By Dale Boyd and Lyonel Doherty
Updated 10:30 a.m. Richard Cannings is maintaining his seat in the House of Commons after he was re-elected Monday night to represent the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding.
Cannings said the 23 seats the NDP won will be crucial as the Liberals hold a minority government.
“It’s going to be a minority government situation and I think we hold a good position in that Parliament,” Cannings said.
The campaign’s key to success was putting forward a positive message, Cannings said.
“We talked to most of the people in the riding on things that they cared about, on affordable housing, on climate action, on healthcare. People are concerned about expanded healthcare here, they know it’s unfair that people can’t afford their medication, can’t afford to go to the dentist. Those are the kind of things we wanted to put to Canadians and that really resonated,” Cannings said.
He held a wait-and-see attitude when asked what priorities the party will put forward to the Liberal minority government.
“We will see how this House of Commons works. I’m not going to speculate on exactly what issues we are going to put on,” Cannings said, as re-elected NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh gave his victory speech on a projected screen in the background at the Lakeside Resort ballroom where supporters gathered to watch the election results. “I mean Jagmeet, speaking of, he will be giving a more in depth interview tomorrow. But I’m just happy to be in the position that we’re in.”
Singh visited the South Okanagan riding twice during the campaign, hosting a rally at the Lakeside Resort just two days prior the the election.
“That certainly gave everyone a morale boost, whether that changed the vote count, I have no idea,” Cannings said.
A discussion among the NDP caucus will set priorities moving forward, Cannings said.
“We’ll see how that plays out,” Cannings said. “But it’s a minority government, so it’s a different ball of wax than being in opposition to a majority government, so we’ll see.”
Cannings was asked what impact the third-party Bloc Québécois will have on the riding.
“They tend to be a fairly environmentally-friendly party, I’ve worked well with them on that level, but a lot of their policies really have very little to do with this riding,” Cannings said.
Conservative candidate and former Penticton city councillor, Helena Konanz, conceded a close second place as she arrived at the Penticton Golf and Country Club to cheers, gathering her family around for moral support.
“We worked hard but obviously it wasn’t enough. I’m so proud of our volunteers. You should have seen the hundreds of volunteers out in the rain. It was so uncomfortable, but there they were,” Konanz said.
Konanz congratulated Cannings and said she was unsure if she would mount another challenge in the riding in four years.
“(Cannings) cares a lot about this community and a lot about the riding. He obviously fought a better battle somehow. I’m not sure how,” Konanz said.
Konanz, brought in 35 per cent of the vote, coming in 796 votes shy of Cannings in the tightly contested region, with a total 23,508 votes. Cannings eked out 36 per cent of the vote with 24,304 votes, but it was enough to call the riding. Liberal candidate Connie Denesiuk took in 17 per cent of the vote with a total of 11,481 votes and the Green Party’s Tara Howse pulled in 9 per cent of the vote with 5,520 votes. People’s Party candidate Sean Taylor received two per cent of the vote, with a total of 1,588 voting for the PPC.
Quebec and Ontario turned out to be crucial battlegrounds for the Liberals, who won 157 elected seats to form a minority government, and 33 per cent of the popular vote. The Conservatives managed to win 121 seats in Parliament, but narrowly won the popular vote with 34 per cent of voters.