Liberals win with surprising ease

VOTERS in most North Shore ridings reflected the mood of the provincial electorate Tuesday night, casting their ballots for Liberal candidates in far higher numbers than had been expected by pollsters and pundits.

As of press time Tuesday night before the final polls reported the B.C. Liberals were predicted to form another majority government in the province, a stunning result considering polls that put the NDP ahead by 20 just one month ago.

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Both West Vancouver-Capilano MLA Ralph Sultan and North Vancouver-Seymour won decisive early victories in their respective ridings. Sultan cruised to victory with more than 14,000 votes to the NDP Terry Platts approximately 4,500. Thornthwaite won with just shy of 10,500 to NDP candidate Jim Hansons 6,500 with not of all of the polls reporting as the News went to press.

But it was more of a tense night for candidates in both North Vancouver-Lonsdale and West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, where the lead flip-flopped back and forth between the Liberals and the NDP as votes were counted.

Jordan Sturdy, the newly elected Liberal MLA in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, had to wait until after 10 p.m. election night to be declared the winner, after earlier election returns put the NDPs Anna Santos in the lead.

By 11 p.m., Sturdy had more than a 1,000 vote lead, with roughly 6,000 votes (46 per cent) to Santos approximately 4,900 (38 per cent.)

Sturdy said he had remained fairly confident of a win in the riding as poll numbers called in by his scrutineers indicated we were never really behind.

Its amazing and really exciting, he said of the Liberal win province wide. Clearly the public had something in mind they werent sharing with the pollsters.

In West Vancouver-Capilano, it was a very different story for Ralph Sultan, who was one of the first Liberal candidates to be declared elected, with about 67 per cent of the vote.

The mood at Sultans campaign headquarters, where a well-heeled older crowd of supporters gathered, became more animated throughout the evening as more results came in, putting the B.C. Liberals in the lead.

Sultan said the strong Liberal win was both a credit to leader Christy Clarks campaign and concerns of voters over the economy.

The big issue in the campaign was the economy, he said. Dix started to scare people.

He added the decisive win for the Liberals, despite early predictions, proves polls six months or one month out dont really mean much.

I think Christy has astounded the critics, he told supporters in an early victory speech.

Sultan said Clark took a lot of baggage she wasnt responsible for and managed to boost a demoralized party and build loyalty in the caucus. Sultan said Clarks style has been more populist than the top-down approach of former Liberal leader Gordon Campbell.

She has far exceeded the most optimistic forecasts, he said.

Liberal supporter Ray Richards agreed. Shes done a hell of a job on the campaign, he said of Clark.

But Richards also gave credit to Sultan in handily winning his riding.

Ralphs a high-calibre guy, he said. You cant not support a guy of that calibre and pedigree.

I grew up in Saskatchewan and Ive seen enough of the NDP, he added.

Sultans campaign manager Gavin Dew said the campaign worked hard to identify supporters early through phone polls, door-to-door canvassing and robocalls. Then volunteers went into overdrive to get those voters to the polls.

Earlier in the evening, voter Ali Mojdehi in North Vancouver said he wasnt wildly impressed with the campaign. It was the Liberals trying to show how bad the other side was and Adrian Dix in a nice way trying to do the same, he said.

There was not much of a discussion in this election.

Another North Vancouver voter, Karen Blunderfield said she met both candidates in her riding, North Vancouver-Lonsdale, and ended up voting Liberal, based on her local candidate.

Im one of those classic swing votes, she said.

Blunderfield said at the beginning of the campaign, she was leaning to the NDP, but changed her mind after deciding the economy was the most important issue.

Speaking from the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre where NDP supporters gathered Tuesday night, West Vancouver NDP candidate Terry Platt said she was disappointed in the partys province-wide result.

Obviously we thought we would do better, she said.

It was fearmongering. People were afraid (of the NDP).

Platt said shes remaining philosophical about the result. The people of B.C. have spoken. . . . Thats democracy for you.

jseyd@nsnews.com

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