The final count has been tallied in the Okanagan’s closest election race, and the NDP has pulled off a huge upset in Vernon-Monashee.
The NDP’s Harwinder Sandhu defeated Liberal incumbent Eric Foster by 424 votes, once all absentee and mail-in ballots were tallied.
Elections B.C. had to count more than 660,000 mail-in and absentee ballots provincewide, leaving several races too close to call on election day (Oct. 24).
On Sunday, Sandhu was declared the MLA-elect in the North Okanagan riding after earning 10,222 votes, or 36.56 per cent.
Foster placed second with 9,798 votes, or 35.05 per cent of the popular vote.
“I feel great, I feel very thankful and so proud of people in Vernon-Monashee for giving the opportunity and for seeing the potential in me,” Sandhu told Global News on Sunday.
Vernon-Monashee was considered a safe BC Liberal seat, as the party won it in every election since 1996, until now.
Sandhu said she believes she was able to capitalize on the popularity of her leader, and points to changing demographics in the riding as explanations for the party’s Okanagan breakthrough.
“People were very impressed with John Horgan and the NDP and the work they have done, secondly, I heard from people that they thought, being a person from a community who was more relatable… people saw the genuine passion in me,” she said.
“The priorities have changed, the demographics have changed, and it’s just a combination of things, it is hard to pinpoint one thing,” Sandhu added.
The freshly-minted incoming member of the legislature says her priorities will be co-operation with municipalities, health care, seniors care, child care and the environment.
“I’ve been sad about how our farmers have been hit hard with so much crops have been wasted, whether it’s early snowfall, before it was lack of pickers, so I am eager to look forward to meet them all,” she said.
Foster told Global News while he was disappointed he failed to secure a fourth term, he respects the democratic process.
“I am certainly disappointed, nobody likes to come second in these things, but it’s what the people have decided, and it’s a democracy,” he said.
“What a great honour it’s been to serve the people of Vernon-Monashee for the last 11.5 years, it’s just been a great thrill, and I certainly congratulate Harwinder on her victory.”
The BC Liberals held onto five seats in the Okanagan, but also lost Boundary-Similkameen to the NDP’s Roly Russell.
The NDP hasn’t held the seat since the early 1990s. The B.C. Interior has a long history of voting for centre-right political parties.
Find full B.C. 2020 election coverage here.