Following a federal election that will little change the composition of Parliament, MPs from British Columbia are positioned to have significant influence in a minority government.
As of publication time, Liberal party candidates were elected or leading in 15 of the province’s seats, the NDP and Conservatives in 13 each, and the Greens in one.
“We’re happy with the results,” said Gabe Garfinkel, one of three campaign co-chairs in B.C. for the Liberals.
Compared to the 2019 election, the Liberals and NDP had gained, while the Conservatives and Greens had each lost seats in the province.
“British Columbians and Canadians chose to finish the fight against COVID, they chose a serious plan to take action on climate change, and they voted to keep $10-a-day daycare,” Garfinkel said, adding that people across the province also voted for more investment and support for health care and health-care workers.
While it looked like all Liberal incumbents in B.C. were on track to be re-elected, it’s clear voters want the parties to work together in Parliament, he said.
Of the MPs the NDP was on track to elect nationwide — enough to hold the balance of power in the minority Parliament — 14 are in B.C. ridings.
Party leader Jagmeet Singh, who secured his seat in Burnaby South, pledged in a short speech given at the Vancouver Convention Centre to continue fighting for all Canadians, echoing his campaign promise to do so even if the election results proved to be a “Groundhog Day.”
“When people around us are hurting, we’re also hurting,” Singh said to a small crowd of media and New Democrats. “But when we take care of one another and support one another, we all rise.”
Singh promised to continue fighting for affordability, national pharmacare, Indigenous rights and to “make the super wealthy pay their fair share.”
Unlike the boisterous dancing that followed Singh’s speech in 2019, a smattering of distanced and masked New Democrats joined him on stage to clap along to “Differentology,” a campaign favourite.
In the northwest, Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP incumbent Taylor Bachrach took a comfortable lead over Conservative candidate Claire Rattée in a riding long held by New Democrats.
In a speech to his supporters held over Zoom, Bachrach said he’s proud of his party’s support for pandemic health measures. “I’m really proud that we were a voice for responsibility and for taking care of each other,” he said from his home in Smithers.
“We need to turn our attention to the fabric of our communities,” Bachrach added. “We need to rebuild it, not at a cost to the public health measures that we know are necessary, but we need to reach out to our neighbours because right now it feels like things are pretty tense out there and we need to get through this together.”
In a region divided over pipeline development, northerners also saw the likelihood of oil pipelines through the region diminish.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole had made the contentious Northern Gateway bitumen pipeline a campaign issue, saying he would push to revive the cancelled project as a way to build relationships with First Nations, despite widespread opposition from Indigenous communities throughout the region.
He has also said a Conservative government would overturn a 2019 bill banning oil tankers from B.C.’s north coast.
Elizabeth May, the former Green party leader who was re-elected in Saanich-Gulf Islands, said she was disappointed with the result but that the party will continue building. “This is a setback, but not huge, and certainly not fatal.”
There will be a leadership review and the party will have internal discussions about what went wrong, including why it was unable to run a full slate of candidates for the first time in many elections, she said, adding there were good potential candidates who couldn’t get their candidacies approved.
There have been issues within the party, but many of the stories about it were gossipy and inaccurate, she said. “Most of what was in the media just wasn’t true.”
May said the Green party is as needed as ever to keep the focus on addressing the climate emergency and that she’s glad Canadians didn’t give the Liberals the majority government they sought. “I’m very heartened that Justin Trudeau’s gamble did not pay off,” she said.
The other Green incumbent, Paul Manly, was trailing in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, though May said she still hoped the advance polls would make the difference. The party will still have at least two MPs, however, with Mike Morrice winning in Kitchener Centre in Ontario.
Late Monday, the hotly contested Vancouver Granville riding, where incumbent Jody Wilson-Raybould chose not to seek re-election as an Independent, remained a close race between climate activist Anjali Appadurai for the NDP and tech entrepreneur Taleeb Noormohamed running for the Liberals.
Notably, the People’s Party of Canada took a significantly larger chunk of the vote across northern B.C. than the rest of the country, with 11 per cent in the northeast and eight per cent in the northwest and northern Interior ridings, compared with five per cent nationwide.
The party has drawn support from across the political spectrum due to its opposition to mandatory vaccinations, and it’s likely no coincidence that the north has a 64-per-cent vaccination rate compared with 79 per cent in the province as a whole.