Just one word – “Wow!”
That was BC Liberal Greg Kyllo’s reaction to winning last night’s election with slightly more than 48 per cent of the vote.
In the unofficial count with 165 of 166 polls reporting, Kyllo got 11,342 votes, followed by NDP Steve Gunner with 6,972 votes, Conservative Tom Birch with 3,045 Green candidate Chris George had 2,186 and Johanna Zalcik of the Advocational Party took 62.
Both Kyllo and the Liberal Party defied pre-election polls that had the NDP forming the next government.
“I am looking forward to working in government, not opposition,” he said after several congratulatory hugs from ecstatic supporters.
Kyllo’s campaign office was infused with a party atmosphere less than an hour after the polls closed, when the Liberals were already leading in 46 polls.
Supporters were gathered around a TV set, reacting to results with loud cheers and laughter. In a quieter corner, Kyllo described himself as being cautiously optimistic. He credited his campaign team for the win, saying no one person could have done it alone.
“I am absolutely humbled by the number of volunteers who have come forward,” he said, noting his first move as MLA will be to reacquaint himself with his wife and four daughters. “This has been all-consuming, 24-7.”
Beyond the short break, Kyllo says learning the ropes and creating jobs will be priorities.
“Only with a strong economy can you have the dollars to adequately fund needed social programs,” he said.
With the youngest of four daughters now 18, and his Sicamous businesses in good hands, Kyllo said the time is right for moving into the new challenges a political career will offer.
“I have extremely big shoes to fill and lots to learn,” he said. “And I’m up for the challenge.”
The big shoes belong to outgoing MLA George Abbott who held the post for 17 years.
Also playing a supporting role, a delighted fundraising manager Mel Arnold, said the Liberal win will “keep B.C.’s economy moving forward.”
Kyllo will move into the political arena with strong family support as well.
“I am extremely proud of him, he worked hard and I am excited we can carry on this journey together,” said wife Georgina, who noted she had been nervous early in the day. “I would have been proud of him either way.”
At NDP campaign headquarters, a subdued group of volunteers watched as the Liberal lead in B.C. grew.
Candidate Steve Gunner, not one to blurt out unreasoned answers during the campaign, held true to form on Tuesday night.
“I would hate to look at the big picture just yet. It would take more analysis than we can do at the moment,” he said, adding, “Obviously this is a fairly surprising result for British Columbia, not what we would expect to be getting. I think it’s going to make people a little more skeptical about polls. At the same time, it also says a lot about what can go on in a person’s mind between the time they make a decision and the time they sit in a polling station and have to put pen to paper.”
Gunner was highly complimentary of his team and the work they did for him.
“I did not think it would be possible to get so many people to work together for so long… It was absolutely humbling and inspiring to see how hard people worked.”
Long-time NDP supporter, Victor Toy, admitted to feeling sickened by the results.
“I’m shocked and dismayed that despite the NDP running a very positive campaign of hope, it was lost… It now makes me really question polls. Right down to the very last days the polls were reflecting the exact opposite of what’s happening…,” he said.
Despite the disappointing loss, Gunner, who operates an organic turkey and chicken farm with his spouse Andrea, won’t be taking time off to ponder his fate.
As she gave him a hug at the end of the evening, she reminded him that there were chickens to be looked after in the morning.
Conservative Party candidate Tom Birch landed in third place. Birch was confident heading into the preliminary count and felt good about the campaign. Prior to the results, he said he thought it would be a close three-way race, saying that the high voter turn out and good advanced voting turnout favoured the political right. However, as the votes came in, he was slightly surprised at the gap.
“Well, I’m obviously disappointed with the way it broke,” Birch said. “Greg Kyllo ran a good campaign. I’ve just called him and congratulated him and we’ll see what happens next time around.
“I still feel good. I learned a lot going through the whole process. This is democracy, it’s more important than who wins.”
Birch hopes the winner takes seriously the fact that they represent 100 per cent of the people.
“I’m sure I’ll be a little more down tomorrow but it’s all the way it has to be, people have spoken,” he said.
Green Party candidate Chris George wound up in fourth, saying the results were on track with his predictions.
“Pretty much what I was expecting,” he said. “We obviously don’t have the deep pockets of the other parties. We relied on town halls, getting out on door steps, making phone calls and a pretty stiff Facebook campaign.”
George was happy to see Green Party candidate Andrew Weaver win his riding, Oak Bay-Gordon Head, saying these steps are the foundation for a political party.
“It’s much of a truism that much of our politics is based on fear and the way that the other parties ran their campaigns, that was very evident,” George said.