It’s a bittersweet victory for NDP candidate Wayne Stetski. Usurping the Kootenay-Columbia’s Conservative influence aided by the new boundaries that invited several NDP strongholds into the riding, Stetski is now heading off to Ottawa to be a member of a parliament that has seen a dramatic drop in his party’s seats.
But Stetski can still make good on one of his campaign promises as the Liberals also promised an end to the first-past-the-post system if elected. Now with an overwhelming Liberal majority government, Canadians can expect electoral reform that will preclude vote splitting and strategic voting, the latter being a voting tactic Stetski himself endorsed as part of his “Heave Steve” campaign that ultimately proved successful for himself and the NDP in the Kootenay-Columbia, if not elsewhere in Canada where NDP leaders lost their seats in the unexpected Liberal onslaught.
At 23,529 votes to Conservative incumbent David Wilks’ 23,244, Stetski earned the same percentage of voter support for the NDP as what was earned by the Conservatives in the Kootenay-Columbia riding — 37 per cent. But a lead of just 285 votes gave him the edge after an unpredictable back-and-forth that even saw Wilks give a premature victory speech at one point in the evening.
It’s a drop in support of 13.09 per cent for the Conservatives compared to the 2011 election. Interestingly enough, support for the NDP also dropped despite Stetski taking the seat, from 38.84 in 2011. Meanwhile, with the higher voter turnout, the Green party has seen an increase in support of 0.57 (from 6.43 in 2011 to seven per cent) while support for the Liberal party skyrocketed to 19 per cent from 3.49 per cent in 2011.
Conclusively, the Kootenay-Columbia voted for change, as did the rest of Canada, but locally the NDP were better poised to take advantage of that sentiment. Stetski was an already well-known name in regional politics and came out of the starting gates early with a strong team of campaigners relentlessly hitting the streets. Now that the campaigning is over, Stetski’s promise to listen and represent local interests in Ottawa is somewhat muted considering the NDP’s major loss, but significant changes for all Canadians are definitely on the horizon no matter what party they belong to.