The 2021 federal election did nothing to change the electoral map of southeast BC, as all three incumbents in the Valley Voice readership area were returned to office by voters.
Two Conservatives and one New Democrat from the region will be heading back to Ottawa for the 44th Parliament, the same members as before the 36-day campaign called by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The final vote results on September 20 were a virtual mirror of the 2019 election in the ridings, with the rise of the far-right populist People’s Party the only significant difference. That party made huge gains in support, relegating the hapless Greens to last place in all three ridings.
Cannings returned in SOWK
In South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding, NDP incumbent Richard Cannings was returned to office for a third time. Cannings won with 41.3% of the popular vote – five percentage points above the 2019 results. Cannings attracted about 2,500 more votes than he did in 2019, widening his margin of victory by just over 3,100 votes.
He was followed in second place by Conservative Party candidate Helena Konanz, who lost about 600 votes compared to her 2019 showing.
Ken Robertson attracted about 3,500 votes less for his party than 2019’s Liberal candidate, taking in 12.3% of the vote and coming in third. His was the only new face in the race, with all other candidates returning for a rematch from 2019.
Trailing the pack was Green Party candidate Tara Howse with 3.7%, less than half what the party attracted last election. The well-publicized troubles of the federal Greens – party leader Annamie Paul stepped down after the election – likely contributed to her poor showing. Howse managed to do better in her riding than the party fared nationally, however.
That was the only change in the final standings – the Greens slipped to last place, replaced in fourth by the People’s Party. PPC Candidate Sean Taylor nearly tripled his vote, taking 7.3% of the ballots and coming in fourth, well ahead of the Greens. Taylor polled higher locally than the party’s national showing of 4.9%.
Taylor’s strong performance seemed to come mostly at the expense of the other centre- and right-wing parties. The party’s opposition to public health orders like the vaccination passport system proved popular in the Arrow Lakes and Slocan Valley and other areas with high vaccine hesistancy.
In all the voter turnout was reasonable in the riding, with 64.7% of eligible voters returning a ballot.
The Kootenay-Columbia riding remained a Conservative stronghold this election. This race also had a strong sense of déjà vu about it, with the three largest parties fielding the same candidates as 18 months ago. Incumbent Rob Morrison of the Conservatives held on to his riding, with 43.2% of the vote. That’s down by about 2,100 votes from the 2019 election, but still enough padding to defeat the NDP’s Wayne Stetski, who gathered 837 fewer votes than the last election.
Liberal candidate Robin Goldsbury held on to the party’s small base of support, polling about the same numbers as in 2019. She was down by about 270 votes, about .1% lower than the last election.
As in South Okanagan-West Kootenay, the Greens and People’s Party switched standings. PPC candidate Sarah Bennet tripled her party’s returns this election, gathering 6.9% of the vote, raising the party into fourth place. Meanwhile, the Green’s Rana Nelson collected about 1,900 votes fewer than the PPC. As in SOWK, the Greens collapsed in the Kootenay-Columbia, attracting less than half the popular vote they did in 2019 – 4% this year compared to 9.1% in 2019.
Official figures were not available, but reported returns showed voter turnout to be around 68% in the Kootenay-Columbia riding.
The communities of Edgewood and Needles have found themselves in the predominantly Conservative riding of North Okanagan-Shuswap since the electoral boundaries were redrawn for the 2015 election. Conservative incumbent Mel Arnold polled strongly again this time, and while he dropped by more than 2,500 votes from the 2019 election, he still almost tripled his nearest rival. Arnold received 46.4% of the vote, down just about two percentage points from his showing in 2019.
Liberal Shelley Desautels and New Democrat Ron Johnston ran neck-and-neck on election night, but the NDP edged out the Liberals by 263 votes to place second in the riding—a reversal from the 2019 results, when the Liberals were the runner-up.
The riding saw a surging of People’s Party support as well, with candidate Kyle Delfing picking up a significant 10% of the vote, to reach fourth place. Green Party Andrea Gunner trailed the pack with 3,900 votes, just half what the party garnered in the riding in 2019.
Officials results weren’t available, but reported returns showed voter turnout in the North Okanagan- Shuswap at roughly 65%.
John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice