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Learning the ropes top priority for new MLA Jordan Sturdy

Sturdy wins West Vancouver-Sea to Sky as Liberals win stunning victory
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Mayor to MLA Newly elected West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy celebrates his victory with Owen Carney on Tuesday night. While the polls were predicting an NDP win, the BC Liberal Party celebrated its fourth consecutive majority government. Photo by Cathryn Atkinson

The first bottle of champagne popped at Jordan Sturdy's election headquarters just after 10 p.m. on Tuesday, once it became clear the Liberal candidate had defeated NDP candidate Ana Santos by 10,101 votes to 6,288. The relief was almost tangible.

As the early results came in Santos appeared to have the lead, but it was not to be. Despite her loss, however, the NDP gained momentum in the riding by taking over 2,000 more votes than in the last provincial election in 2009. That may have been a result gained at a cost to the Green Party, which lost almost the same number of votes this time around.

Sturdy said on Wednesday morning that his priorities include building tourism infrastructure, working with First Nations and other stakeholders on the Garibaldi Park master plan, getting access back to the Meager Creek area and to consider the long-term future of Howe Sound, which he described as "the missing piece in the puzzle." He also called the development of renewable resources his "specific area of interest."

Sturdy said: "We have more in this riding than some countries have... Being in government now is going to give us many more opportunities. We have a jewel here and I really want to work hard for it."

At his Squamish campaign headquarters watching the results roll in on Tuesday night with around 20 family members, friends and supporters, Sturdy called it "an amazing result."

"I don't frankly think I was planning for this," Sturdy said, gesturing at the TV where results were coming in showing the NDP's poor result.

"You're actually going to have to work over there!" yelled a woman in the back of the room to much laughter.

"Everybody else seemed to have a lot more confidence than I did," Sturdy joked. "I thought 'if I don't make it then I dodged a bullet' so I guess I didn't dodge the bullet."

Sturdy added that he was looking forward to learning how the legislature works, "and if it's all as bizarre as everybody seems to think it is. I'll do my best to find myself in a position that can reflect well on us and we can get things done."

Supporters nibbled on J-shaped cookies and sipped beer and wine as the results came in for Sturdy. When it looked like they would win supporters shared champagne, the first bottle being opened by co-chair of Sturdy's campaign chair Lisa Ames. She said their campaign office had previously been a daycare centre with "NDP orange walls" that she and Sturdy had painted over themselves.

Ames also managed poll-count numbers being phoned in by their team of election scrutineers throughout the riding, which showed, contrary to Elections BC results, that Sturdy was pulling in a higher number of votes than his competitors.

Sturdy thanked his colleagues, friends, family — wife Trish, mother Martha, and daughters Emma and Thea were there — telling them that they played a huge role in making it happen. Other supporters included former Squamish mayors Corrine Lonsdale and Greg Gardner, Owen Carney of Carney's Waste Systems, and current Squamish councillor Doug Race.

Trish Sturdy, who runs North Arm Farm near Pemberton with her husband, said it was very exciting to see him win.

"It's a great result and I'm just really happy about it. I think we're going to be looking for a farm manager," she said with a laugh.

Lonsdale recalled having first worked with Sturdy when he became mayor.

"I'm really happy for Jordan. Some years ago, when he first got elected (in Pemberton) I didn't know him and I had to figure out who he was. He sat on the Lower Mainland Treaty Advisory Committee with me, he was new; I watched him listen and learn and I could see he had no problem looking at the big picture," she recalled. "He's a good man for the job. I'm really very excited."

It was a result matched around British Columbia, as the Liberals defied polls throughout the election campaign to form its fourth majority government in Victoria.

Sturdy, who has been the mayor of Pemberton since 2005, said no final decision had yet been made about his position as mayor of Pemberton and that he would sit down with his council to discuss it. It was possible, he said, that he would remain mayor until the next municipal election in Pemberton in about 18 months' time.

After celebrating at his Squamish election headquarters Sturdy and his family departed at around 11 p.m. for Vancouver, to join the rest of the BC Liberals in celebration at the Wall Centre.

At the Brackendale Art Gallery, election results headquarters for Santos, it was quiet and focused for most of the evening as supporters were glued to television coverage.

At the peak of the evening about 40 supporters were there. At 8:51 p.m. a round of cheers filled the gallery as the first set of results showed Santos leading after the first few polling stations reported results.

The numbers showed Santos won 43 per cent of the reporting stations and Sturdy trailed at 37 per cent. As results continued to roll in the cheers fell away while Sturdy's numbers rose.

To chants of, "Ana, Ana, Ana," Santos addressed her supporters once it became clear that she wasn't going to win.

"My greatest disappointment and concern is for the province of B.C.," Santos said. "Whatever happens in the riding is very small compared to the whole province for the next four years."

She said she learned a great deal during the campaign and got a new understanding of how broken the education system is in the province.

"We are all special needs," said Santos. "Every single person (in school) is special needs."

She vowed to continue working to improve the education system in the province adding that the environment also remains a top priority. Her speech was followed by a standing ovation from her supporters.

NDP constituency association president Lyle Fenton spoke after Santos and encouraged the NDP supporters to hang in there.

"We've never had a candidate like Ana," said Fenton. "We have never had a result like Ana has brought in. We ran the mayor of Lions Bay in one election and she didn't bring in the result Ana brought in."

He said Santos has now built name recognition and that is key to being successful in the future.

The West Vancouver-Sea to Sky seat was left vacant by retiring Liberal MLA Joan McIntyre.

This election saw 19,327 votes cast out of 37,021 registered voters, or 52.2 per cent down from 53.07 per cent in 2009.

Student Vote B.C. get local kids involved in election

Unlike their grown-up peers, B.C.'s children elected an NDP government on May 14.

Student Vote B.C. involves over 100,000 pupils from over 750 elementary and high schools, giving them the chance to look at the 2013 election, the democratic process and the rights and responsibilities of voters.

Overall, the students voted in the NDP with 38.6 per cent. The BC Liberals got 28.09 per cent, while the Greens received 17.3 per cent. Closer to home the results matched that of the official election, with BC Liberal Jordan Sturdy winning the support of the youngsters out of 1,608 votes cast.

Uday, 11, Conor, 10, and Siena, 10, were the political "experts" who kept their eyes on the 2013 campaign.

The three youngsters, all students at Myrtle Philip Community School, participated in Student Vote B.C. and cast their own votes for their preferred political parties.

"We had a student vote and we learned a bit about government in groups, together that represent the parties," said Uday, who explained his group represented the Green Party and had to try to convince the other students that their campaign promises were the best ones.

"It's part of being in the country, to learn how to vote. If no one voted everything would just fall down. I thought that was an issue," he added.

Conor explained that it was good because when they grow up they want to know enough about how the system worked so they "don't choose a bad government."

"It was really interesting because you learn a lot about government and how people vote. We learned you can only choose one person and you have to put a mark (on the ballot) by the name of the person," he said.

Siena pointed out that being politically aware "was pretty fun but (also) kind of complicated" because of the need to weigh conflicting issues like resource development, oil pipelines and the economy.

She and her two classmates said they didn't know a provincial election was on until they started the Student Vote project.

"It made me think a bit more about all the parties, what they stood for. I didn't know there was an NDP!" she said.

Jeannette Unruh, Uday, Conor and Siena's teacher, said her Grade 4/5 split class had plunged into the project with enthusiasm. She said this was the first time they had tied it in with a provincial election. The students were assigned a political party to be in and Unruh said it gave them the chance to study their platforms, even if the youngsters didn't feel they supported the party's positions.

"Now they are totally aware of how it works, the political party process and promises that candidates make, and why we do it," Unruh said.

"They've got great questions, about where they get their money from, whether the candidates support the Enbridge pipeline and so on."