Arne Petryshen and Sally MacDonald
Bill Bennett took the Kootenay East riding for the fourth election in the row, capturing 63 per cent of the Kootenay East vote as of press time, compared to 36 per cent for the NDP’s Norma Blissett.
Bennett has held the riding since 2001 when the BC Liberals took power. His party also formed another majority government, despite broad polling throughout the election campaign and before that suggested the NDP would form a majority.
At his party’s celebration at the Heritage Inn, Bennett said he was happy to hear that his party was poised to take a majority lead in the province.
“I never believed that we had no chance,” Bennett said. “I always believed we had a good chance at winning.”
About his own victory in the riding Bennett echoed the sentiment.
“I’m really, really grateful that I won,” Bennett said. “I have a lot of support in Kootenay East. I know people personally. It’s not like a big city riding where you don’t know where you don’t know your constituents.”
He said that knowing people personally puts pressure on him to perform in his duties in the legislature.
Bennett said that a new Intensive Care Unit at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital is the number one job he has on the horizon now that he has been re-elected, followed by work on the homeless shelter in Cranbrook to add to the balance he said the riding needs.
“We have got great jobs here with the coal industry, the forest industry and the tourism industry,” he said. “But we got to make sure we don’t leave people behind.”
He added that the replacement to Mount Baker Secondary School is also an important upcoming job.
Bennett also praised Christy Clark’s role in the election run-up and the positive outcome for the liberals.
“I did not expect to be in opposition,” he said. “I have never expected to be in opposition. I have always believed that we were going to win. What Christy Clark has done here is something that I don’t think any politician in Canada could have done. People that said she had no substance, that she wasn’t very smart and all the other nasty things that they said about her. To me, I should never hear that ever again about that woman. She is a very very capable person and she is a great leader and I hope that tomorrow morning she wakes up as premier.”
Meanwhile, a disappointed Norma Blissett was surrounded by supporters chanting her name at Cranbrook pub Dee Dee Magee’s as the election was called for Bennett Tuesday night.
“I thought we had a good chance, but obviously the voters have spoken and they wanted Mr. Bennett back,” Blissett told the Townsman in an interview late Tuesday night.
Blissett said she has been campaigning door-to-door since February, “and we’ve had other people helping in the past month, and we’ve been phoning and canvassing, and we had some good communications, so I think we ran a good campaign. It’s just the will of the people; they really wanted to support Mr. Bennett and the B.C. Liberals.
Her campaign team were hard-working and dedicated, Blissett went on.
“I have had wonderful support. We have a great team of volunteers… they came through big time for me. Between all the scrutineers we had today, and people manning the office, and the sign crew did a fantastic job. So I am so pleased with all the volunteers,” she said.
Like many people in British Columbia, Blissett said she was surprised the B.C. Liberals won the province.
“The last polling I was looking at on the weekend showed us being nine points ahead,” Blissett said. “I knew this would be a tough riding, Kootenay East would be hard, but I thought we had a shot. “And I felt confident that we would be forming government, so I am quite surprised.”