“Election Days,” rather than “Election Day,” may be the more accurate term for the 42 British Columbia General Election, Saturday, Oct. 24.
More than 497,000 mail-in ballots were returned to Elections BC as of October 23. In Kootenay East, more 3,200 mail-in ballots were issued. These won’t be counted until November 6, meaning the official election result won’t be declared until then.
However, by night’s end, the BC NDP were comfortably in majority position. By 11:22 pm Mountain Time, based on preliminary results, they had been elected in 48 ridings (44 needed for a majority) and were leading in another 6. The BC Liberals followed in second (elected or leading in 30), and the BC Green Party elected or leading in three ridings.
In Kootenay East itself, BC Liberal incumbent MLA Tom Shypitka was comfortably ahead of the NDP’s Wayne Stetski and the BC Green Party’s Kerri Wall.
“It’s been such a fast and furious campaign, a snap election — an unnecessary election, I might add — but we were out of the gate real fast. I have the best team ever assembled. We had a real small team, and they delivered,” said Shypitka, at his campaign office in Cranbrook.
“Right now it’s preliminary. We were the first riding in British Columbia to be declared winner, and I couldn’t be happier.”
With 85 out of 86 polls reporting Saturday night, Shypitka was in the lead with 8,212 votes, as Stetski trailed behind at 4.152 votes, and Wall with 1,403 votes.
Shypitka spoke of the unprecedented nature of this particular election, campaigning during a pandemic.
“It’s one for the books,” he said. “It’s one for the history of British Columbia, on how we get through a pandemic such as this. And we responded quite well.”
Shypitka said while on the campaign trail, he heard a lot of concerns about the economy from voters.
“This is the message we need to roll with right now, in British Columbia. We need to bring people together in a ‘wartime effort’ to get back to where we should be.”
The NDP’s Wayne Stetski thanked his campaign team, and spoke about the campaign just wrapped up.
“It has been a very positive campaign, everyone was really great [and] supportive everywhere we went,” he said, in an email to the Townsman. “I have a great team of people and we had a lot of fun, and things went well for having a relatively short time period.”
Stetski says he got involved in politics because he likes helping people and believes the people of Kootenay East should be represented in Parliament.
“I know John Horgan will be successful, I know he will be Premier. It has been an interesting night for sure.”
Wall said that voters in Kootenay East had responded warmly to having a Green candidate running in the riding, which has been held by the BC Liberals since 2001.
“I’ve heard people say they’re really glad that I stepped up to offer a difference from what I’d call the usual suspects, to bring a little more democracy to the race.”
When asked about her interactions with the two other candidates and her impact on the campaign, Wall said it was hard to say how much of a difference she made given they were so focused on each other.
“I know that in the forums the two of them have sort of been poking at each other, acting as if they’re playing a traditional game, where they have to compete with each other.
“I know that the Green party traditionally has not had much of a presence in this riding, and they may have thought they could dismiss me. It’s hard to tell how much of an impact I had on them because they were very focused on each other.”
Nonetheless, Wall said she wished both of them good luck now the campaign was wrapped up.
In Columbia River-Revelstoke, north of Kootenay East, incumbent BC Liberal MLA Doug Clovechok was re-elected over Nicole Cherlet of the NDP and Samson Boyer of the Greens.
An intriguing race took place just to the west in Nelson-Creston, with the lead going back and forth between the NDP’s Brittny Anderson and the Greens’ Nicole Charlwood all throughout Saturday night. Anderson was finally declared elected, but with a lead of around 900 votes, the results from the mail-in ballots are awaited with interest.
While final turnout numbers won’t be known for weeks until all mail-in ballots are counted, the combination of voting day turnout and mail-in ballots is known and suggests a significant dip in voting from 2017 across B.C.
Elections BC said voters returned about 82 per cent of the 724,279 vote-by-mail packages requested. And with about 34 per cent of registered voters casting a ballot in person – either in advance polls or on election day — that suggests the provincewide 2020 turnout rate was a measly 52 per cent.
This voter turnout trend applies to Kootenay East. Out of the total number of eligible voters in the riding — 32, 135 — 13, 850 votes were cast in advance polls and on election night. More than 3,200 mail-in ballots have been issued, and are still to be counted. That means voter-turn-out in Kootenay East hovers around 53 per cent, which seems to be about the norm for recent provincial elections.
Voter turn-out in what is now know as Kootenay East over the past seven elections (not including 2020)
2017: 17,087 (55.71 per cent)
2013: 16,413 (53.41 per cent)
2009: 16,462 (55.87 per cent)
2005: 16,899 (60.03 per cent)
2001: 16,559 (68.76 per cent)
1996: 16,643 (68.15 per cent)
1991: 16,112 (73. 94 per cent)
Average voter turn-out: 16,596 (62.27 per cent)
With files from Trevor Crawley, Scott Tibballs, Corey Bullock