News » Whistler

Weston re-elected in Conservative Sweep

Harper wins majority government; NDP rises, Liberals sink and Bloc destroyed

by

comment

It was an election for the record books. Riding a wave of blue, the Conservative Party of Canada swept into office to establish their first majority government since 2004.

Incumbent John Weston, the Conservative Member of Parliament for the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding, was swept along with them.

Of the 63,117 votes cast in Whistler's riding, John Weston received 28,711, or roughly 45.5 per cent of the popular vote.

The Liberal Party and NDP were close, with the NDP's Terry Platt winning 14,812 votes (23.5 per cent) and Liberal Dan Veniez winning 14,103 votes (22.3 per cent). The Green Party earned 4,597 votes or 7.3 per cent, while the other five parties - Libertarian, Marxist-Leninist, Canadian Action Party, Western Block Party and Canadian Progressive Party - combined for less than 1,000 total votes.

Weston said he was pleased by the result and the stability that a majority will create.

"It was very gratifying and very humbling," said Weston. "Nobody expected the results of last night nationally or even locally. We had a huge volunteer effort and it just feels inadequate thanking people for their time and resources. We had 600 volunteers on our team, which is astounding.

"(A majority) allows the country to focus on a vision and pursue it.

"It allows me to continue the momentum and to build a team and incorporate training for my staff. When you think about it, when was the last time you were able to say confidently, 'I know what I'll be doing the next four years of my life?' It's a very good feeling."

Weston said the majority would allow the party to get back to focusing on the economy.

In his own campaign, he focused on his party's economic accomplishments and Canada's relatively strong position in the worst financial crisis in 80 years, as well as his own achievements.

"In our riding it was gratifying to see the high degree of awareness of what collaboration had achieved between people in the corridor and my office," he said. "Communities have articulated their priorities and allowed me to champion those, and overall we brought in $240 million in federal investment into the riding, which is an unprecedented amount, with 120 legacy projects in collaboration with local governments, First Nation governments, provincial representatives and my office."

Weston also pointed to a Private Member's Bill that he championed in the last Parliament that was passed with unanimous support from all parties. The bill would make it a crime to purchase or possess in quantities the ingredients required to make crystal meth.

Weston also pointed to the Democratic Representation Act, which died on the table when the last election was called. That Act would add additional seats to B.C. in the House of Commons, based on the growing population.

As the MP for the largest riding in Canada by population - and one of the most diverse with urban West Vancouver, Sea to Sky and Sunshine Coast - Weston acknowledges that the bill could ultimately change this riding.

"I would have mixed emotions about that," he said. "I have a lot of deep-seated relationships in the communities, I love being the MP for this incredible riding, but at the same time I want to see more representation for B.C. in the House of Commons."

In Pemberton's riding, Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, the win went to Mark Strahl, the son of retiring MP Chuck Strahl, with 57.2 per cent of the popular vote. NDP candidate Gwen Mahoney won 25.7 per cent of the vote, followed by Liberal Diane Janzen with 10.8.

Although he had big shoes to fill in the riding with the elder Strahl holding the post through six election cycles, starting in 1993, Marc Strahl said this election was about policies.

"For the most part the campaign wasn't about personalities, it was about policies and that resonated right across the riding," he told Pique on Tuesday.

"Whether we were talking about the economy, or focusing on jobs or keeping taxes low; or getting tough on crime, or getting rid of the long-gun registry, or improving health care, we tried to focus on policy. The other parties tried to focus on personality, but that's not where the voters were in this election. They were concerned about the things the Conservative Party is concerned about."

Strahl said that most of the local issues revolved around those same national issues, but that he's looking forward to working with local governments to champion their issues in the House of Commons.

"I think that local government is the best way to determine the needs of each community, and I'm looking forward to working with Mayor (Jordan) Sturdy and others through the riding and taking their concerns to Ottawa."

Like Weston, Strahl was humbled by the volunteer support he received. While he had some name recognition working for him, he also had just over five weeks to make his case to the public.

"We had to throw together a campaign team in short order," he said. "I was nominated four days before the election started, but I had enthusiastic volunteers working for me. I've also been part of a number of campaigns before, so I was able to hit the ground running."

The preliminary results give the Conservative Party 167 seats out of 308 in the house, 13 more than they needed for a majority. They also earned 39.2 per cent of the popular vote.

The NDP placed second for the first time with 30.6 per cent of the vote, polling especially strong in Quebec where the separatist Bloc Quebecois saw their share of seats in the House of Commons drop from 49 to four. The NDP will form the official opposition with 102 seats, up from 37 after the 2008 election.

The Liberal Party also dropped from 77 seats to just 34.

The Green Party has at last achieved official party status after leader Elizabeth May was elected in the Saanich-Gulf Islands Riding - unseating former Olympic minister Gary Lunn.

Nationally, voter turnout was up over the previous election in 2008 with 61.4 per cent of eligible voters casting ballots. That's over two per cent higher than the 59.1 per cent reported in 2008, which was the lowest in Canadian history. Since confederation in 1867 the average has been over 70 per cent.

There is evidence that the rise of the NDP under leader Jack Layton may have played a role in the Conservatives winning a majority. One analysis in the Ottawa Citizen suggested that vote splitting was responsible for the loss of 13 Liberal seats to the Conservative Party and one Bloc Quebecois seat. As well, the Green Party also played spoiler despite seeing their share of the popular vote drop by almost 50 per cent. In 14 ridings, votes for the Green Party may have made the difference for either the Liberal or NDP candidate.

Several websites, like the ProjectDemocracy.ca and Catch22Campaign.ca tried to circumvent the possibility of vote splitting by telling people who to vote for strategically in their riding to prevent the Conservative Candidate from winning. As well, there was a massive effort on Facebook and Twitter to mobilize voters to vote the Conservative Party out of power.

But while vote splitting helped the Conservative Party win a majority, the party actually saw its share of the popular vote increase 1.6 per cent from 37.6 per cent in 2008.

The Conservative Party campaigned based on its handling of the economy and Canada's strong financial standing in the global recession, as well as their belief that this was an unnecessary and costly election ($300 million price tag) at the wrong time.

Locally, John Weston campaigned on the Conservative Party record nationally, as well as his own contributions to the riding - including changes to the worker visa program, federal investment in infrastructure and his role in establishing a task force to determine the cause for declines in salmon runs.

The aftermath for other parties is less clear, although with a majority Conservative government they'll have four or five years to figure it out. Both Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe resigned after losing their seats.