2015 TOP STORIES: Politics divided our ridings like never before as Liberals take office

Federal Liberal candidate Stephen Fuhr joins his supporters following his election win in Kelowna-Lake Country, Monday, Oct. 19, 2015.

THOMSON-OKANAGAN - Big changes in the political map across Canada translated this year into upheaval for local politicians.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, seeking a fourth term after nearly ten years in power, dropped the writ on the longest federal election campaign in history, an eleven week marathon largely seen to benefit the incumbents.

It didn’t work. Despite, or maybe because of some serious fear and wedge politics by the Conservatives, the country went largely Liberal red, winning 184 seats in a stern rebuke to the ruling party.

In the Okanagan, that meant the upset victory in Okanagan-Lake Country by Liberal Stephen Fuhr, an untested candidate, over incumbent MP Ron Cannan who was first voted in with the fledgling Conservative government in 2006.

In the new riding of South Okanagan-West Kootenay, voters followed the early surge of the NDP and went orange to elect Richard Cannings.

Some things stayed largely the same for local politicians, even as big chunks of the political map changed around them.

Conservative incumbent Dan Albas was returned in the revamped riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, albeit in opposition along with Cathy McLeod who retained her seat in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo. And Mel Arnold held on to the North Okanagan-Shuswap seat held by retiring Conservative MP Colin Mayes.

Conservative MP Cathy McLeod at her campaign headquarters the night of the election
Conservative MP Cathy McLeod at her campaign headquarters the night of the election

Several issues emerged that didn’t help the Conservative re-election plans.

Strategic voting became a thing, despite the denials of then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as the ABC coalition began to coalesce. Fears the Conservatives would split the vote and take four more years prompted several groups to urge strategic voting, usually for a Liberal or NDP candidate, in certain ridings.

This wasn't the first election on social media, but it was a brutal fight as locals joined Canadians across the country in nasty and bitter fighting on Twitter and Facebook. More than a few friendships foundered on the rocks of debate over whether or not Justin Trudeau was ready.

No matter who they voted for, there was certainly more voters in local polling stations, with turnout jumping to above 71 per cent in all five Thompson-Okanagan ridings, higher than the national average of 68 per cent and much higher than the 61 per cent who turned out during the 2011 election.

To contact a reporter for this story, email John McDonald at jmcdonald@infonews.ca or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

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