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Thursday’s byelection is now in the record books. However, the campaign is far from over.
Last week, NDP candidate Gwen O’Mahony made history with a convincing win in Chilliwack-Hope.
The victory caps off O’Mahony’s third attempt to gain office – twice provincially and once federally. She ran a strong and polished campaign, demonstrating the experience and growth she has achieved since her first try. She showed an understanding of the issues and a connection to the community, something that was rewarded at the polls.
To be sure, divisions on the right aided her win. If the total ballots cast for the BC Liberals and BC Conservatives were combined, they would surpass the NDP by more than 15 per cent.
But it would be too easy to dismiss the NDP with simple math, and hopes that the equation might add up differently next year.
The BC Conservatives have given no indication they are going away any time soon. They’ve rejected any talk of a merger, meaning the party will be a factor in the general election just 13 months away.
Between now and then, O’Mahony will be fortifying the tiny beachhead she has gained in this sea of conservatism.
And there is opportunity. The NDP won not just because the Liberals lost votes to the BC Conservatives. The NDP also increased its portion of the popular vote, likely gaining some from the Green Party (which did not run a candidate), but possibly also from left-leaning Liberals who were uncomfortable with the party’s stride to the right.
Clearly the BC Liberals have some work to do if they hope to regain the riding. What they should know by now is that money and organization isn’t enough to secure a win, particularly if the BC Conservatives stay in the race.
It will be a different campaign next year, and with the stakes so high both the Liberals and the NDP will waste little time preparing for the renewed fight.
For the first time, however, the BC Liberals will face something they haven’t faced in a long time: an incumbent MLA.
~ Greg Knill, Chilliwack Progress