Liberal David Merner with his supporters at his campaign office in Esquimalt on election night.

Not just Liberals celebrating on the West Shore

Voter turnout well above national average on West Shore and Island

Katherine Engqvist and Tom Fletcher / Black Press

Monday was a night that won’t soon be forgotten. While polls predicted the New Democratic Party trailing in the tight three-way national race, few West Shore residents predicted a Liberal majority government but many did predict a number of NDP candidates taking their local ridings.

“The reason we didn’t get there is that we stood on principle and I’ll always be proud of the campaign [NDP leader] Tom [Mulcair] won. He didn’t give in to fear. He didn’t give in to division. He didn’t give in to those negative things that the Conservatives were promoting,” Randall Garrison told party supporters at an NDP after party at the Esquimalt Legion on Monday night. Garrison, who won the Saanich-Esquimalt-Sooke riding, called the night “bittersweet.”

But experts weren’t just predicting the winners of this election.

With new legislation in place for this election, which saw results being broadcast before local polls even closed, some experts questioned whether voters would be discouraged from casting their ballots. Many also questioned whether voters would burnout before election day and not cast a ballot.

But the opposite seemed to happen. With the competitive national race, along with tight local contests, Canadians and West Shore residents alike seemed to be more engaged this time around and closely watching for results on election day.

Elections Canada estimates voter turnout for Monday’s election at roughly 68.5 per cent, the highest turnout Canada has seen in over 20 years, with over 17.5 million votes cast.

West Shore residents surpassed the national average, turning up in mass to advance polls and on election day. Turnout for Saanich-Esquimalt-Sooke was just under 76 per cent, with almost 68,000 votes cast, and the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding saw a 73.5 per cent turnout with just over 59,000 votes cast.

Other ridings on the Island also posted large turnouts with Saanich-Gulf Islands sitting at roughly 79.5 per cent and Victoria with just over 77 per cent.

But as the local polls finally closed Liberal candidate David Merner couldn’t help but smile. Predicted as the Liberals best shot at winning an Island seat, he said his team worked hard at upsetting Garrison. While he eventually lost the Saanich-Esquimalt-Sooke riding to Garrison (the incumbent), he was leading as the first of the polls began reporting results.

“We had a fantastic campaign.” said Merner, which started by knocking on doors in January. “It doesn’t look like we quite got there but we did have a fantastic campaign team,” he said about his own personal results.

“I think Justin Trudeau had a big impact on recruiting young folks,” he said. “You can tell that there’s a huge red wave that’s come across the country and everybody’s just really, really excited. The fact that we didn’t win in this riding is just a small part of the bigger picture and the bigger picture is fantastic.”

But Garrison ultimately took the Saanich-Esquimalt-Sooke riding by just over 5,000 votes, with Merner finishing second and Green Party’s Frances Litman finishing the evening in third spot followed closely by Conservative Shari Lukens.

Garrison said although the NDP was unsuccessful, it did manage to push Prime Minister Stephen Harper out of office.

Now, he said, the NDP’s task is to finish some unfinished business. Garrison wants to make sure Liberals bring shipbuilding jobs to this riding – a promise made by the Conservatives – by next year.

That wave of support continued for the New Democratic Party, with Alistair MacGregor capturing a large victory in the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding, winning by roughly 7,000 votes.

“I am deeply humbled by the trust you have placed in me … I will work every single day with every ounce of energy I have to keep on earning that trust. It’s a very sacred thing,” MacGregor said.

Also enjoying a rather large victory margin was Green Party leader Elizabeth May, leading the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding with almost 24,000 votes. Victoria Green Party candidate Jo-Ann Roberts enjoyed a tight race but ultimately finished second to NDP’s Murray Rankin who took the riding by over 6,500 votes. Rankin, Garrison and MacGregor joined a total of six NDP winners across the Island.

But it’s Justin Trudeau who will be returning to 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa, the official residency of the Prime Minister, completing the first father-son dynasty in Canadian federal government history.

After a strong start in Atlantic Canada, the Liberals followed that momentum across the country, taking 184 seats to form the federal government. They were followed by the Conservatives taking 99 seats, the NDP with 44, the Bloc Quebecois with 10 and the Green Party with one.

Trudeau thanked supporters in his Montreal riding Monday night and began preparations to implement his new government policies after nine and a half years of Conservative rule in Ottawa.

“For three years we had a very old-fashioned strategy,” Trudeau said. “We met with and talked with as many Canadians as we could, and we listened.”

Major commitments by the Liberal campaign include legalizing recreational marijuana sales and running three years of deficits to build infrastructure across the country.

Trudeau has also promised to scrap the Conservative government’s approval for the Northern Gateway pipeline and enforce a ban on oil tanker traffic on B.C.’s north coast.

The Conservative Party issued a statement that Stephen Harper would resign as leader but would stay on as MP in his Calgary riding, where he won a seventh term.

“While tonight’s result is not what we had hoped for, the Canadian people are never wrong,” Harper told supporters, adding his congratulations to Trudeau.

katie@goldstreamgazette.com

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