Strahl wins… again 

Incumbent MP widens margin from 2006

click to enlarge Chuck Strahl
  • Chuck Strahl

And the winner, for the sixth landslide in a row is… Chuck Strahl!

Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon’s incumbent MP took the riding once again in Tuesday’s general election, this time with 29,195 votes — over 20,000 more than his closest competitor, NDP candidate Helen Kormendy, who came in with 8,791 votes.

That’s a wider margin than the 2006 election, when Strahl beat NDP candidate Malcolm James by just over 14,000 votes.

“I’m pretty happy obviously with the result, you really never know going in what’s going to happen,” he said. “Obviously it’s very rewarding and a real honour to be re-elected.”

Strahl, who represents Pemberton in Parliament, noted that Liberal support across B.C. was “clearly weaker” and he attributed the party’s results to both the carbon tax and Stephane Dion’s leadership.

“Clearly what happened in B.C. was a rejection of — I would suggest — the carbon tax idea and Mr. Dion’s leadership, because it cut right across the board, almost all Liberal candidates,” he said.

Since first entering government in 2006, Strahl has served as both the Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, but he’s not certain what responsibilities will come next.

“Building a cabinet is the Prime Minister’s job, it’s a real solitary job that one, he doesn’t consult with people about it,” he said. “I’ll be happy if I’m back in the cabinet in whatever role the Prime Minister would like to give me, but there’s not even a guarantee of that.”

The big surprise of the riding is Green candidate Barbara Lebeau, who came in third with 4,107 votes. The result is more than a twofold increase over the last election, when Green candidate Ed Baye took just 1,753 votes.

Reached on Wednesday morning, Lebeau was elated with the result.

“I’m astounded and incredibly pleased with the results,” she said. “The Liberal candidate was nipping on my heels but we managed to stay ahead.”

Though pleased with her own outcome, she’s most happy with the fact that voters settled on a minority government.

“I’m glad that Mr. Harper did not get his majority, even though that probably means that we’ll have an ineffective federal government in Ottawa,” she said. “I’m also glad because I think it’ll stop the Conservatives from selling us to the United States. …If the Harper government got back in with a majority, we might just go to the highest bidder.”

Though she was happy about the outcome, Lebeau was not impressed with the voter turnout in her own riding or nationally. Only 58.1 per cent of registered electors in Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon turned out to vote on Tuesday, out of 80,567 registered voters.

It’s a similar number to the national turnout, which saw only 59.1 per cent of registered electors come out to vote.

“That’s the real problem I have with Canadian politics: whatever level you’re at (there’s) the apathy,” she said. “I think it’s apathy more than anything that’s the problem.”

Strahl, meanwhile, feels that low voter turnout could be an indication of general satisfaction.

“The usual way to look at it from the media’s point of view… is there must be something wrong because more people didn’t get out to vote,” he said. “The flip side of it is if you’ve elected the same MP for five or six times and you give him 60 per cent of the vote, you also hope that you’re doing a good job of serving the community.”

Liberal candidate and parole officer Myra Sweeney came in fourth in the election with 3,980 votes. That’s a significant drop from her results in the 2006 election, when she came third with 7,170 votes.

Christian Heritage Party candidate Harold Ludwig, meanwhile, took 653 votes for just 1.4 per cent of the vote.

Strahl’s victory in this election isn’t quite his biggest result ever. He took 38,509 votes in the 2000 election, a full 20,544 more than the Liberal candidate.

Former Pemberton mayor Cathy McLeod also won a seat for the Conservatives in the riding of Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo.

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