Red dawn rises over Canada as Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo stays true blue

Conservative Cathy McLeod returned to office while the Liberals stunned a nation by sweeping to a majority

Conservative Cathy McLeod and former Socred and B.C. Liberal MLA Claude Richmond watch Stephen Harper’s concession speech. For the first time

Conservative Cathy McLeod and former Socred and B.C. Liberal MLA Claude Richmond watch Stephen Harper’s concession speech. For the first time

By Andrea Klassen and Cam Fortems

Kamloops This Week

Kamloops proved itself to not be a bellwether riding in Monday’s election, returning Conservative Cathy McLeod to office while the Liberals stunned a nation by sweeping to a majority.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won 184 of 338 seats — 14 more than is needed to form a majority government.

The Conservatives were second with 99 seats, followed by the NDP at 44 seats, the Bloc Quebecois at 10 seats and the Greens at one seat.

In Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, the much-hyped strategic voting initiative failed to succeed, as McLeod held onto her seat with 24,444 votes (35.2 per cent of the vote).

New Democrat Bill Sundhu finished second with 21,400 votes (30.8 per cent of the vote).

Liberal Steve Powrie was third with 21,197 votes (30.5 per cent of the vote).

Green Matt Greenwood — who told KTW he didn’t vote for himself, but voted for “change” — was fourth with 2,493 votes (3.6 per cent of the vote).

In the 2011 election, the Conservatives received 52.3 per cent of the vote, the NDP garnered 36.9 per cent, the Liberals attracted 5.4 per cent and the Greens grabbed 5.1 per cent.

In the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding, voter turnout was 74 per cent, with 69,534 of 93,877 registered electors voting — but that percentage does not include electors who registered on election day. In 2011, voter turnout in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo was 63.3 per cent.

Nationally, voter turnout was 68. 4 per cent, with 17.5-million of 25.6-millon registered electors casting ballots — but that percentage  does not include electors who registered on election day.

In the 2011 federal election, voter turnout was 61 per cent.

The Liberals locally captured more than 30 per cent of the popular vote, compared to five per cent the party garnered in the 2011 election.

The Conservatives and NDP both saw popular vote percentages fall from 2011 totals.

McLeod said “change” was the theme of the night.

“Canadians voted and, obviously, they voted for change — and we will have to accept that,” McLeod said.

She said her party will need to reflect on what voters wanted that Conservatives did not offer.

McLeod noted Powrie helped her victory with stronger Liberal support, adding that, as an opposition member, she does not think the amount of money brought to the riding will decrease.

“The money thing, there’s certain opportunities you have as a government member in terms of opportunities for interaction,” she said.

“But, the reason I was proud of that was because I made sure that every organization in our community knew about the opportunities that were available — and I helped them make sure their applications were successful — so that piece is not going to change.”

But, the Liberal victory clearly rattled the incumbent MP.

McLeod appeared shaken by the evening’s results.

Attempting to applaud in the early moments of Stephen Harper’s concession speech, she fumbled with the television remote, dropping it more than once.

Powrie watched the Liberal wave cross the country.

“It’s amazing,” he said.

“Two months ago, we were talking about being in real trouble. Now, we’re declaring a majority. It’s clear which model for change people wanted.”

Based on volunteers, a record door-knocking effort and NDP signs on voter’s lawns — twice as many as 2011 — Sundhu’s campaign ran on high expectations.

But, the Big Red Machine that delivered a convincing Liberal majority crushed hopes the first New Democrat would be elected in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo since Nelson Riis 15 years ago.

Sundhu acknowledged “the Liberals caught the national wave.

“It may be the vote got split between progressive politicians and McLeod came up the middle,” he said.

The New Democrat also said he hopes the election is the last under the first-past-the-post system.

The Liberals and NDP both promised electoral reform.

“I’m hoping the Liberals genuinely respect what they campaigned for and bring in proportional representation,” Sundhu said.

Among those with high expectations was Sundhu’s campaign manager, Joe Barrett.

The veteran organizer is the son of former B.C. premier Dave Barrett.

He worked on his first campaign for the party in 1972, when the 16 -year-old helped his father become the province’s first NDP premier.

Barrett worked for the party on 21 campaigns since.

His status within the NDP shows it had high hopes in this riding.

“We haven’t done this much door-to-door since the 1970s,” he told KTW before the results started coming in.

Barrett said there was an increase in young people volunteering for the campaign here, part of a general increase in volunteers.

Those volunteers helped the party visit 22,000 doorsteps in the riding, first identifying potential support then going back to secure the vote.

Barrett said his party made a historic turn four years ago when it became Canada’s official opposition.

He’s looking past Monday’s results.

“As Tommy Douglas said many times, we’ve had to lay ourselves down and bleed for awhile.”

Thompson Rivers University political scientist Derek Cook said NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s performance in the House of Commons failed to translate to the campaign trail.

Cook said voters were drawn to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s message, a contrast to what he said was an “awful” and divisive Conservative tone.

Cook also said the Liberals capitalized on Trudeau’s positive image.

“He’s certainly got some kind of charisma,” Cook said.

“It showed when he was in Kamloops [in 2013].

“He filled the hall.”

While his advisors recommended Sundhu watch results sequestered away from reporters — the normal course for NDP hopefuls — Sundhu did radio spots and chatted with members of the media throughout the evening.

Despite losing results trickling in soon after the close of polls, he didn’t concede for several hours after polls closed.