The federal election turned out to be much more decisive than expected on a national level, with the Liberals rolling to a majority win and a historic turnaround from their dismal showing in 2011. Locally, however, the race couldn’t have been much closer.
“I like the arts, I like drama. That was maybe a little bit too much drama for one night,” said Wayne Stetski of the NDP.
In fact, Stetski saw many of his supporters go to bed discouraged only to wake up to see that their candidate had pulled off a surprising turnaround.
Stetski trailed incumbent Conservative MP David Wilks by over 1,000 votes as the early polls were tallied up on Oct. 19, which didn’t come as a complete shock for the former mayor of Cranbrook.
“We were waiting for the entire riding to be heard from. We knew that, while there is strength and support throughout the riding, that the West Kootenay numbers were very solidly going to be in our favour,” Stetski said, adding that his volunteers in Nelson would report that seven or eight out of ten individuals said they would be voting for him.
As the night wore on, Stetski found himself back in the race, trading slim leads with Wilks as the night wore on.
According to Stetski, Golden’s numbers were late coming in as well and he was confident that he’d have good support in Golden.
“It was a bit disconcerting because you do write two speeches on election night…I had them both prepared,” he said.
The final result saw Stetski take the seat by just 285 votes and break what had been a stronghold for the right, dating back to the Reform Party in the early ‘90s.
“Part of it was a lot of really hard work. I knocked on over 1,000 doors. I had canvassers knocking on thousands more doors throughout the riding…there was also of course the number one thing I heard at the door was that Stephen Harper had to go,” Stetski said.
Throughout the campaign, Stetski heard from the public that the riding had four very strong candidates for MP and he was quick to commend all of his opponents – which included Bill Green (Green Party), Don Johnston (Liberal Party) and Wilks – for running a strong campaign.
While it was a triumphant night for Stetski and his team of supporters and volunteers, it was a devastating one for his party, as the NDP, who had aspirations of forming government and led many of the national polls into September, dropped 51 seats from 2011.
“There will be a thorough analysis done across the country to look at what could have been done differently,” Stetski said.
“On an upside, we did elect 44 MPs which is the second highest number that the NDP have had in parliament.”
Stetski admits that when he joined the race he had aspirations of being named to cabinet in an NDP-led government, a possibility that no longer exists after the Liberal win. Instead, he’ll have a role in the opposition.
“(The Liberals) made a lot of promises and one of our jobs in opposition is to hold their feet to the fire to make sure they deliver on all of the things that they promised to do,” he said.
After a historically long election, the real work for Stetski is just beginning and he plans to make his first of many trips to Ottawa in early November for orientation and a series of meetings.