The NDP won a seat on the North Shore Tuesday night for the first time in over two decades.
Liberal candidate Naomi Yamamoto, a two-term Liberal MLA and cabinet minister, lost her North Vancouver seat in an upset victory for NDP candidate Bowinn Ma.
Ma, a professional engineer, won the North Vancouver-Lonsdale riding for the NDP for the first time since 1991 by 1,450 votes; voters cast 10,786 ballots for Ma (44 per cent of the total) compared to 9,336 for Yamamoto (39 per cent of the total). Green Party candidate Richard Warrington finished with 3,617 votes (15.07 per cent) and Libertarian Donald Wilson netted 270 (1.12 per cent).
Victory was still sinking in for Ma the day after the election.
“We knew we had a good chance in North Vancouver- Lonsdale,” she said Wednesday afternoon.
Ma watched the results in private with campaign supporters. Ma acknowledged her team was skittish about claiming a victory too early on election night.
“Even as the polls were being reported by our volunteers, we were still very careful not to celebrate too early,” she said. “We’ve seen those elections go one way or another very quickly.”
Ma said Wednesday she was “very honoured” to have been elected. Regardless of what the government looks like after final vote tallies are in, “the people in our riding voted for change,” she said.
Yamamoto, who watched the results come in while mingling with supporters at Black Kettle Brewing, called Ma to concede the election and congratulate her shortly before after 10 p.m.
Yamamoto said afterwards she was both surprised and disappointed to lose the seat for the Liberals, although her campaign team was well aware this was a swing riding.
“You don’t expect to lose,” she said.
“It’s not the outcome we wanted in this riding,” she told supporters on election night. “It’s not the end of the world.”
But Yamamoto told supporters the more crucial question would be who would form government at the end of the evening.
“I’ve really enjoyed the last eight years,” she said.
North Vancouver-Lonsdale was considered the only battleground among the North Shore’s four ridings.
Both Ma and Yamamoto said issues like housing affordability and traffic congestion were key issues with the North Vancouver voters.
North Vancouver-Lonsdale was also the scene of an infamous encounter between Liberal leader Christy Clark and disaffected Gibsons voter Linda Higgins that went viral on social media under the hashtag #IamLinda.
Ma said Wednesday she couldn’t speculate about how that might have impacted the vote.
“I think Linda served as a voice for people who maybe weren’t able to articulate their frustrations,” she said.
Yamamoto described the election this time as “meaner” than previous campaigns.
While people were invariably pleasant on the doorstep, the Liberal candidate said she also found herself the subject of personal attacks on social media. But the place to show unhappiness with a government or a party’s position should be “at the voting booth,” she said.
In her riding, voters appeared to do just that.
Polling stations across the North Shore were busy throughout the day.
Ben Vahabpour cast his vote for the NDP at the Norgate Community Elementary gym Tuesday afternoon. Pocketbook issues motivated him this time around.
Kevin Diell voted Liberal. Diell said he’d like to see $10 a day childcare and a $15 an hour minimum wage but “keeping the economy going the way it’s going without screwing everything up” was his top priority.
“It’s not worth it to change government,” he said.
Nick Janosy voted Green. He said he’d like to see the Greens have a few seats and even hold the balance of power in a minority government – a wish that still appeared to be a possibility on Wednesday morning.
The election showcased the arrival of a legitimate third party, according to Green Party candidate Richard Warrington, who snagged 15 per cent of the vote. “The Greens really arrived and are mainstream now,” he said.
Warrington said he was surprised as anyone to see Ma’s victory. “Bowinn is a new person on the block. She’s very young, she’s very energetic, she’s worked very hard at this,” he said, adding: “She won’t be able to tell me that I split the vote.”
The 2017 election should cement Andrew Weaver’s role as Green Party leader, said Warrington.
“It used to be homemade sweaters and open-toed sandals,” he said. “We’ve seen a tremendous evolution towards being more pragmatic, to being more serious.”
Warrington said he wants to stay involved in the Green Party and do what he can to guard against the marginalization of poor people in B.C.
“I’m dedicated. I’ve drank the Kool-Aid,” he said. “I’ve found a political home.”
All results are unofficial until certified by Elections BC.
– with files from Jeremy Shepherd