THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - Last night, a majority of voters across the province were looking for change. Around most of the province, that meant enough gains for the B.C. NDP to upset the B.C. Liberal dynasty, at least as it appears today.
But voters in the Interior went a different way. While B.C. Liberal incumbents, almost without exception, captured greater percentages of the popular vote, the NDP did far worse than expected.
Thompson-Okanagan voters wanting change rejected the most viable alternative and went to the B.C. Green Party.
Has this election established the Green Party as the most viable alternative to the Liberals among voters in the B.C. Interior?
Most Interior races were for second place behind the Liberals and Kamloops-South Thompson NDP candidate Nancy Bepple and Green Party candidate Donovan Cavers were closest. As it stands now, Bepple is leading Cavers by less than 240 votes (with some votes still to be counted) but NDP support dropped significantly.
In 2013, Tom Friedman got 35 per cent of the vote; last night Bepple got just 21.5 per cent, conceding major ground to Green rivals.
In an interview this morning, May 10, Cavers said he felt hopeful when he first saw the numbers rolling in last night.
"I was really happy," he said. "I knew that we had a very good chance of getting in second place or close to it."
Cavers said he's heard from many people throughout his campaign who, over the years, have felt like they were voting for the party they disliked the least.
"There's a lot of people that told me they’ve been voting for one party because they disliked the other one," he said. "(This election), they took a closer look at party platforms."
Some British Columbians were growing tired of the traditional two-party system, Cavers said, so they looked for a viable alternative.
"I think we're definitely establishing ourselves across the province."
Both Kamloops ridings didn't even have B.C. Green Party candidates in the 2013 election, yet Cavers and Kamloops-North Thompson Green candidate Dan Hines got slightly more than 20 per cent of the vote in their ridings.
It's the same across the Interior. In nearly every riding, Greens made major ground while the NDP faltered. In the Kelowna West/Westside-Kelowna ridings, the NDP dropped from 31 per cent of popular vote in 2013 to 25 per cent this year; in Kamloops-North Thompson, they dropped nine percentage points in popular vote; Kelowna-Lake Country dropped four per cent; five per cent in Kelowna-Mission, five in Vernon-Monashee and two percentage points in Penticton.
The Greens also put up very credible candidates like Keli Westgate in Vernon-Monashee who garnered praise and 21 per cent of the vote.
“With 21 per cent of the vote that’s one in five people,” Westgate said. “I think it’s showing there is a shift in the way people are thinking out there.”
And while Westgate didn’t win a seat last night, her campaign team still had lots to celebrate.
“Im just so happy to see the Greens tripled their MLA count and now really have a chance to make some change at a provincial level,” Westgate says.
– With files from Charlotte Helston
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