Nicholas Simons will be sworn in soon for a fifth term as the NDP MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast.
Elections BC completed the final vote count for the riding on Nov. 8 and Simons widened his lead with 12,701 votes, or 50.9 per cent, of the 24,961 ballots cast.
Simons captured 50.7 per cent of the vote in 2017.
“I was pleased to see that [the final count] actually put me over the percentage that I had last election,” Simons told Coast Reporter. “It's nice to be able to say that the support I had in 2017 pretty much held… There are a lot of issues that we need to continue to work on that have been controversial that have been challenging for us on the Sunshine Coast and this gives me an opportunity to continue to work on those issues.”
Green candidate Kim Darwin finished with 8,104 votes (32.5 per cent), a significant increase over her 2017 performance and enough to cement her second-place finish.
Sandra Stoddart-Hansen of the B.C. Liberals finished with 16.7 per cent of the vote, for a total of 4,156.
Stoddart-Hansen said she’s offered her congratulations to Simons and wished him well in the coming term. “I would also like to thank the organizers of the various forums and debates for providing the candidates a platform to get our messages out in this unusual election,” she said.
Darwin also offered congratulations to Simons on Monday. “I wish him well in the challenging months ahead,” she said in an email to Coast Reporter.
Darwin said after election night that she wanted to wait for the mail-in and absentee votes to be counted before conceding the race.
“I felt it was really important to honour the voters who chose to cast their ballots using alternate methods,” she said. “Now that all ballots have been counted, it is clear I won't be heading to the legislature this time.”
Darwin also said she “can’t help but lament” the failure of proportional representation in 2018, which the Greens were instrumental in trying to move forward.
“If the proportional representation referendum had been successful, the voters of Powell River-Sunshine Coast would be sending both Nicholas and myself to Victoria, giving voice to many more voters’ thoughts, ideals and beliefs,” Darwin said. “I am hopeful that the new NDP government will continue the productive cross-partisan spirit of cooperation they had fostered with the BC Green caucus over the last three and a half years.”
Simons said he believes much of the increase in Green support came from disaffected Liberals.
“I don't ever remember the Liberal vote going down to below 17 per cent – that’s unheard of. My feeling is that a lot of the disaffected Liberals have put their vote with the Green Party if they’re not likely to vote for the New Democrats.”
Simons said he remains open to hearing perspectives from different political parties and that he’s hoping to continue the relationship he established with Green Leader Sonia Furstenau, the MLA for Cowichan Valley, and Adam Olsen, the MLA for Saanich North and the Islands. Pending a judicial recount in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, Furstenau and Olsen will be the only green MLAs.
“I’ve always maintained friendships with members of the Opposition as well and that’s going to continue,” Simons said. “I hope that the temperament of the [legislature] is one that’s productive. People want to see us working together when possible.”
Simons said his priorities for his fifth term will reflect long-standing issues and issues raised during the campaign.
“During the election campaign people were thinking about ferries and transportation issues quite a bit. I heard a lot about old growth [forests] and about the need to protect some of our beautiful natural assets, not just for environmental reasons but for culture and tourism reasons as well,” he said.
“We have to redouble our efforts to address the opioid crisis and find new ways of making sure that people are not put in harm’s way, [continue] the process of strengthening our child welfare systems, strengthening our court system and police accountability.”
When the election was called, Simons was chair of a legislature committee looking into reforms to the Police Act. Although the committee was dissolved as a result of the campaign, he expects it will be reformed.
“I'm quite certain that the Police Act reform will be part of the agenda the new government,” Simons said.
Elections BC said there were 9,046 additional ballots from mail-ins, absentee votes and votes cast at the district electoral offices to be screened and counted for Powell River-Sunshine Coast. Based on the numbers released on the weekend, 153 were rejected.
The 24,961 total votes represent an estimated turnout of 60.5 per cent, a drop from the 2017 turnout of 69.6 per cent but still better than the provincial average.
“I’m glad to see that the fear that was created around ‘is it safe to vote?’ wasn't something that people really bought into,” Simons said. “People decided it was an important part of the democratic system.”
Writs of election from each riding still have to be returned to the chief electoral officer as the final step in the process, and Elections BC said it expects that to be done by Nov. 16.