Local candidates reflect on campaign; voter turnout hits 72%

Voter turnout in Kootenay-Columbia was strong in the 2019 Canadian general election. Out of the 91,652 eligible voters in the riding, 62,327 cast ballots.

The turnout was about 900 voters less than the 2015 election, which saw a 74 per cent turnout.

In any case, 2019’s 72.37 per cent voter was well above the national average of 65.95 per cent (18 million Canadians out of 27 million voted).

With the dust from Monday night settled, and 100 per cent of the polls reporting, the final results showed:

• Rob Morrison, Conservative: 29,893

• Wayne Stetski, NDP: 22,707

• Robin Goldsbury, Liberal: 6,033

• Abra Brynne, Green Party: 5,998

• Rick Stewart, People’s Party: 1,360

• Trev Miller, Animal Protection Party: 336.

And while the local vote propelled Rob Morrison of the Conservative Party of Canada into public office as the Kootenay-Columbia Member of Parliament, the national vote was enough to put Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals back into government, albeit as a minority government.

So Morrison will take his place among the benches of Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives as a member of the Official Opposition.

Pictured: Rob Morrison on election night at the Fire Hall Kitchen and Tap (Trevor Crawley photo)

Once he takes office, Morrison wants to work to solidify the local economy, to “solidify the coal in the Elk Valley, look after the sawmills, the mills and the loggers, deal with the tariff situation we have and making our international relationships more solid, and of course working with Alberta.

“The issues I’ve heard throughout the campaign were Jobs, number one, the economy … People want to get back to work, we want to build a pipeline and get the oil flowing.”

Robin Goldsbury, the Liberal candidate for Kootenay-Columbia, came in third in the polling, but the national result kept the mood light at her campaign headquarters in Cranbrook.

“We’re absolutely delighted with these results, and we were expecting these results,” she said late Monday night.

“We heard so many people say they were voting strategically, that they were going to go give their vote to the NDP — and think it’s time we now stand proud as Liberals and that we [in Kootenay-Columbia] start putting someone at that government table instead of knocking at the door.

“We’re looking forward to the next election locally, and as for federally, we are absolutely delighted we have another Liberal leadership in this country.”

Pictured: Liberal candidate Robin Goldsbury with her grandson on election night at her office in Cranbrook. Barry Coulter photo

Strategic voting was a hot topic locally and across the country. Abra Brynne of the Green Party, who polled fourth in Kootenay-Columbia, said Canada’s democracy would be better served by replacing our “First Past The Post” system with some form of proportional representation.

“The votes that came to all of us influenced the results, and I really, really hope that we’ll see electoral reform,” Brynne said at her election night headquarters in Nelson. “Because clearly this kind of divisive, negative politics that wasn’t dominated in the campaign here but in the tail end of the campaign became more of a factor, I think it’s sad.

“I don’t know it serves us well in a democracy and I think that if everyone felt free to vote to make a choice for what they want, our government in Ottawa would have a clearer idea of what their citizens are asking for. So I’m hopeful that one day we’ll get proportional representation and I do think we would see a significant change across the landscape in politics if that were to happen.”

Wayne Stetski, the NDP incumbent since 2015, lost this time by more than 7,000 votes. He too was musing on electoral reform on Monday night, and his support for it.

“Fair Vote Canada declared me as a national proportional representation champion, which I am,” Stetski said. “We do need to get to proportional representation voting, fundamentally politics in Canada will not change until we change our voting system. So I very much think we need to get there. Initially I had predicted a minority Liberal government — this was back in February with the NDP holding the balance of power. We have a list of things that Canadians have told us are important to them that we’re going to make sure if we are in a coalition government with the Liberals that they deliver on.”

Trev Miller: Animal Protection Party, on campaign

Trev Miller of the Animal Protection Party rounded out the field of six candidates in Kootenay-Columbia. Miller finished his election with 336 votes, but feels the work in getting his party’s message out into the public was worth the campaigning.

“It’s a different situation than I expected. It’s been a big project and I’m glad to have been able to take part in it,” Miller said.

Founded in 2005, the Animal Protection Party fielded 17 candidates in ridings across the country for the 2019 election. It is led by Liz White, an animal rights activist who has led campaigns against urban deer culls in Cranbrook and the East Kootenay in the past.

Miller, disenfranchised with the major parties on the right and the left, found a home in the Animal Protection Party after reaching out to leadership. He found the opportunity to present that party’s voice in the campaign a “tremendously rewarding experience.”

“I feel like I’ve been able to present a different voice for some things that people haven’t been thinking about and they’ve also been able to present a lot of really good ideas to me in areas that I haven’t been thinking about.

“I didn’t expect this from starting the campaign, I feel like I made five new friends as this went along. It’s been good to more fully hear and understand their viewpoints as well in order to inform them what I’m doing.

“I was able to bring a lot of ideas to people’s minds and part of those ideas is personal change is climate change so we have to re-examine what we’re doing.”

Rick Stewart, of People’s Party of Canada, on campaign

Rick Stewart, of the fledgling People’s Party of Canada, said his party was hoping to use this election to get established in the political landscape. Speaking to the Townsman as the results were coming in on election night, Stewart knew the numbers weren’t there, with even the party leader’s seat in jeopardy (Maxim Bernier went on to lose his seat).

Looking to get the party established.

“If it’s a blowout for our party that’s going to be a real hard thing to take,” Stewart said. “It makes it hard to fundraise and keep our presence in Ottawa.

“But we’re not going anywhere. This is the party that’s going to stay. We are the party that wants to keep Canada united and work for the prosperity of everybody.”

Stewart said the PPC wants a unified, prosperous country, and a government that puts Canadians first. “That’s what we’re all about, and that’s what we’re going to fight for.

“A lot of people see that lacking. Regardless of who’s winning in Ottawa, it’s just not apparent in our government. There’s a lot of people out there who see a real lack of understanding from the government in terms of what Canadians have to do every day to earn a living. And the government hits them harder and harder.”

Stewart said the Canadian government has a responsibility to its citizens, which it is not fulfilling. “As to our support around the riding, they may be few, but these are people who recognize these problems.”

Stewart said he would happily run for the PPC in another campaign.

With files from Trevor Crawley/Cranbrook Townsman, Tyler Harper/Nelson Star, Paul Rodgers/Cranbrook Townsman

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