cannings told the Trail Times. “I know in this riding there are a lot of priorities, such as jobs. Alex (Atamanenko, former NDP MP) worked hard on those issues and I’ll continue to do that.”

He acknowledged his party’s fall back into third place in Parliament following the loss of 51 seats, which has been nationally dubbed, the “Orange Crash.”

“I think people wanted a change, period,” Cannings speculated. “Back on Labour Day it was the NDP high in the polls, but in the long campaign the Liberals came up in a big way. I think most Canadians are probably happy we have a new government,” he added. “I’m just happy they chose the NDP here and our message was heard.”

Cannings reiterated his mandate, which is to ensure people in the South Okanagan-West Kootenay are not left behind when it comes to the Liberal agenda – like the Grits’ campaign promise to fund billions toward infrastructure.

“I know the Liberals have put out a very ambitious infrastructure spending program,” he explained. “So I’ll be there if that comes to pass, and certainly working very hard to make sure that our municipalities and the regional districts in this riding, get their fair share of that spending.

“That’s my main job – to help people and agencies here in this riding, that’s what I will be doing.”

After a 74 per cent elector turnout and almost 67,000 ballots were tallied, Cannings was declared MP for the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding with 37.2 per cent of the vote.

He led throughout the evening, eventually earning 24,823 votes, followed by Conservative Marshall Neufeld with almost 30 per cent or 19,894 points, then Liberal Connie Denesiuk in third with 28 per cent of the votes, totalling 18,727.

Samantha Troy from the Green Party pulled in 4 per cent or 2,851 votes and Independent Brian Gray, 432.

Again, he attributes the high voter turnout, which is about 6 per cent above the national number, to people wanting a changeover from Conservative rule. (The Penticton area has been Conservative since 2004)

“We had a tremendous turnout, again because I think people were so desperate for change,” added Cannings. “We all worked hard during the long campaign, I think the people of South Okanagan-West Kootenay heard the issues well, and I am humbled the trust they put in me as their new MP.”

More than 68 per cent of eligible voters across Canada cast a ballot in Monday’s federal election – the highest turnout at the polls since 1993.

Preliminary Elections Canada figures show that 68.49 per cent of eligible voters – or 17,546,697 people – went to the polls on Monday for the Liberal Party’s majority win.

Nationally, that’s about a 7 per cent jump from the 2011 election.

Locally, the increase stands at 9 per cent, taking into account that four years ago 65 per cent of the electorate cast a ballot to keep former NDP MP Alex Atamanenko in his seat for a third term.