Wayne Stetski talks with one of his supporters at his campaign office in Cranbrook while awaiting the results of a very close race in the Kootenay Columbia.

Stetski tops Wilks in Kootenay-Columbia

After a narrow back-and-forth night, the NDP candidate bested the Conservative incumbent by just 285 votes.

  • Oct. 20, 2015 10:00 a.m.

Barry Coulter, Arne Petryshen and Trevor CrawleyBlack Press

In the end, vote-splitting on the left was a moot point.

High drama kept voters in Kootenay-Columbia awake into the small hours, as Conservative David Wilks and New Democrat Wayne Stetski traded the lead down to the last handful of votes, in what was one of the tightest contests in the country.

On a historic election night, Monday, October 19, 2015, the riding saw massive voter turnout — more than 73 per cent.

With all polls reporting, according to Elections Canada online updates, Kootenay-Columbia could have a new Member of Parliament. According to preliminary results, Stetski finished on top by only 285 votes  — 23,529 to Wilks’ 23,244.

Liberal candidate Don Johnston got 12,315, Green Party candidate Bill Green 4,115. That means 63,232 out of 85,653 eligible voters cast ballots.

In David Wilks’ campaign office in Cranbrook the mood was sombre after a remarkably tense evening.

“I was cautiously optimistic going into this and knew that it was probably going to come down to the last couple polls and it did,” Wilks said. “Congratulations to Mr. Stetski and I look forward to him working well with the constituency of the new riding of Kootenay Columbia.

“It’s been an honour for me to be in Ottawa for the last four and a half years.”

Wilks said he thought that the NDP ran a good campaign and that was what made it such a close race. He noted that Leadnow — an independent advocacy organization — targeted this riding very heavily.

“That probably played a significant role,” he noted.

Wilks said he had no regrets through the campaign.

“I worked a very hard campaign, I think all four of us worked a really hard campaign,” he said. “It is what it is, and you move on.”

Wilks said some of the comments Stetski made during the campaign were incorrect, but didn’t have an impact.

“I needed to make sure the people knew what the proper story was and I did that, and I don’t think that that was something that hurt me at all,” he said.

Wilks added the voting turnout was pretty impressive.

Stetski apparently benefitted from the anti-Stephen Harper sentiment that led to a shocking Liberal majority government in Canada and a new Prime Minister.

It was absolutely neck and neck as the polls reported and the vote counts came in, with both candidates trading the lead. High drama indeed, on a historic night that saw the advent of Justin Trudeau, Canada’s 29th Prime Minister — and first dynastic Prime Minister — while Stephen Harper announced his resignation the same night.

It is apparent the anti-Harper sentiment was alive and well in Kootenay-Columbia, and for the first time in almost 20 years, a Conservative victory in this riding was not a foregone conclusion. Down at the Manual Training Centre in Cranbrook, where the NDP were hosting a party, the winning candidate was relatively subdued.

“We are, I guess I’ll use the word successful by two handfuls of votes,” Stetski said. “It’s too close to call so nobody should be declaring victory at this point. There may well be a judicial recount.”

A judicial recount looks unlikely. A judicial recount is a new tabulation of the votes cast for an electoral district, presided over by a judge of a superior court of the province or territory.

A judicial recount must take place if the leading candidates in an electoral district receive the same number of votes after the validation of the results, or if they are separated by less than one one-thousandth of the total votes cast. In this case, the difference would have to be 63 votes.

“What an interesting evening it’s been,” Stetski said. “I brought two speeches tonight, and I’m not going to give either one of them.

“It really is too close to call and neither Mr. Wilks or I should be giving a victory speech at this point.”

Stetski thanked all the volunteers around Kootenay-Columbia. “For Audrey and I to drive into a community and have people waiting for us, has just been such a wonderful experience.

“For me, I was the regional manager of the Ministry of Environment for the Kootenays, with offices in Cranbrook, Nelson, Revelstoke and Invermere, and so for me, running in this election has been like going home. It’s absolutely been a wonderful adventure.”

Stetski thanked the other candidates as well. “Mr. Johnston, ran for the Liberals, I think the figures were up to 19 or 20 per cent. He ran a very good campaign, a good candidate.

“Bill Green, excellent human being, great candidate and Mr. Wilks actually did very well as well. We had 12 debates in 12 communities. He didn’t come to all of them, but he came to most of them.

“Collectively, after many debates, I had people come up to me and say what a great group of candidates we had running in Kootenay-Columbia.

Stetski said politics is gone as of Monday night. “My job is to represent each constituent of Kootenay Columbia equally and that is what I will do, I will be your strong voice in Ottawa, I will provide you with excellent public service and I will work really hard with both the NDP caucus and Justin Trudeau and the Liberals to build a better Canada.

“Assuming we are in Ottawa after this, we are all in Ottawa together.

“If everything holds, then I am looking forward to seeing Justin in Ottawa after Oct. 19 and absolutely congratulating him on a great campaign.”

 

Just Posted

Rain, storms to hit Kootenays, Boundary amid flood crisis

Environment Canada is calling for 20 to 40 mm of rain by Friday

Thunderstorms headed to the West Kootenay

Environment Canada re-issued their special weather statement this morning,

UPDATED: Horgan says B.C. defending its interests in Trans Mountain pipeline

Canadian finance minister’s update comes the same day Kinder Morgan shareholders plan to meet

RCMP recover stolen items

Submitted Police in Golden recovered multiple stolen items just after 2 a.m.… Continue reading

Editorial: An innocent bear loses its life

This week one of the local conservation officers stopped in, letting me… Continue reading

VIDEO: Canadian Forces help flood-ravaged Grand Forks residents heal

Sgt. Bradley Lowes says the military is used to dealing with traumatic times

UPDATED: Almost 1,200 people allowed to return home in Kootenay-Boundary as floods dry up

Officials hope to have all 3,000 people back in their homes by Monday night

B.C. Lions bring back 6-time all-star offensive lineman Jovan Olafioye

He was acquired by the Montreal Alouettes last year.

Whitecaps rally for 2-2 draw with FC Dallas

Vancouver climbed out of a two-nil hole to tie FC Dallas 2-2

B.C. VIEWS: Making sense of climate policy

Flood and fire predictions have poor track record so far

Chilliwack Chiefs moving on to RBC Cup final after thrilling win over Ottawa

Kaden Pickering scored the winning goal in the 3rd period as Chilliwack won their semi-final 3-2.

VIDEO: As floodwaters recede, crews assess the damage to Grand Forks’ downtown

More than four dozen firefighters and building inspectors came out to help

Wellington Dukes pull off epic upset of Wenatchee at RBC Cup

The Dukes are off to the championship game after downing the Wild 2-1 Saturday at Prospera Centre.

Canada to face U.S. for bronze at world hockey championship

Canada was looking to play in the gold medal game for a fourth straight year, but saw 3-2 loss

Most Read