Currently the BC Liberals have an unstable minority, which is yet to be determined, but the North Coast is once again riding the orange wave.
By the time the ballots were counted, Jennifer Rice had 58 per cent (4,998) of the popular vote, the BC Liberals trailed at 33 per cent (2,879) and Green had 9 per cent (809).
After the polls closed at 8 p.m. Rice, the incumbent, took the lead and kept it.
The preliminary 2017 results practically mirror the 2013 results — but the voter turnout was higher. Elections BC reported 14,220 registered voters as of April 11, and there were approximately 8,686 valid votes or 61 per cent of the eligble voting population. In the previous election, 52.5 per cent of the 15,500 registered voters cast a ballot.
Provincially, the Liberals have 43 seats, the NDP took 41 and the Greens captured three seats – one seat shy of receiving official party status.
However, it may be weeks before the final results of the election are made known as absentee mail-in ballots still have to be counted. The tight electoral race is also expected to go into a judicial recount.
This may be the first time since 1952 that the province will have a minority government.
Reactions from the North Coast contenders
The energy in the NDP camp at the Prince Rupert Royal Canadian Legion was high as it became clear that Jennifer Rice would return to her seat as MLA for the North Coast.
“Not only did I work hard during the campaign but I worked really hard in the last four years. I’ve tried my best to take the issues from the North Coast to Victoria and remind the government that often when we make decisions in the big cities policies don’t always translate well in the rural communities,” Rice said following her win.
By 10:30 p.m., when it was clear that BC Liberal candidate Herb Pond would not garner enough votes to turn the district blue he gave a concession speech to his supporters before heading over to the legion to congratulate Rice.
“I think what was heard loud and clear across the entire riding was there’s a hunger for a different kind of leadership, there’s a hunger for a less partisan voice and a voice that really speaks to getting practical things done on the ground and while we were not able to gain a majority my experience on the doorsteps the majority of people I talk to really actually liked that message,” Pond said after his speech.
Earlier in the evening, Pond’s campaign managers predicted that locally the BC Liberals will do better than they have for a long time — but they weren’t confident that it would be enough to win in the strong NDP district.
“We knew it was a serious uphill battle to get Herb elected,” Rosa Miller said. “But if anything, I feel like our efforts will push people for the next four years to hold our MLA accountable because even though her first job she feels as being opposition, I feel like people perhaps will start to push for the fact that her first job is actually to be representative of this riding and these communities.”
Green party candidate Hondo Arendt wasn’t surprised with the outcome in the area.
“Well, I’m not stunned. It’s been a pretty NDP riding for a long time, so not super surprised to see Jennifer Rice win again. The percentages are pretty similar to last time. It’s always disappointing, you always hope to do better and of course, the big surprise Green win would have been sweet, but not stunned,” he said.
However, Arendt is pleased with the provincial results. For the first time in history the Green Party in Canada has won more than one seat in an election.
“We‘ve got three seats. It’s also the highest percentage of the Green vote in any province, or federally with over 16 percent of the vote,” he said.
As MLA for a second time around Rice said making life more affordable for people is first on her agenda by lowering MSP, car insurance and hydro costs. “I want to focus on creating jobs that are sustainable and speak to our values on the North Coast,” she added.
She included that a vote for NDP isn’t necessarily an end to the potential LNG industry on the North Coast.
“The NDP supports LNG (liquefied natural gas) done right, we have four criteria to accept a project. We need to make sure our land, air and water are protected, and we need First Nations to be treated as true partners, not just check box consultations, and we need to see a fair return for the resource,” she said.