NDP candidate Gary Holman saw his lead in Saanich North and the Islands go from 52 on May 14 to 163 on May 29, during Elections B.C.’s final count of the votes in this month’s provincial election.
That makes Holman the riding’s first NDP MLA. He defeated B.C. Liberal candidate Stephen Roberts. Green Party candidate Adam Olsen gained some ground but was some 216 votes off of second place.
“It’s resolved,” said a relieved-sounding Holman in an interview with the News Review on Monday, June 3.
“I suppose it’s a good thing that it’s resolved. It was a bit of a roller coaster and now I have to think of myself as an MLA.”
Holman has been on the losing end of provincial elections for nearly a decade and now he admitted it’s taking time for him to adjust to his new role. Already he is being invited to local events as the local MLA. He attended last Friday’s volunteer appreciation event, hosted by Beacon Community Services.
News of his 163-vote lead came from the NDP constituency association, whose members were monitoring the Elections B.C. count. And as of 2:26 p.m. on May 29, Elections B.C. made that count official.
Allan Collier, president of the NDP constituency association said Holman was in Vancouver for a caucus meeting that day.
“It was a very interesting race,” said Collier. “The vote was split three ways and it never let up.”
Collier said Holman will be looking now to open a constituency office and settle into his new role.
“It is a bit precedent-setting,” Collier said.
Holman won in Saanich North and the Islands with 10,515 votes, followed by Roberts with 10,352. Olsen placed third with 10,136 votes and independent candidate Scott McEachern was fourth with 599 votes.
Voter turnout was high, as more than 31,000 people cast ballots out of an estimated voter pool in this riding of around 44,000.
For the past 12 years, the riding was held by B.C. Liberal MLA Murray Coell, who had announced prior to the election that he was retiring from politics.
Roberts told the Peninsula News Review that since most voters in the riding didn’t vote for the NDP, Holman will have his work cut out for him.
“He is going to have to try to find the common ground here in order to get anything done,” Roberts said.
Holman agreed, adding no matter who would have won in Saanich North and the Islands, they would have faced the same vote split.
“I did see a consensus locally on issues like B.C. Ferries, affordable housing, transportation and local food,” Holman said. “People voted in different ways, yes, and I have to be mindful of that.”
He added he will be approaching a variety of community members and groups to talk about issues such as ferry fares and service levels — a matter he said crossed party lines in this election.
Holman said B.C. Ferries represents an example of something the NDP will be watching this year, most notably when the B.C. Liberals look to pass their budget in a planned summer sitting of the legislature.
As for his role with the NDP opposition caucus, Holman said he’s open to almost anything, but his main focus will be setting up shop on the Peninsula.
His constituency association is looking for office space in Sidney and is even considering Coell’s former office, as it has acted as an MLA’s headquarters for some 15 years.
“As a new MLA, there’s a lot of work to do,” said Holman.
Asked if he would consider opening an office on Saltspring Island, Holman said he’s considering all of his options. Holman does live on Saltspring but added he’s looking at renting a place to Vancouver Islands for practical reasons.
Roberts said the final vote count was clear and he has no plans to challenge the result any further.
“We know there aren’t that many votes that could be found questionable — at least not 163 of them. I’m pretty happy with how the system worked.”
Roberts, who said he is retired from the workforce right now, added he will be helping shore up the B.C. Liberals in the riding over the short-term. Long-term, he said he’ll be looking to do come volunteer and community work. As for running again, he said he is currently considering it.
“But four years is a long time.”