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Re-elected Whistler MP Weiler eager to get back to work

Liberal ekes out narrow win over Conservative Weston; NDP’s Lewis lands third

It appears Patrick Weiler is heading back to Parliament. 

The Liberal incumbent is projected to keep his West Vancouver-Sunshine-Coast-Sea to Sky Country seat following a Sept. 20 federal election that saw Prime Minister Justin Trudeau re-elected to the House of Commons with another minority government.

Despite a tough race and 6,130 mail-in ballots still waiting to be counted, both CBC and CTV News called it in Weiler’s favour late Monday night. Elections Canada told candidates those ballots would be tallied later in the week. 

Watching the results roll in on Election Day was “nerve-wracking,” Weiler admitted. 

As of Tuesday, with 257 of 258 polls counted, Weiler had 19,424 votes or 34 per cent overall, while Conservative and former MP John Weston sat at 17,247 votes or 30 per cent. The NDP’s Avi Lewis netted 14,833 votes (25 per cent) while the Green Party’s Mike Simpson and People’s Party’s Doug Bebb trailed at 3,850 votes (seven per cent) 2,178 votes and (four per cent), respectively. Interestingly, the PPC candidate’s tally is just one vote higher than Weiler’s lead over Weston, as it stood prior to the mail-in count.

While the federal seat count remains virtually unchanged from the 2019 election, Weiler counts the Liberals’ small pickup of seats in B.C. as a win for the party. 

“I think it will give our province a stronger voice in government,” he said. 

Top of mind for Weiler as he returns to Ottawa is addressing the climate crisis, he said, adding that he is also looking forward to implementing the Liberals’ childcare plan. “We need some of those spaces to be built in Whistler,” he added. 

Weiler also named extending the COVID-19 wage subsidy for tourism businesses and other hard-hit industries as a priority, and said the Liberals will be looking to swiftly roll out new investments through the National Housing Strategy—and work with organizations like the Whistler Housing Authority—to help improve housing affordability. 

With another minority, voters have handed the newly elected government “a mandate to work together,” Weiler said. 

“That’s something that we showed that we could accomplish in the last government, particularly at first,” he said. But as time went on, Weiler described the House of Commons as an environment where it became “near impossible” to get many pieces of legislation passed—even when his NDP and Bloc Quebecois counterparts agreed—as parties began wondering when the writ would drop. 

“I think regardless of the fact that it is another minority government, we do reset the clock a little bit,” he said. “I think it’ll be easier to get things done.”

While Conservative Weston said he was heartened by the “incredible effort” of his supporters throughout the campaign and hailed the Conservatives’ platform as being the best, most compassionate and environmentally progressive one he’d ever seen, he maintains that the election was unnecessary. 

“It was $610 million spent for nothing, it was divisive, and it wasn’t the act of a healer or a unifier,” Weston said. “I believe leaders should heal and unify and rally. And regrettably, that’s not what we see.”

That said, Weston praised Tory leader Erin O’Toole’s performance in his first election at the party’s helm as “a refreshing, new face on the scene,” and said he was proud to campaign on O’Toole’s “common sense, practical” platform. 

Asked whether he was done with politics after his return to the ballot this year, Weston’s answer was brief: “Why don’t we wait until Friday, when we know what the final results are.”

First-time candidate Avi Lewis said he is also eagerly awaiting the final results to see just how big a jump the NDP managed to make from the last federal election. 

Despite endorsements from notable names like Mike Douglas, David Suzuki, Jane Fonda and Emma Thompson, the documentary filmmaker and climate activist failed to turn the hype surrounding his candidacy into a seat in the House of Commons, during what he called “arguably our first ever genuine climate election.”

While Lewis conceded he was “in it to win it,” the high-profile NDP candidate said he’s pleased after nearly doubling the New Democrats share of the vote from two years ago, when the NDP’s Judith Wilson fell to fourth-place with 9,027 votes, or 13.89 per cent, and after running “a fully-resourced campaign.” 

“We started from scratch,” he said, and the result is “utterly outstanding.” 

Continued Lewis, “You can’t walk into a riding like this, as a first-time candidate where the party came fourth last time and just expect to win on your first shot.”

Citing a strong base of hundreds of volunteers and his commitment to two election cycles, Lewis said both his and the NDP’s work will continue in the region. 

“I feel really energized and thrilled about that prospect,” he said. 

- With files from Brent Richter/North Shore News.