NDP gains on island, but ‘happy days’ for May

National News

While the rest of Canada was struck by a red tidal wave of Liberal support, lower Vancouver Island remained orange.  Three of the four ridings on the lower island went to the New Democratic Party, with the final riding going to the Green Party.

In Victoria, NDP incumbent Murray Rankin held onto his seat; in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, Randall Garrison was elected as the NDP MP; NDP candidate Alistair MacGregor was elected in Cowichan-Malahat-Langford; and Green Party leader Elizabeth May unsurprisingly held her seat in the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding — the sole Green Party seat in Canada.

Despite a federal election that saw a Liberal victory above and beyond most poll predictions, the NDP took control on the island. This was in keeping with many of the polls leading up to the election, although the the failure to capture the riding of Victoria will be a huge blow for the Green Party, with many members believing the riding to be the party’s best chance of their second seat.

Both Cowichan-Malahat-Langford and Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke faced their first election as new ridings, with both seats going to NDP MPs Alistair MacGregor and Randall Garrison respectively. Garrison, who was running against the Liberal’s best Island hope in lawyer David Merner, won with 35 per cent of the popular vote, while MacGregor beat out Liberal Luke Krayenhoff and Conservative Martin Baker, the latter coming closest to winning the Conservatives a seat on the lower island.

In Saanich-Gulf Islands, May kept her seat with over 50 per cent of the popular vote. May, who first won the riding in 2011, was widely expected to continue her role as MP despite opposition from Conservative candidate Robert Boyd, Liberal candidate Tim Kane, and the NDP’s Alicia Cormier. It was in Victoria, however, that the Greens faced their biggest disappointment.

Jo-Ann Roberts, the challenger to NDP incumbent Murray Rankin, was unable to capitalize on a 2012 by-election that saw the party come within 1000 votes of winning their second seat in Canada. Rankin joined seven elected NDP MPs — including the newly elected Gord Johns in the hotly contested Port Alberni-Courtenay riding — in representing Vancouver Island in Ottawa.

Rankin, who has held the seat since taking over for NDP Denise Lavoie in 2012, was bolstered by encouraging words from NDP leader Tom Mulcair himself in the final days of the campaign, who called Rankin one of his “most trusted confidants,” and a “brilliant individual.”

Roberts, a former CBC radio host on Vancouver Island, was believed to be the Green’s best chance at a second seat in parliament, but was ultimately unable to upset Rankin with 6 570 votes separating the two.

Speaking to the crowd at the Victoria NDP rally, Rankin spoke of how “humbled” he was to have won the riding for a second time.

“To those who voted for another candidate,” Rankin said, “I honour your choice and pledge to represent everyone in this community, to the best of my ability.”

One of those choices was Roberts, who garnered over 20 000 votes. Roberts gave her concession speech in front of a packed Green crowd. Visibly upset, she conceded that strategic voting (a method Roberts called “a fallacy”) played a part in their defeat, though she remained optimistic in her speech.

“We can all celebrate one thing,” said Roberts. “Change has finally come to our country.”

It was this celebration of change that summarized May’s speech, as she displayed her happiness for the removal of Conservative leader Stephen Harper.

“Oh happy days, Stephen Harper is gone!” she shouted to a crowd of cheering Green supporters. “Happy days!”