Conservative Dan Albas wasn’t the only one to walk away from Monday night’s election with a landslide victory in his pocket
Like Albas in Okanagan Coquihalla, Alex Atamanenko earned a convincing win at the polls, though he will be carrying the NDP banner in Ottawa.
“It was a pretty good victory,” said the understated Atamanenko, who garnered almost 51 per cent of the votes cast in the B.C. Southern Interior riding.
Atamanenko captured 25,176 votes, well ahead of Conservative Stephen Hill with 19,276, the Green Party’s Bryan Hunt with 3,173 and Liberal Shan Lavell with 1,872.
Historically, Atamanenko has had strong support. He was first elected in 2006 with 49 per cent of the popular vote, and won again in 2008, nearly 6,000 votes ahead of Conservative Rob Zandee, his closest challenger.
This time, however, the strong turnout to support Atamanenko and the NDP was mirrored across the country as the NDP surged into the role of official Opposition for the first time.
“I felt elated and happy, the fact we got all those seats, but at the same time, I felt quite discouraged that we were seeing a Conservative majority,” said Atamanenko. “It puts quite a tremendous responsibility on our shoulders as the official Opposition, to hold those guys accountable. It’s going to be really hard.”
There will be two big changes for the NDP as they take up their new role, according to Atamanenko. Assuming he retains the agriculture critic portfolio, he says there will be more NDP members on the Agriculture Committee that just himself.
“It will also give our party more chances to ask questions in the house, being the official Opposition,” he said, referring to parliamentary rules that proportion questions according to how many members each party has in the House.
“So we will be able to get all those issues out, more than we have in the past,” he said.
Atamanenko attributes the strong support he received to the work he and his staff have been trying to do, noting that they had six campaign offices distributed throughout the large riding, each of which had new volunteers, people that had never come out before.
“This side of the riding, in the Kootenays, has been traditionally New Democrat. We’ve got this traditional basis and then what I’ve been trying to do … is to build that base in the western part of the riding,” he said. “We even won a few polls in Oliver, which is an encouraging sign.”
The next step, however, is to get his office back up and running.
“Right now, I am just sifting through all of the material that piled up in my MP office during the campaign, because I wasn’t allowed to do any of this work,” he said. “I am just going through all of that stuff right now and hopefully our office will be back on track next week.”