UPDATED: North Vancouver soundly won by Liberal Jonathan Wilkinson

North Vancouver’s seat in Parliament has been won by Liberal Jonathan Wilkinson in a runaway race that saw one of the highest voter turnout rates in the province.

When the final ballots had been counted, Wilkinson had 36,358 votes or 56.6 per cent overall. Former Conservative MP Andrew Saxton had 17,301 (26.9 per cent).

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The margin between the two front-runners was large enough for Saxton to come to Wilkinson’s campaign party and concede the race in person around 8:30 p.m.

The Green Party finished in third place with candidate Claire Martin netting 5,344 votes (8.5 per cent), a new record for the Greens in North Vancouver. New Democrat Carleen Thomas had 5,015 votes (7.8 per cent).

North Vancouver had one of the highest voter turnout rates in B.C. with 64,248 of 84,093 registered electors casting a ballot (76.4 per cent). The national turnout was also up, 68.49 per cent.

The Liberals finished the night with 184 seats in Parliament, well clear of the 170 needed for a majority government.

“What an amazing night for the Liberal Party,” Wilkinson began his speech. “But what an amazing night for Canada. ...Tonight, Canadians have put an end to the era of Stephen Harper as prime minister of Canada and we have elected a government that will allow us to begin building a more thoughtful, more progressive, more tolerant and more inclusive Canada.”

Wilkinson’s win was big by North Vancouver standards. No candidate has won more than 50 per cent of the popular vote in the riding since it was formed in 1988.

“It was a very resounding victory and I think that’s a good thing for us in North Vancouver. I think the resounding victory we’ve seen nationally is a good thing for us as Canadians,” he said.

The last time North Vancouver voters elected a Liberal was in 2006. The riding has been held by the Conservatives since 2008.

The packed crowd at the Pinnacle Hotel’s ballroom gave a standing ovation when Saxton joined Wilkinson on stage, raised his hand in triumph and praised him for a well-run campaign.

“You guys should be very, very proud of yourselves. You ran a heck of a campaign. Jonathan will make a great Member of Parliament and he’s got my full support. I look forward to the transition,” Saxton said.

Wilkinson also praised his opponents for running “clean, honest and ethical races” and thanked his volunteers for their hard work, saying it was one of the best run campaigns in the country.

For Martin, the result was a personal disappointment but she said she was proud of her party’s showing in North Vancouver and the increase in voter turnout here.

“I would have loved to have taken down Andrew but I will also say that Jonathan and I have become strangely friends,” she said.

She also praised the Liberals for winning without resorting to attack ads. “I think it was a brilliant, brilliant way of appeal to Canadians so I have a huge amount of admiration for them,” she said.

Thomas could not be reached for comment following the election.

Former Kitsilano Coast Guard commander Fred Moxie, who publicly supported the Liberals’ promise to reopen the mothballed base, attended Wilkinson’s party and expressed relief that the base could soon be operational again.

“I’d been at that station for 35 years…. (The Conservatives) made a bad decision,” he said. “I’m offering myself to come out of retirement after seven years as a project manager to reboot that station. The station is the gateway to the Vancouver harbour.”

Wilkinson supporter and marine safety expert Joe Spears characterized reactivating the base as a dead simple process. “You just go down, you cut the locks and you turn the power on and you probably get some WD-40 on the gates and the vessels could probably be there on Wednesday.”

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