It was a long closely-contested battle for six weeks, but in the end the new Member of Parliament for the Kootenay-Columbia Region is Conservative David Wilks.
Wilks, a retired RCMP officer, former mayor of Sparwood, was a newcomer to federal politics and took in a total of 56 per cent of the ballots.
NDP candidate Mark Shmigelsky could not capitalize on the momentum his party gained in Québec, capturing 14,161 ballots for a 33 per cent share of the total. Green Party representative Bill Green (2,532, six per cent), Liberal Betty Aitchison (1,492, 3.5 per cent) and Independent Brent Bush (643, 1.5 per cent) finished well back in the election.
Wilks expressed that it was a long campaign and he was pleased with how things turned out.
“I am humbled. I look forward to serving all of the people in the Kootenay-Columbia constituency and working hard over the next four years,” Wilks said.
Throughout the campaign no one was quite sure how close the vote would be with long-time MP Jim Abbott retiring from politics. The seat was seen as being a potential pick-up for the NDP with Leader Jack Layton making two stops in the area in support of Shmigelsky.
“I was surprised by the vote. Mark Shmigelsky ran a good campaign. I believe the people across Canada have spoken and said they want to provide Prime Minister Stephen Harper with a majority government,” Wilks said. “Canadians were tired of going to the polls, and what I have said all along is to give Stephen Harper the mandate to govern. Give him four years and make a decision on if he has proven himself in a majority government or not.”
As for the Kootenay-Columbia region, Wilks already has some plans for what is important for the area.
“To continue funding for the Trans-Canada Highway improvements both in Golden and Revelstoke needs to be an important issue. I believe we need to move forward with clean energy opportunities throughout the area. Probably the biggest thing I bring is my municipal and regional governing experience. I want to ensure that I meet with all councils once if not twice a year to hear their concerns. They are the boots on the ground,” he said.
Wilks also felt that now that Ottawa has a clear majority government, along with a clear opposition party, the government has a chance to get a great deal done in the next four years.
“I am hopeful that it is going to work very well. The NDP certainly leans to the left and the Conservatives lean to the right. We have some good opportunities to work together. We both have good ideas. If we go there open-minded we can work together and create a very strong environment to work in, in Ottawa,” he said. “The decorum in Ottawa needs to improve. You certainly don’t see that at the municipal or regional level. I realize I am one of 308, but it has to start somewhere and I hope I will have the opportunity to show that decorum does work.”
Wilks’ name has also been mentioned as a possible candidate for a cabinet position in the new majority government, but the new MP is not thinking too much about that right now.
“I am humbled by my name being thrown around. The final decision is based on the Prime Minister of Canada and how he believes I can move forward. I believe I have the goods to provide leadership for Kootenay Columbia and I would be honoured if the Prime Minister gives me the opportunity.”