Election night is always tense, but Blair Wilson came into this election knowing that it would be close, but confident that he’d done everything he could to campaign – knocking on doors, attending dozens of events, putting up signs, and meeting with any organization that had time to meet with the Liberal Candidate.
In an election where voter turnout was up four per cent nationally and three per cent in the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky riding, Wilson came by his seat in Parliament by just 986 voters over Conservative Party candidate John Weston. While some would call that nerve-wracking, Wilson called the race exciting and praised Weston for running a clean campaign.
In an election that was marked by accusations of Liberal corruption, and of extreme right-wing views by the Conservatives, running a clean campaign wasn’t easy.
Pique caught up with Wilson the day after the election to get his impression of the campaign and what he plans to do for the riding in Ottawa.
Pique: It looked early on in the evening that John Weston had the lead, but then you pulled ahead as the night went on. Were you confident?
Blair Wilson: We were confident that we were going to prevail, but at the same time we weren’t taking anything for granted. We worked diligently in all parts of the region to make sure we got good representation… and as the poll results came in I knew it was tight, but we could see the momentum building slowly from that. We were 100 votes ahead, then 200 votes ahead, then 300, it was all moving in the right direction, but it’s not over until it’s over so we kept on pushing to the last minute.
Pique: With this election people are really surprised by the turnout. People thought because it was so soon after the last election that the turnout would be down, but people actually came out in greater numbers and seemed better informed. Given that, why do you think you did so well in this riding?
BW: I think that’s because of a few things. The first thing is I’ve been working hard for the past 18 months, since the last election, meeting with community leaders, meeting with mayors, meeting with councils, meeting with concerned citizens… we were having a good dialogue and building good relationships with all sorts of people regarding a number of important issues in the riding. Secondly, I think when you compare the two parties, never before in history have there been so many completely different views on the same topics. I think people could take a look at the Liberals and the Conservatives and see clear differences in policies. Contrast the two, and I think it helped us prevail.
Pique: When was the last time a Liberal won this riding?
BW: I think it was 1974.
Pique: So you had to overcome 30 years of conservative parties. Do you think that some of those conservatives came over to your party, or that maybe you picked up some supporters from the Green Party and NDP?
BW: I think it was a bit of both. My background being a chartered accountant and being an entrepreneur, I think that helped in West Vancouver to sway over more business-minded people in that area to our side, but as well I think the ability to have a broad policy platform also appealed to people that, for example, the environment was important for. I think there were a lot of people in the riding that saw that I was a strong advocate for the environment, and for the greenest Olympic Games ever. I worked with John Furlong to get the bid here, and part of that process in the bid book was that we would be environmentally-friendly and we worked on sustainability, and that’s something I look forward to working on after today.
Pique: The Liberals did lose power, but do you think you’re in a good position as the opposition party to still make policy?
BW: I think the Conservatives have a weak minority, and at the end of the day the Canadian people have spoken and will continue to speak. We’ll keep Mr. Harper in a tight box and make sure he listens to Parliament and works together with us.
Pique: Anything you’re looking to do first when you get to Ottawa?
BW: The biggest thing is to get back out to the regions (in the riding) and talk to the people who got me where I am right now and make sure I’m open and accessible to them, on the ground and in Ottawa. So I’ll reopen those lines of communications with people in the riding, and that’s my top priority.
Pique: There were concerns that this campaign was going to go negative in this riding, but aside from a few attacks on the parties it seemed like a pretty clean campaign.
BW: I think it was. In every election you have the choice of taking the high road or not, and we did that in the last election and in this election. I think that’s the only way to get young people involved in politics and to get other people who may not have voted last time around to take an interest. You’ve got to work together with the opposition candidates, and you also have to work closely with media and make sure we’re talking about the issues that Canadians and people in this riding care about.
Pique: Have you spoken to John Weston since the election?
BW: I have. I was on the bridge thanking people, and he came by and we shook hands and congratulated each other. In my acceptance speech I made sure I congratulated all the opponents we ran against, we all fought a long and hard campaign, and now it’s time to regroup and rebuild the Liberal Party and move forward.
Pique: What was that victory party like, seeing as how we haven’t elected a Liberal MP since 1974.
BW: It was a tremendous feeling, and I was very proud of all the hard work the volunteers did. We had at least, and probably more than, three times as many volunteers in this campaign as we did in the last campaign, and I’m looking forward to trying to build the party in this riding, in this region and throughout British Columbia.
Pique: Anything else you want to add
BW: Just that whether you voted for me or not, I’m the Member of Parliament for this riding and I will represent each and every resident to the best of my ability.