With a slightly weaker personal mandate than he earned four years ago – but a much weaker party standing – New Democrat Richard Cannings is going back to Ottawa as MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay.
He was elected Monday with 23,901 votes, equal to 36.3% support, as of 11 p.m. with 272 of 280 polls reporting. That was enough to edge out Conservative runner-up Helena Konanz, who nabbed 23,262 votes and 35.4% support, and Liberal Connie Denesiuk, who placed third with 11,297 votes and 17.2% support.
“I was hoping for a win and that’s what we got,” Cannings told reporters before addressing jubilant supporters in a conference room at the Penticton Lakeside Resort.
“There were so many balls in the air in this election, nationally and in this riding. We had Greens coming up and Conservatives coming up, and I’m happy to have that percentage of the vote.
“It would always be nice to have 60%,” he added, “but I’m just happy we’re ahead of the game.”
It was a much more subdued scene in the restaurant at the Penticton Golf and Country Club, where Konanz delivered a concession speech to her supporters, whom she credited for her near-win.
"I'm so proud of these (volunteers). They believe in what they're doing, and it just motivated me to work harder and harder and really believe in this community and the people who care so much about it and step up,” Konanz told reporters.
"You should have seen them. We had hundreds of volunteers outside today in the rain, it was almost snowing, it was so uncomfortable and there they were knocking on doors, knocking on doors, knocking on doors and I think that it shows a lot of community spirit and also a love for this country."
Konanz, a former Penticton city councillor, also wished Cannings well.
"Congratulations and good luck with everything. I know he cares a lot about the community and a lot of about the riding. I congratulate him. He did well,” said Konanz.
Meanwhile, even as it became increasingly apparent their candidate would not win, the mood in the Liberal campaign office in Penticton remained relatively upbeat as they watched results come in from across the country.
“The buoyant mood is because Canadians chose forward,” said Denesiuk. “There was some concern that we could have gone the route of fear and division and regressive politics and American-style politics.”
The former long-time Summerland school trustee said later that Cannings is the next best thing to a Liberal MP: “I'm happy that it's a progressive voice moving forward again, not the regressive negative politics.”
Green Party candidate Tara Howse placed fourth with 8.3% support, followed by the People’s Party’s Sean Taylor at 2.3% and independent Carolina Hopkins at 0.5%, as of 11 p.m.
Cannings led wire-to-wire as individual poll results trickled in, although his lead over Konanz shrunk to as little as 0.4% at one point.
The 65-year-old author and biologist was elected to his first term in 2015 with 37.3% support.
He’ll return to Ottawa with a smaller NDP caucus, which saw its seat count drop from 44 to 24 as of 11 p.m.
Cannings was unsure how that might impact his party’s ability to deliver on signature promises like national pharmacare and new taxes on the ultra-rich.
“It’s a minority government,” he said, “so it’s a different ball of wax than being in opposition to a majority government. So we’ll see.”
With files from Andrew Stuckey/StarNorth Media