The orange wave swept into the B.C. Interior for the first time in decades as the NDP picked up two of the seven Okanagan-area ridings once all the votes were counted in the 2020 B.C. provincial election.
The nailbiter race of Vernon-Monashee was too close to call on election night, Oct. 24, but the NDP’s Harwinder Sandhu narrowly defeated three-time Liberal incumbent Eric Foster by 424 votes, once all absentee and mail-in ballots were tallied.
Sandhu was declared the elected MLA in the North Okanagan riding on Sunday 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.
The BC Liberals have held the riding since 1996, until now. The riding was created for the 1991 election, when it sent a Social Credit MLA to Victoria.
The New Democrats also took the riding of Boundary-Similkameen from Liberal reign, as projected on election night.
Roly Russell received 10,500 votes, or 49.85 per cent. Liberal candidate Petra Veintimilla trailed in second place, earning 7,735 votes, or 36.72 per cent of the popular vote.
The NDP last held the seat in 1991, a carryover from former MLA Bill Barlee’s victory in a 1988 byelection.
Notable in this riding was the presence of a strong Conservative candidate, Darryl Seres, who is the vice-president of the BC Conservative Party.
There were 2,354 votes cast for Seres. Despite the vote-splitting on the centre-right of the political spectrum, Russell still would have won, albeit, by a much smaller margin.
In the Central Okanagan, the BC Liberals held on to all three seats, which political observers consider some of the safest seats for the party in the province.
Incumbent Liberal candidate Norm Letnick was re-elected by a landslide in Kelowna-Lake Country, netting 14,679 votes, or 55.73 per cent once all the votes were counted.
Letnick earned more than double the votes cast for his NDP challenger, Justin Kulik, who came in second with 7,121 votes, or 27.04 per cent.
BC Green candidate John Janmaat earned 14 per cent of the vote, but Netnick was too far ahead for vote-splitting to make a difference.
In Kelowna-Mission, political newcomer Renee Merrifield of the BC Liberals succeeded retiring MLA Steve Thomson, earning 13,483 votes, or 50.76 per cent.
BC NDP candidate Krystal Smith placed second with 8,605 votes, or 32.39 per cent, while Amanda Poon of the BC Green Party had 4,476 votes cast in her favour, or 16.85 per cent.
Liberal incumbent Ben Stewart was re-elected in Kelowna West, earning 12,991 votes, or 49.89 per cent of the popular vote.
Stewart defeated the NDP’s Spring Hawes, who earned 8,854 votes, or 34 per cent of the vote share.
In the South Okanagan, Liberal incumbent Dan Ashton was re-elected to a third term in Penticton, with 13,217 votes cast in his favour, or 48.19 per cent.
Ashton faced off against a strong NDP candidate, Summerland mayor Toni Boot. The riding saw NDP leader John Horgan campaign in Penticton the week prior to the provincial election.
Boot placed second with 10,343 votes, or 37.71 per cent. Ted Shumaker of the BC Green Party came in third, earning 3,152 votes, or 11.49 per cent.
Vote-splitting on the left of the political scale played a factor in Penticton. If all of the BC Green votes went to the NDP, Boot would have edged out Ashton by afew hundred votes.
In the Shuswap, Liberal incumbent Greg Kyllo was easily re-elected, earning 13,300 votes, or 51.35 per cent.
The BC NDP’s Sylvia Lindgren placed second, with 8,816 votes, or 34.04 per cent.
Province-wide, the BC NDP won a large majority of 57 seats.
The BC Liberals captured 28 seats, while the BC Greens were reduced to two.
Sunday’s final count means the NDP have won the second-best electoral finish of any B.C. party based on seat count and the seventh-best based on popular vote.
— With files from Simon Little, Richard Zussman