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NDP's Donnelly swims to Ottawa

A beaming Fin Donnelly took the podium and pumped his fist in victory as supporters chanted his name.

The federal NDP candidate had enjoyed tremendous popularity as a Coquitlam councillor. The question in this campaign was whether that popularity would translate to enough votes to beat Conservative competitor Diana Dilworth in last night's byelection.

The answer was a resounding yes.

"I can honestly say it does not get any better than this," the MP-elect for New Westminster-Coquitlam announced over the hooting and hollering crowd.

Excitement and energy had been building all evening at Donnelly's election party. He held a lead over Dilworth throughout and handily won with 49.6 per cent of the vote to Dilworth's 35.8 per cent. Liberal Ken Beck Lee finished third with 10.3 per cent, followed by Green Rebecca Helps with 4.3 per cent.

"Right after the nomination in June we started knocking on doors," said Donnelly. "I'm looking forward to a little bit of a break but at the same time I can't wait to get started."

Donnelly said the Harmonized Sales Tax was the issue that secured his win. "We heard loud and clear from people about the HST and the negative impact that it's going to have on families, students, seniors and small businesses. There were a lot of people that were angry there was no consultation whatsoever that they were not a part of this."

Donnelly said he also intends to move the Evergreen Line forward, and will follow up on the recently-announced judicial inquiry into the Fraser River sockeye salmon collapse.

It's an issue close to his heart. Donnelly twice swam the length of the Fraser River to raise awareness about salmon. He is the executive director of the Rivershed Society of B.C., a position he says he will transition out of now that he's a member of Parliament.

His years of work as a community activist and environmental advocate make Donnelly a perfect example of the type of person that is needed in Ottawa, said Burnaby-New Westminster MP Peter Julian.

"That kind of energy and that kind of prescience and his ability to really advocate on behalf of the community will be a real asset to our office," Julian said.

When asked about the extra carbon emissions he would accumulate flying to and from Ottawa, Donnelly said he would purchase carbon offsets.

"I'm also going to think about how I can work smarter...using technology to try and keep my footprint as low as possible."

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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