After three and a half years on the sidelines, John Weston’s going in.
The Conservative candidate, who lost by less than a thousand votes to Blair Wilson in the 2006 election, earned close to 45 per cent of more than 60,013 votes cast in the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding on Tuesday night — more than 11,000 votes ahead of runner up and Liberal candidate Ian Sutherland, who earned 26.6 per cent support. The Green Party, represented by incumbent MP Blair Wilson, and the NDP, represented by Bill Forst, each received just 14 per cent of the vote.
Contacted at his campaign headquarters in West Vancouver on Wednesday, a tired but elated Weston acknowledged that his work is really just beginning.
“I’m looking forward to building the infrastructure here, putting my office and personnel together in Ottawa and throughout the riding,” he said. “I certainly want to be as responsive to the people in the riding as possible, and it’s important to get the right people on board to be responsive to the folks in Whistler, Squamish, and everywhere throughout the riding.”
As for what he hopes to accomplish for the riding in Ottawa, Weston says he has spend the last few years putting together a list of issues to take to Parliament.
“I’ve been meeting with elected officials and leaders through the riding for three and a half years, and I have a good idea of the priorities in each area. I’m intending to make sure I focus on the top two or three priorities in each community,” he said. “Rather than articulate now, I’ll be going back to each community to make sure we’re on the same page.
“I’m delighted by the confidence that voters put into me, and I’m also humbled by that. In each community that reported… all unique in their own ways, I had convincing wins, which tells me that I’ve connected with the people and communities. For me that’s a reassuring and strong mandate.”
Sutherland, who was a first-time candidate for the Liberal Party, said he was glad to have the opportunity to speak to communities in the riding and that he enjoyed the process. He was disappointed with the results, but said they weren’t unexpected.
“I spent five weeks working hard and trying to get support across the riding, but I was also realistic, that it’s a short campaign and that John (Weston) has been running for the last two-plus years.”
Sutherland’s future plans are unclear. He will step down as mayor of Squamish after the Nov. 15 elections but he is not sure whether he will continue to be the Liberal candidate. He’s evaluating his options he says, and the final decision will be made by the riding association.
He also said that something has to be done to bring the parties on the left of the political spectrum together or they risk becoming a permanent minority as a result of vote splitting — something he urged voters to consider in his campaign.
“I think if you look at this riding and pretty much across the country… something needs to be done,” he said. “When you have three credible candidates on one side and a credible candidate on the other side of the spectrum, the math tells you who will win most of the time.”
Nationally, the Conservative Party won 143 seats with 37.63 per cent of the popular vote and will again form government under leader Stephen Harper. It will be Canada’s third consecutive minority government after elections in 2004 and 2006. A party needed 155 seats to form a majority.
The Liberal Party will form the official opposition with 76 seats, losing several seats in this election. The Bloc Quebecois won 50 seats, and the NDP 37. Two independents were elected.
Overall turnout was down about five per cent from the last federal election, to a record low of 59.1 per cent. Just 13,832,972 votes were cast out of 23,401,064 eligible voters.
In West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, turnout was above the national average with 63.8 per cent of 94,144 eligible voters casting ballots.