By Andrea Klassen
Kamloops This Week
About 45 minutes after polls closed, a change came over the crowd assembled in the Rivers room at Hotel 540.
Until then, the B.C. Liberals’ May 14 election-night celebration in Kamloops had been politely upbeat.
But, as early counts showed the Liberals leading the B.C. NDP, 43 seats to 26, the whispering began:
“This is majority territory.”
From his place in the thick of the crowd, Kamloops-South Thompson candidate Todd Stone also felt the shift.
Though Stone told KTW he went into the night expecting to see a win for his party — locally and provincially — it was right about then he knew his predictions were correct.
“By about 8:45 p.m., suddenly the B.C. Liberals were up by about 20-plus seats in the elected and leading category and, if you watched that for about five or 10 minutes, you saw that at no point it went down,” Stone said.
“I knew that we were on our way to victory.”
So they were.
Locally, voters in Kamloops-North Thompson chose incumbent Terry Lake over the NDP’s Kathy Kendall by more than 2,800 votes — well up from the 500-vote victory that first sent him to Victoria in 2009.
Stone’s victory for the party was even more decisive. More than 5,300 votes stood between him and NDP candidate Tom Friedman.
By the end of the night, the Liberals would hold 50 seats to the NDP’s 33 and the crowd at Hotel 540 had taken to cheering, stomping and fist-pumping.
When Lake and Stone took the stage, the crowd responded by serenading the former with Happy Birthday.
The results, which also saw the Greens and independent candidate Vicki Huntington score seats, increases the Liberal majority by five MLAs from 2009.
Walking down to the hotel with his wife, Lisa, just as polls were closing, Lake wasn’t expecting the provincial result.
“If I want to be completely honest, I thought Todd and I would win,” he told KTW on the phone from Hotel 540, where he had returned on Wednesday, May 15, for a celebratory family breakfast.
“I thought it would be closer than it was, but I was concerned we’d be in opposition.”
Both candidates have their theories as to why, after months of polling predicting the opposite, the Liberals were able to once again take B.C.
Stone credits victory to Premier Christy Clark’s ability to connect with voters in the campaign’s more “unfiltered” setting and to the Liberals offering a better message than the competition.
“I think British Columbians and the people of Kamloops were concerned first and foremost about jobs and continuing our economic momentum,” he said.
“So, you put all of that together, throw in a dash of really hard work at the local level, a great team on both the Kamloops campaigns and here we are.”
Lake thinks NDP Leader Adrian Dix’s decision to abruptly come out against the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion on a stop in Kamloops has something to do with the results.
“It wasn’t so much about the pipeline. It was about not having consistency and principles when you’re approaching these kinds of projects,” he said.
“I think a lot of people lost any kind of trust that they might have had in the NDP.”
As for the polls, Lake — who spent part of the campaign reading the work of American statistics guru Nate Silver — pointed to a few issues.
The decline of landlines and the rise of call screening, the lack of reliable numbers on a riding-to-riding basis.
But, he said, it’s also likely many voters didn’t decide to back the Liberals again until they were holding their pencils over their ballots.
“It came down to that six seconds in the polling booth and who do we want to put our faith in for the future of B.C.?” he said.
“And as much as people can talk about wanting change, I think at the end of the day they recognize that compared to anywhere else in the world we’re doing really well.”