Conroy steamrolls to fifth win in Kootenay West

·3 min read

In the end, it wasn’t even close: facing five challengers for the job of MLA for Kootenay West, Katrine Conroy was handed a decisive win by voters in the riding she’s represented since 2005.

“I’m really humbled and honoured to be elected by the people of Kootenay West, and to get the support of so many people,” Conroy told the Valley Voice after the election. “I’m excited and ready to get back to work.”

Conroy tallied 59.3% of the vote, about the same level of support she garnered in 2017. She more than tripled the votes of her nearest rival, Green Party candidate Andrew Duncan.

None of her rivals, nor the rival major political parties, mounted a serious campaign to try to wrest the seat from Conroy. Most spent the election period playing catch up to the governing NDP, who called the snap election September 21. The BC Liberals fielded a parachute candidate who never made it to the riding, and all five of Conroy’s challengers apparently signed up on the last day for nominations – they didn’t show up on the Elections BC site until the deadline day.

The NDP led the polls throughout the election period, further cementing Conroy’s advantage in the West Kootenay.

But Conroy was gracious in mentioning her opponents.

“Having six candidates was good. I’d like to thank the other candidates because it’s not easy putting your name forward, but it’s really important in a democracy,” she said.

Conroy said she heard some clear messages from voters during the campaign.

“People are happy with the job we are doing, but they also wanted to make sure we kept doing what we are doing with COVID. People are worried about it, but doing well in our constituency, being respectful and listening to Dr. Bonnie Henry. They want that to continue.”

Conroy will maintain her duties as Minister of Children and Family Development while the final vote results are tallied and MLAs wait to be sworn into office for the next legislative session. In a caretaker role for now, she’s waiting to hear if Premier John Horgan will ask her to continue in the job when he forms a new cabinet.

“I would be more than happy to stay with this ministry. I really like it. I’m honoured to be the minister,” she says. “There’s a lot of opportunity to do some really good things, and we’ve worked really hard the last three years.”

She says she’d also love to continue being responsible for the Columbia River Treaty and Columbia Basin Trust.

Conroy says campaigning in a pandemic was a strange experience. She’s grateful for her campaign team, saying “you don’t get to be an MLA by yourself.”

But in the end, it won’t be the lack of door-knocking, the extended advance voting period, or the Zoom virtual candidate debates that she’ll remember.

“I had four generations voting for me. My granddaughters voted for the first time, my two daughters, myself and my 90-year-old dad,” she says. “My dad and the little ones were helping put up the signs. So it was exciting in that way, to involve the family and do things differently.”

While the election has already been decided, British Columbians are still waiting to see the final vote tallies: thousands of mail-in ballots are still be counted, starting November 6. However, there are not enough of them to challenge Conroy’s win.

The preliminary results of the vote in West Kootenay, with all 87 polls reporting in the riding, are: Katrine Conroy, NDP - 8,234 votes (59.29%); Andrew Duncan, Green - 2,440 votes (17.57%); Corbin Kelley, Liberal - 1,610 votes (11.59%); Glen Byle, Conservative - 1,253 votes (9.02%); Ed Varney, Independent - 197 votes (1.42%); Fletcher Quince - 153 votes (1.10%).

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice