Gary Holman said he was nervous Tuesday night and he looked it. The NDP candidate in Saanich North and the Islands was watching the election count come in from his campaign scrutineers at his campaign office in Sidney and the race was close — too close for a man who admitted it was drawing out his pessimistic tendencies.
With arms crossed and a bit of a forced smile, Holman said the 40th provincial election, for him, was going to be rough.
The atmosphere over at Stephen Roberts’ B.C. Liberal campaign headquarters, also in Sidney, was at times jubilant, followed by stunned silence. Back and forth it went as the results came in — with each polling station changing the leaderboard but only by the narrowest of margins.
When the last polling station finally reported in, Holman was clinging to a 52-vote lead and only cautiously accepting the news that he had been declared the winner.
“I won’t believe I’m elected until Elections B.C. confirms it,” he said in a call with the News Review Tuesday night.
Holman said there is still the counting of mail-in and absentee ballots to come — that and the final tally which won’t happen until May 27 by Elections B.C.
First, however, Elections B.C. will conduct a recount. Since the race was decided by under 100 votes, there is an automatic recount by the district electoral officer. Don Main, Elections B.C. communication manager, says a recount can happen when the vote spead between the top two candidates is under 100, or if it’s requested by a candidate. Yet to be counted, he said, are absentee and mail-in votes, as well as ballots cast at the district electoral office between when the election was called and 8 p.m. on May 14.
Should the final tally after May 27 result in a vote differential that is one-five hundredth of the total votes cast in Saanich North and the Islands, Main said there would be a judicial recount.
Roberts, as a result, still has his hopes up. He spent much of the evening watching the results pour in and monitoring tweets and posts on his phone.
“There was that strange last polling station that took a lot of time to report,” Roberts said Wednesday morning. “The mail-ins and absentee votes are still out there as well.
“We’re not quite done.”
Adam Olsen of the Green Party, meanwhile, looked to play the spoiler all night and at the end of the evening, was only around 300 votes off the leaders in Saanich North and the Islands. With additional votes expected to be counted on May 27, even he cannot be counted out at this stage.
“Realistically, even though it is a close finish here, the eventual result depends on the remaining ballots,” he said. “Having said that, I haven’t conceded yet.”
Olsen said what the result in this riding means is that people cannot ever say that their vote does not count.
“We turn out to vote like few others in this province,” Olsen said of Saanich North and the Islands, which had a 64.8 per cent voter turnout — exceeding the provincial avarage of 52 per cent.
Olsen added he’s not unhappy with his third place finish at this stage, saying his strong campaign here helped bolster the fortunes of the Greens on the Island. Andrew Weaver was elected B.C.’s frst Green MLA in Oak Bay-Gordon Head.
“We broke through,” Olsen said. “Andrew is a tremendous candidate. It helped, having a couple of strong campaigns around him.”
As for his leader, Jane Sterk, her future at the head of the Green Party is up to her, Olsen said. He credited Sterk for putting the party in a position to have the second candidate win in a first-past-the-post election in this country.
Again, he said he’ll be on pins and needles until the final vote count later this month.
South Island MLAs, he said, will now have t work very hard with local government and other groups to ensure the Liberals hear their needs.
Roberts said he’s happy to see his party back in a majority government. He said it’s fantastic and reflects the voters’ desire to have a part in government committed to the economy and seeing a more prosperous province.
“The Liberals have always had a plan for that,” he said.
As for Saanich North and the Islands, Roberts said the result — a close race on election night — is a result of a variety of factors. Those include a green movement on the Peninsula and a senior population that has tended to be more conservative. He is happy with his campaign effort and crdited both the NDP and Green Party for also having strong campaigns on the Peninsula.
Both Roberts and his party leader faced very close races in their respective ridings, with Clark losing to the NDP’s David Eby in Vancouver-Point Grey by a little more than 700 votes. She remains party leader but may look to run in a by-election in another riding (where a Liberal MLA would have to step aside) in order to be able to sit in the legislature.
Saanich North and the Islands had been in B.C. Liberal hands for 12 years, most recently held by former MLA Murray Coell. Holman came within 245 votes of Coell in 2009.
Official results will be tallied by Elections B.C. in an official count on May 27.
According to Elections B.C. preliminary data, here’s how the race ended Tuesday night:
NDP candidate Gary Holman: 9,681
B.C. Liberal candidate Stephen Roberts: 9,629
Green Party candidate Adam Olsen: 9,294 votes
Independent candidate Scott McEachern: 567