The Fraser Valley flipped one solidly conservative riding in favour of the NDP and offered nail-biters in several other ridings that remained undecided on Saturday night.
The traditionally conservative stronghold of Chilliwack-Kent was in a dead heat most of Saturday night, but by midnight NDP candidate Kelli Paddon had 33 per cent of the vote and incumbent Laurie Throness trailed with 32 per cent, with 88 of 90 polls reporting. Throness was booted from the Liberal ticket less than two weeks before the election after making controversial comments comparing the NDP birth-control plan to eugenics. He ran as an independent.
In Langley, NDP candidate Andrew Mercier defeated incumbent Mary Polak, who had served the riding for the Liberals since 2005. In an interview with Postmedia before polls closed on election night, Polak cited vote-splitting between Liberals and Conservatives as a contributing factor and said she would wait until mail-in ballots were counted.
In Langley East, a reliable Liberal seat formerly held by cabinet minister Rich Coleman, NDP candidate Megan Dykeman ended Saturday night with a five-per-cent lead over Liberal Margaret Kunst, with 90 out of 112 polls reporting.
The surprises in Fraser Valley may be attributable to a changing demographic. Transportation was a key issue in the region, where the NDP was able to capitalize with its promise of a $1.5-billion SkyTrain extension to Langley.
In Abbotsford South, Liberal candidate Bruce Banman, a former mayor and city councillor, defeated NDP candidate Inder Johal, with 82 of 102 polls reporting.
Banman advocated for transit and an expansion of Highway 1 and touted a rapid rail transit system that could serve commuters and connect the region to Metro Vancouver. Banman replaces Darryl Plecas who won the riding for the Liberals in 2013 and again in 2017, but stepped aside to sit as an independent after becoming Speaker of the House in 2017.
There were 7,465 mail-in ballots representing 16.5 per cent of voters requested in the riding.
In Abbotsford-Mission, NDP candidate Pam Alexis took an early lead over incumbent Simon Gibson of the Liberals, but later in the evening, with 97 of 99 polls reporting, Gibson had pulled ahead by a slim margin of one per cent. Gibson has held the seat since 2013. Still to be counted are 8,119 mail-in ballots.
In Abbotsford West, Liberal incumbent Mike de Jong won for an eighth time as an MLA, ahead of NDP candidate Preet Rai. Conservative Michael Henshall trailed in third, with Kevin Eastwood for the Greens, and Sukhi Gill for B.C. Vision further back. Voters in Abbotsford West requested 5,231 mail-in votes.
In Langley, NDP candidate Andrew Mercier, who campaigned largely on the transit promise, defeated Liberal incumbent Mary Polak, taking 45 per cent of the votes, with 90 out of 92 ridings counted. The seat flip in the historically right-leaning riding came due to a growing demographic of families and young professionals swayed by NDP promises on transit, childcare and housing affordability. The seat has been held by Polak since 2005. Almost 19 per cent of voters requested mail-in ballots, so 8,944 remain to be counted.
In Langley East, Megan Dykeman of the NDP appeared poised to defeat Liberal Margaret Kunst, a former city councillor who had balked at supporting a rainbow crosswalk. The candidates were sitting at 39 per cent and 35 per cent of the vote respectively with nearly all polls reporting. Conservative candidate Ryan Warawa had 13 per cent of the vote. Langley East anticipates 11,799 mail-in votes are yet to be counted.
Chilliwack-Kent was one of the Lower Mainland’s most hotly contested ridings of the night, with the lead trading between Liberal candidate Laurie Throness and the NDP’s Kelli Paddon. With 88 of 89 polls reporting, Paddon led with 33.3 per cent of the vote, to Throness’ 32 per cent. Independent candidate Jason Lum, a Chilliwack city councillor since 2011 and considered a favourite going into election night, had nearly 25 per cent and may have split the left-leaning vote. There are 7,650 requested mail-in ballots to be counted.
Chilliwack looked like a solid prospect for NDP candidate Dan Coulter, who had more than 38 per cent of the vote, with 81 of 82 polls reporting, over Liberal incumbent John Martin with just under 30 per cent. Diane Janzen, who ran for the Conservatives (after previously running for the federal Liberals), had 18 per cent. Voters in Chilliwack had 5,809 requested mail-in ballots.