Liberal MLA Dan Ashton on May 9, already elected with a solid lead in the Penticton riding, watches as a potential majority vote for the Liberals drifts toward a minority government, with the Greens holding the balance. Steve Kidd/Western News

Penticton riding candidates share thoughts on another election

Penticton’s provincial candidates learned some lessons on May 9

As speculation ramps up for a second B.C. election this year, Penticton riding candidates say they think they can hold up their previous results, or even do better.

Troubles are mounting for both the B.C. Liberals and the NDP-Green Party agreement to form a stable government, spurring speculation on social media that an election could be called in the coming days.

Legislature is set to sit for the first time since the election on Thursday, with the first order of business being the selection of a Speaker, which has proven a difficult task. The slim majority the so-called “GreenDP” agreement between the Green and New Democrat parties holds would slip into a 50/50 draw with the Liberals if one of their MLAs became Speaker.

Related: B.C. legislature to resume June 22 for crucial vote

The Liberals, too, have indicated they’re not about to surrender one of their seats to the spot, which is conventionally a non-voting member, except to break a tie, in which case the Speaker conventionally sides with the status quo.

There’s little question of whether MLA Dan Ashton would run if a second election were called, after winning his first re-election — and gained around seven percentage points over the election prior — in May.

NDP candidate Tarik Sayeed is biting his tongue on the subject at the moment, but did offer a few brief statements on whether he would run again in a second election.

“Perhaps; all options are open,” he said in an email statement. “I’m fortunate to serve our citizens as a city councillor and it is a responsibility that I take very seriously.”

He also played it cool on whether he expected to see another election, saying his “wish is to have an outcome that is best for all British Columbians.”

Summerland councillor Toni Boot, who rivalled Sayeed for the Penticton NDP candidacy, declined to comment on whether she would run if Sayeed did not.

Green Party candidate Connie Sahlmark was less shy about whether or not she would run in a second election.

“Absolutely,” she said. “I believe in the platform; it’s a very well thought-out platform. I think it would be a benefit to our riding. It’s frustrating because people don’t read the platform, but when you go through the planks and you think about how you could apply it here, it’s like, this would be amazing.”

None of the candidates said they wanted to see another election. In fact, with two candidates explicitly saying they did not want to see an election and another appearing lukewarm on the issue, it’s even less favourable to the politicians than to the general public, of which 29 per cent agreed that “B.C. should hold another election right away,” according to a recent Angus Reid poll.

“Having been on both sides, this is the only the first time I’ve ran, but I don’t even enjoy elections even when I’m not running,” Sahlmark said. “If it comes to it, I’ll run again. I love the platform, I love this region. This is home.”

Ashton also expressed some dismay at the notion of a second election this year.

“To be frank, I don’t think anybody wants an election. I don’t want another election. I really, really thought that Mr. Weaver would be independent,” he said, referring to the deal with the NDP.

“If Mr. Weaver remained independent, the Liberals would be sitting in government, and I really think Mr. Weaver had a golden opportunity to get his policies brought forward and work with both sides of the house. And, to be frank, I think that’s what people wanted.”

None of the parties appear to have fared well since the election, according to the Angus Reid poll, with 11 per cent of voters saying they would change their vote in another election. The Greens were hit the hardest (23 per cent), with one-in-10 Liberals changing their minds and only one in 20 NDP voters changing their minds.

But while the Greens take the greatest hit in voters changing their minds, it’s Liberal leader Christy Clark who lost the most “momentum” — the number of people who say their view of each leader has improved minus those who say it has worsened — to the tune of 32 per cent. Meanwhile, NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver took seven- and two-per-cent hits respectively.

But all three local candidates said there were lessons to be learned from the May election, with Sahlmark saying she “would run a campaign, because I’m not in school.” That, she said, would help her to perform better in a second election.

“I had very little time, no resources and no experience. This time we’ve got a little bit more of that going in,” Sahlmark said, at the same time shooting down any notion of vote-splitting. “People need to be able to vote for what they want. I really don’t like that vote-splitting thought because it’s not really in the interest of democracy.”

Pre-empting the Liberal Throne Speech, several policy changes have emerged from that party, including $1 billion for childcare and welfare and election donations reform.

“I think people will see that the government has listened, and said that there are things that we have to change. Campaign financing, increasing the social rates,” Ashton said. “Those are the things that need to be addressed. … Everybody can have their opinion on it. My concern is for all the citizens that I represent, and you can see what’s happened with the rural-urban divide.”

Sayeed only said he “has learned a lot, and there’s always room for improvement.”

Boundary-Similkameen NDP candidate Colleen Ross did not return a request for comment.

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