Harris: voters support the Conservatives

Voter turnout in the Cariboo-Prince George riding was below the national average, but nevertheless those who showed up at the polls on Monday returned perennial favourite Dick Harris to Ottawa.

Green party candidate Heidi Redl erupts in applause Monday night at the Dandelion Living Store after receiving word that party leader Elizabeth May won a seat in Parliament and

Green party candidate Heidi Redl erupts in applause Monday night at the Dandelion Living Store after receiving word that party leader Elizabeth May won a seat in Parliament and

Voter turnout in the Cariboo-Prince George riding was below the national average, but nevertheless those who showed up at the polls on Monday returned perennial favourite Dick Harris to Ottawa.

Fifty-seven per cent of registered voters marked their ballot compared to 61 per cent nationally. Of that, 56 per cent of the vote went to Harris; 30 per cent to NDP candidate Jon Van Barneveld; six per cent to Green candidate Heidi Redl; five per cent to Liberal Sangeeta Lalli;  one per cent to Christian Heritage Party candidate Henry Thiessen and less than one per cent to both the Independent and Rhinoceros party candidates.

The vote share mirrored that of 2008 with one difference — the NDP candidate was up five per cent and the Liberal candidate was down by that same amount.

Contacted Tuesday, candidates were reflective and at least one elated about what transpired.

Seven-time Member of Parliament Dick Harris said the Conservative majority government coupled with the fact that he garnered the most votes of any of his campaigns were two highlights.

“Very pleased hardly describes it,” he said, adding the win nationally was, “A confirmation by the voters that what we’ve been doing; how we steered the party through the recession; how we’ve managed to come out of it so well, that’s confirmation the voters more than approved and want more of it.”

Despite the local voter turnout, Harris said his team had done all they could to get the vote out which he said was reflected in the 2,000 more votes his camp earned compared to  2008.

Harris suggested a Conservative majority will implement its 2011 budget, abolish the gun registry, eliminate subsidies to political parties, and steer through numerous pieces of crime legislation.

The passing of legislation will be assisted by the fact that the Conservatives also have a majority in the Senate due to to several appointments made under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Despite his longevity on the Hill, Harris said he has little aspiration to be a cabinet minister even though there will be several seats vacated by defeated Conservative ministers.

Harris’s main contender in this riding, Jon Van Barneveld, was also pleased with Monday’s results.

“I thought it was great,” he said, adding locally the NDP had the best turnout since 1988.  “I think we made a lot of progress in this election.”

Van Barneveld said much of the Liberal vote was split between the Conservatives and the NDP locally and nationally.  He was unimpressed by the local and national voter turnout but undeterred suggesting he may be ready to take a run for the NDP in 2015.

“I thought it was great and I had a lot of fun and we made a lot of progress. … I think next time around we’ll be able to take it.”

Redl, the only Williams Lake candidate, characterized her performance and vote count as “not bad,” although she maintained that Greens across the country were hurt by the exclusion of Elizabeth May from the televised leaders debate.

“Locally it looks like the Liberal vote went to the NDP and the Greens somehow managed to grow a little bit in this riding in the face of that. I think we did all right,” she said.

Redl said her goal for the campaign was a strong second but she added she and other Greens may have been stymied by the “Orange Crush” in that voters who may have voted Green cast their ballots for the NDP.

In retrospect, Redl said she would have liked to have spent more time campaigning west of Williams Lake but said she was confined somewhat by a small campaign budget.

Redl expects to run for the Greens in the next federal election in 2015 and thinks the party will be in a better position now that the leader has a seat in Ottawa.

Lalli said her campaign was hindered by the fact she didn’t live in the riding. Nationally, the Liberal party’s fortunes as the campaign wore on did not help either, she said.

“I knew it was going to be an uphill battle,” she said, adding she didn’t meet her expectation in terms of vote share.  She was also disappointed by the local voter turnout, noting that if the 43 per cent of local eligible voters had turned out the results might have been different.

Nationally the Conservative party took 39 per cent of the vote; the NDP 30; the Liberals 18; the Bloc Quebecois six per cent; Green three per cent and Independent less than one per cent.