South Okanagan – West Kootenay Liberal candidate Connie Denesiuk came up short on election night, but did have two wishes fulfilled with a Liberal majority.
“It’s a new hope for Canada. I mean, we’re not very happy with the way Canada’s handled many of the foreign affairs files. We got two of the three things we’ve wanted so far — Justin Trudeau is Prime Minister, we have a majority …” said Denesiuk
Disappointed she did not win in the area riding, she was ecstatic her party came through with a majority government.
“We’re thrilled to see that Canada’s back on the right track,” said Denesiuk. “He’s the only leader that offered real change, now. The Conservatives said the status quo is good enough and the NDP said they’ll balance the books and then, maybe fulfill their promises later. People want change and they want it now, and that’s what Justin Trudeau offered.”
Major commitments by the Liberal campaign include legalizing recreational marijuana sales and running three years of deficits to build infrastructure across the country. Trudeau has also promised to scrap the Conservative government’s approval for the Northern Gateway pipeline and enforce a ban on oil tanker traffic on B.C.’s north coast.
Denesiuk took 28.1 per cent of the votes (18,727 total), finishing in third place. She said the Liberals will be well-poised in the area for the next election, having ended up behind the Green Party in the area during the last election.
“We built tremendous support, we built structure and a great volunteer team. It would have been remarkable to have been able to do this from six per cent all the way up to a win, but we’ve gone a significant distance. Tonight is a win in many ways for us,” she said, adding it is too soon to tell if she will run again.
The Conservative Party issued a statement that Stephen Harper would resign as leader but would stay on as MP in his Calgary riding, where he won a seventh term.
Locally, Conservative candidate Marshall Neufeld narrowly beat out Denesiuk as runner up with 29.8 per cent of the votes (19,894 total). Winning this election would have been a fulfillment of a long-term goal. He volunteered for the Stockwell Day campaign in 2000 while he was still in high school, going on to work with Day in Ottawa as an aide.
“Tonight obviously didn’t turn as we all expected, hoped and worked towards but I thank you for all the work you did,” said Neufeld in a speech to his campaign volunteers. “My family, my friends and everyone — you’ve all become my friends. It means so much to me all the support I’ve received across the riding and right here with all of you.”
Neufeld and his volunteers watched Trudeau’s victory speech on TV, shortly after news Harper was resigning as party leader. He had few words for the media but did say he called Cannings to congratulate him.
“It’s clear the people have made their choice in this riding and I look forward and fully expect he will be a good representative of this riding,” said Neufeld.
The Conservative candidate said he is unsure if he would be running again.
“It’s disappointing on a national and local level.”
-With files from Dale Boyd/Penticton Western News