NDP candidate Wayne Stetski for Kootenay East in the 2020 BC provincial election. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

NDP candidate Wayne Stetski for Kootenay East in the 2020 BC provincial election. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Wayne Stetski: Provincial results could point to federal election

The NDP candidate for Kootenay East said incumbent governments were seeing success in elections across Canada amid the pandemic

The results of the provincial election here in British Columbia are no doubt interesting reading for the Canadian Prime Minister, according to NDP candidate Wayne Stetski.

While Stetski was unsuccessful in unseating incumbent Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka, he said that the provincial NDP’s strong result in the middle of a pandemic – going from minority government to majority government – could be teaching incumbent governments around Canada that electoral glory was just one election away even with a public health crisis.

“There have now been three provincial elections (in 2020) where the party in power increased their seats – including in BC here,” he said.

In addition to BC, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan have returned incumbent governments with stronger mandates in September and October respectively.

“To some degree when you’re a politician – and certainly Prime Minister Trudeau is a politician – when you’re looking across the country and you’re see that there have been three elections called in a pandemic and in each case the government – and in some cases a minority government like in BC – ended up with a much stronger majority,” he said.

“The temptation must really be there for the federal Liberals to call an election and try and move out of their minority status,” though he added he didn’t think that would happen until Spring at the earliest.

Stetski, who represented Kootenay-Columbia in the previous federal parliament (having unseated a Conservative MP, and been unseated by another in turn), said that he “never said no” to be asked if he was thinking of running again. “I am certainly watching (the federal scene) with a great deal of interest.”

On the provincial result that just came and went, Stetski said he “wasn’t that surprised” that Kootenay East stuck with a centre-right party, noting that within Kootenay-Columbia, which overlaps three provincial ridings including Kootenay East, this riding was the most conservative.

“I thought the percentages might be a little different. That was because it was so positive on the streets. When you run election campaigns you’re used to familiar faces telling you they’re so happy you’re running and that they’ll be voting for you, but we had a lot of people that I had never met before say that when we ran into them on the street.”

Nevertheless, Stetski managed to secure an increase in both raw vote count and percentage for the NDP in Kootenay East, with 5,499 votes (up from 5,077 in 2017), or 32.17 per cent (up from 29.67 per cent in 2017) going to the NDP.

“We had a lot of fun, I had a great group of people to work with,” said Stetski.

The number that did disappoint Stestski was turnout, however, with a provincial total of 52.4 percent of eligible voters exercising their right to vote.

“That’s an awful lot of people that for whatever reason chose not to get involved in this election,” said Stetski.

Of note for the BC NDP going forward is the “wall of red” along the Alberta-BC border from the election results.

“It was quite stark. Along the Alberta-BC border is solidly red, solidly Liberal, right from the top of the province to the bottom of the province, I thought that’s an interesting phenomenon – I wonder how much Alberta’s politics impacts our politics here in the eastern part of British Columbia.”

Nevertheless, Stetski said he was looking forward to “four years of good government. I certainly wish I was part of that government.”

For his part, Stetski will stay in the public spotlight, remaining involved in community boards and community groups in the area and beyond, which he said was his way of giving back to the community and staying involved.

Specific to the Elk Valley, Stetski said he’d continue to lobby the provincial NDP government to provide more funding to deal with overcrowding in schools in Fernie, and that he’d continue to encourage incumbent MLA Tom Shypitka to set up “at least a part-time office in the Elk Valley” to better serve constituents.

READ MORE: Shypitka holds lead in Kootenay East on final count

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