The Liberals held onto West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country Monday night, despite losses in support across the country that erased hopes of them forming a second majority government.
Liberal candidate Patrick Weiler was declared winner by Canadian Press just after 9 p.m. with about half of the riding’s polls reporting. Conservative Gabrielle Loren had been running a close second as early results came in, but the gap between her and Weiler steadily grew and he finished the night about 5,000 votes ahead.
The unofficial count shows Wieler won with 22,135 votes (35 per cent), followed by Loren with 17,106 (27 per cent), Green Dana Taylor with 14,099 (22 per cent) and New Democrat Judith Wilson with 8,814 (14 per cent). PPC candidate Doug Bebb received 983 votes (1.5 per cent), while Rhino Gordon Jeffrey received 206 and independent Terry Grimwood got 158.
The results exclude one poll, comprised of ballots from electors not in the riding when they voted. It was expected to be validated Thursday.
Voter turnout in the riding was 67.2 per cent, not including voters who registered on election day. That’s slightly above the national turnout of 66 per cent.
Nationally, the Liberals were elected to a minority government with 157 seats (down from 177 at dissolution of Parliament), while the Conservatives won 121 seats (up from 95), the Bloc Quebecois 32 (up from 10), the NDP 24 (down from 39) and the Greens three (up from two). Former Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould was elected in Vancouver Granville as the country’s only independent.
The minimum number of seats needed for a majority government is 170.
Despite coming in second in seat count, the Conservatives won the popular vote at 34.4 per cent, about 240,000 votes more than the Liberals’ 33 per cent.
Weiler, who made his election night headquarters at a restaurant on Marine Drive in West Vancouver, said he was “incredibly excited, incredibly thankful and incredibly humbled and privileged” to have the opportunity to be the next MP for the riding.
He also said his team expected a tight race.
“We always thought it was going to be very close and every vote was going to count and we had that in our mindset from the get go to make sure that we put everything into it.”
Incumbent Liberal MP Pam Goldsmith-Jones enjoyed support throughout the riding in 2015, pulling in nearly 55 per cent of the vote, and Weiler said this time out he sensed the same widespread support across the Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky and West Vancouver regions.
“We definitely felt that was the case and it really rang through door knocking.”
Weiler said being in a minority government with less representation in B.C. than the previous Liberal government will be a challenge, but with Jonathan Wilkinson winning re-election in North Vancouver and Terry Beach in Burnaby North-Seymour, “we’re going to have a really strong North Shore team,” he added.
“It’s a challenge I’m really excited to take on and I’m looking forward to working with other parties.”
Loren started election day on the Sunshine Coast, leading volunteers in a sign-waving duel with Green supporters outside her campaign headquarters in Davis Bay before crossing Howe Sound to wait for results in West Vancouver.
When the result was clear, Loren went over to Weiler headquarters to offer congratulations, but Weiler had already left and instead she had a chance to talk to Weiler’s parents and other supporters.
“It was a lot of fun, I really enjoyed it. It was a great race,” Loren said, referencing the relatively collegial tone of the local campaign compared to others in the country.
“I’m hoping that if nothing else I’ve made a little bit of a contribution to a less polarized political future.”
As for the results themselves, Loren said she was expecting a tight three-way race and surprised to see how much more the left-leaning vote was fractured compared to 2015.
“I expected the Greens to do better,” Loren said. “I think the riding is so diversified – it’s not clear cut, you really do have three different parts of the riding with three different focuses.”
When it comes to her own political future, Loren said she hasn’t made up her mind about whether she’d run again and when asked to predict if a Liberal minority government would fall soon and trigger a new election she said, “Let’s see what ends up happening… These days I don’t like to predict anything.”
Taylor, who finished third, said the Greens were hoping for something better, “but third place is an improvement over what we did in the past, so that we’re certainly grateful for. We run to win, so I have to say, that was high on the list of expectations. But I think that at the same time, this riding has voted very traditionally… People are very married to where they come from, how they vote. If you bring a fourth party into the game, that’s starting from the ground up.”
While there was a lot of talk about climate change being a key election issue, Taylor said he was “quite frankly” surprised that it “didn’t seem to have much of an impact for a majority of voters” in the riding.
“It always seemed to be present, it always seemed to be part of somebody’s discussion, but the results tell me it certainly is not a crisis, not in the minds of people in the riding of West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky.”
Wilson said she was “not terribly disappointed” in the outcome.
“Overall the result is good for Canada,” the New Democrat said. “We’ve got a minority government and a minority government is a time when things get done. Pharmacare … might now be pushed into a reality… I'm hopeful we can accomplish some good things. Whether we'll be able to get some movement out of the Liberals on climate change, we’ll see.”
Regarding her fourth-place finish in the riding, Wilson noted that “when you come in late to a race, and you haven’t done a lot of groundwork in the riding itself, you can't expect to walk in and capture people’s imagination and their respect right away like that.”
She added: “I would like to congratulate Patrick Weiler and the other candidates in this riding. We were well served with the candidates with each of the parties. I didn't find there was terrible rancor among us, and that was a good thing.”
The People’s Party of Canada failed to win a single seat Monday night, with leader Maxime Bernier going down with the ship. Candidate Doug Bebb, who finished a distant fifth in the riding, was pessimistic about the future.
“I think we just lost the country. Quebec has clearly voted in self-interest. You're going to watch Alberta follow suit. And I think we’re going to have a lot of division in this country now and I don't think Canada is going to last for 10 years,” he said.
“This is probably the end for Confederation… I'm sorry we couldn't have done better for Canada.
Weiler, a 33-year-old lawyer who grew up in West Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast, was acclaimed as Liberal candidate in late August, almost four months after Goldsmith-Jones announced she would not seek re-election for a second term. She said the decision was based on a “need to spend time closer to home, particularly with my parents” and denied it had anything to do with internal issues within the party in the wake of the SNC-Lavalin controversy.
In September she gave her “wholehearted support” to Weiler, saying in a one-minute endorsement video that “his business interests and experience include strong environmental advocacy” and that he “has the desire and the ability to represent each and every one of us to make a real difference and to move Canada forward.”
Weiler attended McGill University and UBC Law, where his focus was environmental law. He has worked on special projects for the United Nations development program and practised environmental and Aboriginal law at North Vancouver firm Ratcliff & Co. Most recently, he worked for the Canadian International Resources and Development Institute, advising governments in Africa and Latin America on mining policy.
Goldsmith-Jones swept the riding for the Liberals in 2015, defeating Conservative incumbent John Weston with 54.6 per cent of the vote compared to Weston’s 26 per cent – a margin of almost 19,000 votes. New Democrat Larry Koopman came in third at just under 10 per cent and Green Ken Melamed received almost nine per cent.
Prior to that election, the riding boundaries had been adjusted to correspond with the eastern boundaries of West Vancouver and by removing the Powell River region and adding Pemberton and outlying areas.