Studying the numbers from Monday night’s election in South Okanagan-West Kootenay, the final result wasn’t surprising. The individual percentages were.
Richard Cannings, the perceived front- runner entering the campaign, was re-elected in a rematch with Conservative Helena Konanz, this time winning with four-and-a-half points more than the time before in 2019.
At the time of this writing, the NDP incumbent had 25,417 votes (41.0%) compared with 21,827 for Konanz (35.2%).
Cannings’ six-point victory was a huge improvement from 2019 when he edged Konanz by only 1.2%.
As per her trademark, Konanz campaigned hard and clearly had a lot of donated money behind her based on her large advertising presence in all media.
With the Liberals running a candidate from out of town (Ken Robertson) and the Greens imploding, the two combined for 16% of the votes compared with 25.5% in 2019. Chances are, the NDP picked up much of the 9%.
The big surprise was the drop of 3,300 votes for Green candidate Tara Howse. She finished dead last with only half the votes of PPC candidate Sean Taylor.
Howse, also a second-time candidate, was more polished, well prepared and clearly the best speaker of the five on the panel.
But, in my opinion, she blew it when refusing to state whether she’s been vaccinated. It was a personal and unfair question, she told CBC’s Chris Walker during The Herald’s forum.
I disagree and I think so do a lot of other voters.
If I’m required to show a vaccination passport to go to the movies, it’s fair to ask the people who want to represent our riding on the floor of the House of Commons if they’ve been double vaxxed.
As for Taylor, I don’t think he was the deciding factor for Conservatives. Based on the maskless crowd I witnessed when Maxime Bernier came to Gyro Park, I’m guessing a lot of Taylor voters were also first-time voters. With a constant message of “End the Lockdowns,” anti-vaxxers are in all political parties, not necessarily just the Conservatives.
Looking at the national scene, Cannings was helped more by his leader than Konanz. The charismatic Jagmeet Singh came to Penticton and was accessible to the public and media.
When Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole visited prior to the writ being dropped, there were no media interviews arranged and, apparently due to COVID, his access was limited to party members only.
Polls suggest Singh is the most likable of the six party leaders. O’Toole has to go. The Tories lost the election when they didn’t select Peter Mackay as their leader. Leslyn Lewis also would have been better. Mackay was moderate, more experienced and a skilled politician who would appeal to the centre. Unlike O’Toole, Mackay is decisive.
While the knives are out for O’Toole, party members with the NDP love Singh, never mind a decade ago they were Canada’s Official Opposition and now cling to fourth-party status.
Taking all the numbers off the table, Cannings won because he was the most popular. This unnecessary election was basically a performance review. People are happy with him. It was good in that voters were able to tell him where he can improve.
Nationally, Canadians are content with Justin Trudeau. I think, at the end of the day, more people trust the Liberals with pandemic relief than the Tories.
Back to SO-WK, I’m still not convinced Penticton, which makes up only a portion of the large geographical riding, is an NDP riding.
It’s a Richard Cannings riding.
People, in the past three elections, voted for the person, not the party.
In 2015, when Cannings jumped to federal politics after an unsuccessful run for MLA, he would have been elected had he run as a Conservative or Liberal, heck, maybe even Green. Party affiliation is irrelevant in this case.
It’s been a long time since Penticton last elected an New Democrat provincially. Not counting Tarik Sayeed, who appeared to be active with the NDP for only a brief moment, you have to go all the way back to 2013 and Garry Litke when an active NDP member was elected municipally in Penticton. This speaks volumes for the popularity of Richard Cannings.
James Miller is managing editor of The Penticton Herald.