In what was predicted to be a close election in the Boundary-Similkameen riding, it was incumbent Liberal Candidate Linda Larson emerging victorious.
“You know I have worked really hard for four years. I would like to think that some of the work that I have done actually was recognized and did make a difference, right, but when it comes to provincial politics there are always other elements that come into play,” said Larson. “I do understand that and they are more difficult to deal with in a rural setting, like we have 18 communities and so on but I do understand there are other things people think about maybe not just the work I have done.”
With all 95 polls reporting, Larson held 9,174 votes. That is ahead of NDP candidate Colleen Ross of Grand Forks who had 6,941 votes, independent Dr. Peter Entwistle of Oliver who received 3,028 votes and Green Party candidate Vonnie Lavers of Kelowna who had 2,145 votes. That adds up to 21,288 ballots cast out of 40,082 registered voters in Boundary-Similkameen.
Larson said her victory wasn’t just a strong Liberal base in the riding.
“I think it is basic policy. I think people were concerned about what the cost would be associated with an NDP government and people here are very conscious of their pocketbooks. I think that rather than take that risk, they were going to stick with what they knew and they know me. I have worked hard for them for the past four years and I think that has paid off.”
Bill Barisoff, a long-time MLA in the Penticton riding for the B.C. Liberals, was at Silver Sage winery in Oliver to celebrate with Larson.
“Im certainly glad Linda and Dan (Ashton) got their seats back and it looks like the whole Okanagan stayed with the B.C. Liberals,” said Barisoff. “I assumed we were going to do well here in the Okanagan, because we always do, but I thought provincially we would be closer to 48 seats. Lets hope that we have a majority government for the B.C. Liberals.”
Barisoff lauded the leadership of Christy Clark and the candidates running in the Okanagan. This will be Larson’s second term as MLA after winning the seat in May 2013. She is a former Oliver mayor and town councillor. Most recently Larson was the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Education for Rural Education and a member of three committees.
“I think both Linda and Dan have done amazing jobs of getting things done for the South Okanagan and Boundary-Similkameen. I think they are both excellent representatives,” Barisoff said.
It has been 26 years since the riding elected an NDP candidate, at that time it was called Okanagan Boundary. However, in the past two elections the NDP came within 1,400 votes of success. In 2009, the NDP lost by less than 900 votes.
Voters in the Boundary Similkameen selected either a Liberal or Social Credit candidate in 14 of the last 15 provincial elections, but over the years the area has seen the election boundaries redrawn. The last time in 2009, which made this riding grow to encompass Princeton and surround Similkameen areas.
Hot-button issues in this riding ranged from the national park creation to healthcare and education. Last year with the only high school in Osoyoos set for closure, parents pleaded for support from the province. It wasn’t until the eleventh hour that Larson made an announcement for Rural Education Enhancement funding to save the school, at the same time Liberal cohort Dan Ashton made one in his riding of Penticton saving Trout Creek Elementary School from closing.
In her concession speech, Ross said she fought a good race but the people in the community decided.
“People are still looking for change, it is just that here in the Boundary-Similkameen they were not ready yet for the kind of love we were pouring and wanted to pour into their lives,” she said.
“I heard so much love on the doorsteps, every single day. We listened to the stories, and some of those stories were heart-wrenching. On more than one occasion after talking to someone and hearing their story did I have to stand on the curb for a minute or two and have a little cry,” said Ross.
— With files from Kristi Patton and Kathleen Saylors/Black Press