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Battleground BC

Two Kootenays Seats Go Opposite Directions

Columbia River-Revelstoke moves 'likely NDP' while East Kootenay is 'solid Liberal'.

By Will McMartin, 10 May 2005,

Two Kootenay seats are moving in opposite directions: COLUMBIA RIVER-REVELSTOKE, previously ‘up-for-grabs,’ has become a ‘likely’ NDP pick-up, while EAST KOOTENAY, formerly considered ‘likely’ to re-elect its Liberal MLA, Bill Bennett, is shifted into the ‘solid’ Liberal column.

COLUMBIA RIVER-REVELSTOKE was established for the 1991 general election. Before then, the riding of Columbia River was represented by a succession of Social Credit MLAs: Orr Newton (1952, 1953-63, who stepped aside briefly when WAC Bennett needed a vacancy for finance minister Einar Gunderson), Jim Chabot (1963-86) and Duane Crandall (1986-91).

Revelstoke, on the other hand, has had both Socred representatives, including A.W. Lundell (1956-60, 1963-66), Peter Campbell (1969-1972) and Cliff Michael (1983-91), and CCF-NDP MLAs Bill King such as ‘Tiny’ Hobbs (1960-62), Tiny’s widow Margaret Hobbs (1962-63), Randolph Harding (1966-68), and (1968-69, 1972-83).

In 1991, the newly-formed district elected former Golden mayor Jim Doyle, a New Democrat, with 45.1% of the vote. He won re-election in 1996 with 42.5%, helped in part by a strong Reform candidate who took nearly one of every five ballots. Five years later, Doyle lost the seat with just 31.5%.

The Liberal victor was Wendy McMahon, who took 54.0%. That figure placed Columbia River-Revelstoke at 20th of the 24 Interior ridings in terms of the Liberal party’s popular vote in 2001. (See table below.)

McMahon has been hurt in her riding by government service cutbacks — including closure of Kimberley’s hospital and the Forests office in her home town of Invermere, and near-closure of the Revelstoke courthouse — but she has enjoyed some successes, such as getting funding for the aquatic centre in Kimberley and pushing development of the Mount McKenzie ski hill near Revelstoke. The Liberals also have won kudos for working with Ottawa to up-grade the Trans-Canada Highway in the Kicking Horse Pass.

Her New Democratic Party opponent is another former mayor of Golden, Norm Macdonald, who launched his campaign many months before the election writs were dropped. According to local observers, Macdonald has a distinct organizational advantage over the incumbent.

This tilt probably will be the closest in the Kootenay region, but should be won by the New Democrats.

EAST KOOTENAY is centred on Cranbrook, which for 26 years was represented in the Legislative Assembly by CCF-NDP MLA Leo Nimsick (1949-1975). He was succeeded by a pair of Socreds, George Haddad (1975-1979) and Terry Segarty (1979-1986), before the New Democrats regained the seat with Anne Edwards (1986-1996) and then Erda Walsh (1996-2001).

The riding received its present appellation in anticipation of the 2001 general election, in which Walsh was defeated by Liberal Bill Bennett. The Cranbrook lawyer had 61.9% of the vote.

Edwards had a 46.5% vote-share in 1991, when she won a three-cornered contest between the NDP, Socreds and nascent Liberals. Five years later, Walsh garnered a paltry 38.6% in another three-way featuring the New Democrats, Liberals and Reform BC leader Wilf Hanni.

In 2001, Walsh’s vote-share was a bare 22.1%. It was by far the lowest result among the four NDP incumbents in the Kooten region; Doyle, Corky Evans and Ed Conroy all had more than 31%.

A former municipal councillor and HEU activist, Walsh did little to distinguish herself during a five-year term in the legislature. She was, however, one of NDP premier Glen Clark’s most vocal supporters. A stronger candidate might have given the New Democratic Party a better chance of winning this riding, but in the present circumstances Bennett, too, has been a low-profile backbencher. He authored a private members’ bill affirming British Columbians’ right to hunt and fish under the law; a head-scratching proposition which nonetheless sparked several days of supportive speeches from fellow Liberals. Table — Liberals’ share of popular vote in Interior ridings, 2001 general election

  • Peace River North — 73.2%
  • Okanagan-Westside 68.1%
  • Skeena — 65.2%
  • Cariboo North — 65.0%
  • Kelowna-Mission — 64.6%
  • Peace River South — 64.2%
  • Kelowna-Lake Country — 63.2%
  • Penticton-Okanagan Valley — 62.7%
  • Cariboo South — 62.2%
  • East Kootenay — 61.9%
  • Prince George-Omineca — 61.7%
  • Prince George North — 61.0%
  • Kamloops — 60.2%
  • Yale-Lillooet — 60.1%
  • Kamloops-North Thompson — 58.0%
  • Okanagan-Vernon — 56.5%
  • Shuswap — 56.3%
  • Bulkley Valley-Stikine — 55.9%
  • Prince George-Mount Robson — 55.7%
  • Columbia River-Revelstoke — 54.0%
  • West Kootenay-Boundary — 49.7%
  • North Coast — 45.3%
  • Nelson-Creston — 39.0%

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