Election redefines political landscape

With tears streaming down her face a local college student feared what the next four years will look like with a Conservative majority.

Liberal candidate John Kidder watches the election returns come in Monday night

Liberal candidate John Kidder watches the election returns come in Monday night

With tears streaming down her face a local college student feared what the next four years will look like with a Conservative majority.

“This will be four years of hell,” said the student who preferred not to give her name.

While at NDP candidate David Finnis’ election night party the student said uncertainty over tuition fees going up, funding for students getting cut and concern over women’s issues scared her.

“I was hoping there would be some change in the country over this election. I’m living on no money and it’s hard to put food on my table and gas in my car. The Conservative government doesn’t represent Canadians, they represent corporations. For women and students this is horrible,” she said.

Finnis came in second in the Okanagan Coquihalla riding with 12,853 votes (24.1 per cent). The announcement that the NDP would be the official Opposition brought some cheering.

“We are the party that jumped the most seats, it’s an incredible number. Forming the Opposition and topping over 100 seats are milestones,” said Finnis. “All of that changes the dynamics within the country, I think significantly. It will alter the way things happen. There will obviously be a different Parliament. One of the things I tried to bring forward in the forums was that Jack Layton and I both want to work with other people and that is what worries me. Is the prime minister going to even recognize that there is an opposition across the floor?”

Finnis credited what has been called the orange surge with the number of votes he received in the Okanagan Coquihalla riding. Even though there is a strong Conservative base, Finnis said he encountered many voters who wanted to see change. Finnis, who comes from a background in Summerland municipal politics, added maybe that was what also encouraged people to vote for Conservative candidate Dan Albas.

“You may have seen his face around here a lot and maybe that is one of the reasons people wanted to elect him — they wanted him out of city council,” joked Finnis.

A month ago, John Kidder had high hopes he would be able to engineer a Liberal victory in Okanagan Coquihalla, hopes that were dashed Monday night as poll results quickly indicated a Stockwell Day-like landslide for new Conservative candidate Dan Albas.

Not surprisingly, there were a few sombre moments at the local Liberal headquarters, but Kidder did his best keep up the spirits of his supporters and volunteers in the light of the overwhelming Liberal defeat, both nationally and in Okanagan Coquihalla.

Rather than focusing on the defeat, Kidder, focused on the rebuilding the Liberal Party was going to have to do, likening it to the progress the party made locally, where he said they went from six volunteers to 600 in the course of a month.

“What we have done here is the beginning of what the Liberal Party has to do across the country,” he said, close to tears himself as he recounted the accomplishments and thanked his supporters.

“My heart goes out to all of you. It’s been, truly, the most humbling thing I have ever done … just so many people to come together, pull together to support me,” said Kidder.

Kidder also linked the Liberal’s poor performance locally (5,815 votes for 10.9 per cent)  to what was going on nationally.

“I think the national trends have overwhelmed us,” he said. “The truism in this business is 85 per cent of the campaign is the national campaign. We have seen an incredible surge for Jack Layton and it’s translated to all of the NDP candidates across the country.”

Kidder said he’s planning to keep to his commitment to stick it out for a second election in Okanagan Coquihalla. But first he plans to relax a little with his campaign manager and partner, Alexandra Paproski.

“Number one, I am going to take Allie to Ashcroft, we’re going to turn a city girl into a country girl. That’s going to be an interesting thing to do for a while,” said Kidder.

The crowd at Green Party candidate Dan Bouchard’s election gathering cheered loudly when party leader Elizabeth May clinched her seat, and jeered, “this is a disgrace,” as the local results rolled by on the ticker showing Albas had won. May won the first elected seat in history for the Green Party.

“We made history tonight,” said Bouchard. “We got our foot in the door, so we are going to let these two duke it out for the next four years then we are going to come in storming.”

Bouchard pointed out the seat count on the television and how there was one seat marked “other.” He said it was obviously May’s seat and just a reflection of how some media and polls didn’t relate to the sentiment on the ground, pointing out systemic flaws within the electoral system and media. Still, Bouchard said he expected a better result than the 4,997 votes he received for fourth place (9.4 per cent) for the Green Party in the Okanagan Coquihalla riding.

“There is still room for improvement, and if you look across this room tonight you will see grey hairs all the way down to young kids. Our whole strategy was to engage the widest demographic possible. We have just seen an absolute landslide and maybe we didn’t speak loud enough to the alternative, but I’m not sure how much policy played into this result,” said Bouchard. “I’m sad for Canada today, but I’m hopeful this will help show us how polarized we have become and what becomes of that.”