B.C. voters once collectively tuned in for federal election-night results to learn the government was decided hours earlier and their ballots were irrelevant to the outcome.
Roughly 500,000 electors who voted by mail in Saturday’s provincial campaign are probably feeling a similar frustration.
Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson churlishly refused to concede defeat in the face of what appeared to be an electoral thumping: “We owe it to every voter to wait for the result … We don’t know what the final seat count will be.”
He must believe in miracles.
“The polling we’ve seen to date, if anything, shows mail-in balloters were motivated to vote NDP so I don’t think they are going to overturn the overall result of the election,” said Stewart Prest, who teaches political science at Simon Fraser University.
“There would have to be something dramatic and completely unexpected.”
After preliminary tallies of in-person voting, the NDP has a commanding majority government — leading in 55 ridings compared to 29 for the Liberals and 3 for the Greens.
Only a handful of races have pluralities that could be normally overcome without mail-in voters miraculously flooding over to the Liberals.
In Richmond South Centre, for instance, where roughly 6,000 mail-in ballots have been received, NDP Henry Yao, a community activist, holds a 124 vote lead over Liberal Alexa Loo, a city councillor.
Similarly in Chilliwack-Kent, with nearly 8,000 mail-in ballots, NDP candidate Kelli Paddon has a slim 200-vote lead over controversial ex-Liberal candidate Laurie Throness.
It’s the same razor-thin margins in Abbotsford-Mission and Vernon-Monashee.
Presumptive re-elected premier John Horgan was gracious in what appeared to be a resounding victory.
“This morning I spoke with the Lt. Gov. and advised her that we were going to wait until the counting of the final ballots,” Horgan told the media Sunday, “and I want to tell a story about that if I could.
“After the last election, you will remember the most famous constituency in all of B.C. was Courtenay-Comox. Our candidate was ahead by nine votes on election night. Taking the ferry back to Victoria the next day, I was in the cafeteria and a woman came up to me and she said, ‘Ronna Rae Leonard won by more than nine votes. I know that because I mailed mine in. So she won by 10.’
“That reminded me how important each vote is. It reminded me there are hundreds of thousands of people who are waiting for their votes to count. … We will await the final count.”
Leonard currently is winning by 3,000 votes in Courtenay-Comox with roughly 12,000 mail-in ballots to be counted.
“Mr. Horgan was pretty deft with those comments,” Prest quipped.
“I think that this was clearly a pandemic election for British Columbians. They were perhaps a little frustrated with the actual call of the election but once the election call happened they gave the parties a clear look and they were unwilling to change leadership.
“We saw it in New Zealand, we saw it in New Brunswick, where the party in power, as long as they are taking the coronavirus challenge seriously, they tend to be returned by voters. It may be this is just a one-off, a bit of an asterisk on this election but the NDP have solidified their hold on a share of the electorate appealing to both those who federal vote NDP and a considerable number of federal Liberal supporters.”
Prest said the B.C. Liberals must decide where and how they want to position themselves because their socially conservative, mostly rural supporters are out-of-step with 21st century B.C.
“As the province continues to urbanize, the demographics are working to the NDP’s benefit and we saw that in some of the ridings like Coquitlam, Langley, a few of these places,” Prest explained.
“They are becoming more urbanized and perhaps a little younger and those demographics tend to skew NDP. The NDP is showing pretty well in some of those suburban ridings. They look like the natural governing party. I suspect once the coronavirus passes they’ll recede from that. But it was a great night for them.”
The final count normally starts 13 days after General Voting Day and lasts for three days.
Due to the large volume of mail-in ballots to be considered, Elections B.C. said the process may take longer.
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