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Reynolds wins re-election squeaker


Conservative incumbent John Reynolds won re-election by a nose in a three-way horse race Monday night.

It was a bittersweet victory for Reynolds, a party heavyweight who backed Stephen Harper as leader and who devoted nine days of the election to campaigning for the Conservatives in Ontario.

"You always like to win, but I was looking forward to being in government," said Reynolds. "Two weeks ago it looked like we were going to be the government."

Reynolds won with 35 per cent of the vote, just 1732 votes ahead of Liberal Blair Wilson. NDP candidate Nicholas Simons was in third place with 22 per cent.

Election night was a nail-biter. Reynolds led in the early results, but Liberal Blair Wilson surprised many observers by edging Reynolds in the West Vancouver polls to take a 1,000-vote lead. CBC declared Wilson the winner and he made a cautious victory speech, but later poll results from the Sunshine Coast gave Reynolds the seat.

Reynolds said CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge called the next day to apologize.

Liberal candidate Blair Wilson said the election was "fabulous" and denied any disappointment at watching his lead turn into a defeat.

"We knew when the CBC declared victory for us they were premature," said Wilson. "They were extrapolating from West Vancouver to the Sunshine Coast."

Norman Ruff, a political scientist at the University of Victoria, said the vote in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast was "a microcosm of what was going on around the province."

"With hindsight, the Conservatives took B.C. for granted. That applies to Reynolds," said Ruff.

Another province-wide trend that influenced the vote in this riding was the resurgence of the NDP, Ruff said. The increased Green vote also reflected provincial trends, he added.

"The Greens are clearly now a factor federally, and they're going to have more resources from federal funding," he said.

Ruff said Conservative votes dropped dramatically across B.C., partly because polls suggested the Conservatives might form the government in this election. The Canadian Alliance got 56 per cent of the B.C. vote in 2000, when Stockwell Day was leader, but this year the new Conservative party, led by Stephen Harper, got only 36 per cent.

"In 2000, people didn't expect the Alliance to form government," said Ruff. "This time, there was a shift in the way people perceived the Conservatives. They were the potential government and Harper could be prime minister. That changes everything. It's no longer a protest vote."

Reynolds said the Liberals succeeded in changing voters' minds with their last-minute strategy of creating fear of a Conservative government.

"The Prime Minister got on to something at the end and he did a good job," said Reynolds. "He made people forget about the corruption and the scandal, and you have to give him credit for that."

The Conservatives created their own problems with comments like those of Abbotsford MP Randy White on abortion and same-sex marriage.

"We should have made sure some people kept their mouths closed," said Reynolds.

Simons said the closeness of this election should give a message to Reynolds.

"He has to make sure he listens to his constituents," said Simons. "I don't think people want to hear about re-opening divisive issues and curtailing the rights of minorities.

"Canadians really want vision and they want leadership. They don't want more divisive policies."

With the election of a minority Liberal government, many observers are expecting another federal election within a year or two. Simons and Wilson said they would consider running.

"I'll continue to be active within the riding association and being an advocate for constituents," said Wilson, adding that preparing for the 2010 Olympics in Whistler will be a priority.

Reynolds hasn't decided if he will be running in the next election.