It didn’t take long to know who will represent Kamloops-North Thompson in the next Legislature. And just a little longer to figure out the next MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson.
But Kamloops’ record as a bellwether for the province is another matter. As BC Liberal leader Christy Clark said just after midnight, referring to the tentative outcome, “Some things happen only in B.C.” As Tuesday turned into Wednesday, that thing that happened looks like a Liberal minority government of 43 seats, with the NDP at 41 and the Greens 3.
Absentee ballots and judicial recounts could shift the overall result.
Peter Milobar jumped out in front within a few minutes of the polls closing at 8 p.m. Tuesday (May 9, 2017) and the only thing in question was if he’d top the 50 per cent mark. Barb Nederpel of the NDP trailed well behind and Dan Hines of the Greens — widely regarded as having run an excellent campaign — came along in third.
Meanwhile, the first tallies for Kamloops-South Thompson were slow to start, but once the polling stations started reporting, a trend to incumbent Todd Stone was clear. Donovan Cavers of the Greens ran a strong second for much of the night before dropping into third behind the NDP’s Nancy Bepple.
Cavers, of course, is a sitting City councilor, Bepple is a former councilor, and Milobar is the sitting mayor. One of the first questions Milobar will have to answer is what he’ll do about his City Hall job — take a leave of absence until next January and allow councillors to pick an interim mayor, or resign and force a by-election.
While the two Kamloops ridings were never in doubt from the time the first numbers came in, it was another story for the province. For many years, Kamloops results have reflected what happens provincially, but it wasn’t so clear Tuesday night.
Throughout the evening, the NDP and Liberals were locked in a back-and-forth struggle. The NDP quickly caught up to an early Liberal lead and, at times, tottered tantalizingly close to the magic 44-seat majority.
Then the Liberals would edge ahead again.
At 10:30 p.m., there was even the possibility of a dead heat as the Liberals and NDP were nose and nose with 42 seats apiece leading or elected. And throughout, the Greens — without official party status — were in a position to hold the balance of power with a mere two or three seats.
That, in fact, remained the case for the next hour until the Liberals made it to 43, still a seat shy of a majority.
Milobar, now an MLA-elect, indicated he felt a minority government can work. “Hopefully, the parties can work together for the betterment of all,” he said.
For his part, Stone credited much of his victory to his campaign team. “I have a humble heart knowing that the people of Kamloops have put their trust in me for another four years,” he said.
At midnight, with 94 of 109 ballot boxes reported in Kamloops-South Thompson, Stone had 14,263 votes, or 56.63 per cent. Bepple was in second place with 5,398 and Cavers was next with 5,160. Libertarian Jessica Bradshaw had 269 and Communist Beat Klosser picked up 98.
In Kamloops-North Thompson, with all 88 ballot boxes counted, Milobar had 10,682 votes or 48.74 per cent, followed by Nederpel with 6,614, Hines with 4,461 and Communist candidate Peter Kerek with 158.
The Liberals were still at 43 seats, the NDP 41 and the Greens 3. But several ridings were so close there will almost certainly be some recounts. The Liberals had 41 per cent of the popular vote compared to 40 per cent for the NDP and just under 17 per cent for the Green Party.
Clark called the result “the beginning of something different” and said, “We have been presented an opportunity in B.C. to open a whole new dialogue.”
She said she intends to continue to lead the government but will work co-operatively with the NDP and Greens.
On the other hand, NDP leader John Horgan wasn’t ready to concede, saying the election isn’t over and the province will have to “wait a little bit longer until all the votes are counted.” He said, “A majority of British Columbians voted for a new government and I believe that’s what they deserve.”
Green Party of B.C. leader Andrew Weaver called it “a historic day.”