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Liberals lose seats but win another majority

Joan McIntyre elected in strong West Vancouver-Garibaldi turnout

Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell celebrated his second straight majority government after a hard-fought election on May 17, but this time will face a strong opposition in the Legislature.

Heading into the election, the Liberals had 76 of 79 seats compared to the NDP’s three. Although the final tallies are still being confirmed and at least five recounts were underway at press time, it appears that the Liberals held onto 46 seats with an estimated 46 per cent of the popular vote, while the NDP came away with a better than expected 33 seats with 41 per cent of the popular vote.

The Green Party failed to win any seats, capturing just nine per cent of the popular vote. Adriane Carr, the Green Party leader, finished third in the Powell River-Sunshine Coast riding, while the other party leaders easily won their own ridings.

Campbell’s victory represents the first time an incumbent premier has won a second term since 1983.

Voter registration was also at its highest rate since 1980, although at press time it was unknown how many British Columbians turned out at the polls.

In his victory speech, Campbell continued to pump up the economy but also pledged to invest more in health care and education.

In her speech, NDP leader Carole James said the party would be vocal in their new role as the official opposition to the Campbell government.

"Things are going to be very different in the legislature," she said. "There will be a lot more New Democrats standing strong, speaking up for their communities and holding the government accountable. We will take a balanced approach to our role as a greatly expanded opposition."

In the West Vancouver-Garibaldi riding, which includes Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton, Liberal Party candidate Joan McIntyre retained the seat held by Liberal Ted Nebbeling in the previous two elections, winning 50.78 per cent of the vote. Dennis Perry, the deputy leader for the Green Party, earned 26.46 per cent of the vote while the NDP’s Lyle Fenton was third with 20.77 per cent. Barbara Ann Reid, the B.C. Conservative Party candidate who joined the campaign at the last minute, was fourth with about 2 per cent of all votes.

A total of 21,839 voters turned out in the riding.

For McIntyre, who is being recognized in the media as one of the MLA-elects to fill one of eight cabinet positions left empty by defeated cabinet ministers, the results were close to what she hoped for.

"I really hoped to get 50 per cent of the vote, that was my goal in a three-way race… and that my opponents would split the rest of the vote fairly evenly," she said, adding that it was a hard campaign against two strong candidates.

"I think I was probably in one of the few ridings that had a real three-way race… so if you think about it at the all candidates meetings and things it was often two against one. For the voters I think we offered a good alternative and we had a good debate on the issues."

McIntyre was confirmed as the Liberal candidate for this riding at a meeting last November, and she said she used the time to meet people and build her campaign. By the time the campaigning started in earnest, she said she had a clear idea of the issues in her riding.

"We’ve got a lot of issues in this corridor, certainly, and a lot of it is related to our growth," she said. "The big challenge will be making it sustainable development. The Greens were loud and clear in this corridor, and I hope to sustain their goals – I said all along that I don’t think the Green Party has a corner on sustainability.

"It’s really exciting. I think the corridor is going to be where it’s at for the next five or 10 years, and I’m thrilled to be a part of that. It’s a challenge… but I’m excited and raring to go."

Despite gaining the largest number of Green Party votes ever recorded in this riding, Dennis Perry of the Green Party had hoped for more from the election.

"I’m disappointed, there’s no doubt I thought it would be closer," said Perry. "I thought I had a real shot, but I think we just have to point out the fear factor (in the provincial race). The NDP supporters were scared to death that the Liberals are going to come in with a big majority again with negative consequences for the environment and society, and the Liberal supporters were scared to death the NDP were going to come in and wipe out the economy. Because of the fear factor it was a two-way battle from the start, and (the Green Party) came out with the short end of the rope."

Despite his disappointment, Perry has placed his hopes for the riding with McIntyre.

"I congratulated Joan on her win. I’m certainly a Joan supporter if she can carry our strong community voices into the legislature, if she can command respect for our communities…. What’s good for the communities is good for B.C. in the long term, and she needs to represent us in that fashion.

"I hope she sees it that way, too. Right now I’m a supporter and I’m taking the positive view."

Perry also believes the highly polarized election, which left no room for third parties or alternatives, underlines the need for the province to switch from the First Past the Post electoral system to a system that embraces proportional representation.

Perry says he will continue on as the deputy leader of the Green Party, and will continue to try and build the party provincially, but does not know if he’s going to run again in four years.

The results from the 2005 general election will be finalized on May 30, and MLAs will be sworn in sometime in June. The next session in the legislature will likely be in September.