It was a bitter-sweet night for local Liberals in the riding of Chilliwack-Hope Monday night.
Although local Liberal candidate Kelly Velonis was unable to dislodge the Conservative hold on the riding, her party was able to hang on to a minority government nationally.
With all but one polls reporting, the Liberal candidate held just 20.2 per cent of the vote, compared to Conservative candidate Mark Strahl who had 49.7 per cent.
“The journey over the past few months has been an amazing one,” Velonis posted on Facebook for the Chilliwack-Hope Liberal campaign.
Even the early results that showed support for parties other than the Conservatives was significant.
“I think this sends a very powerful message,” Velonis said. “What it tells us is that Chilliwack and Hope are really ready for change and they wanted the Conservative government out.”
The fact that many people voted with their conscience or for a party over the person was unfortunate.
“In my heart I know I would be the best person for the job,” Velonis said, adding later that she plans to hold on to her election signs for another run at the MP’s seat next time.
“So we didn’t bring a win in this time, but we brought a win with so many people coming together in such a short time,” Velonis said during her speech. “I feel so blessed and my heart is so full.”
Velonis told folks repeatedly that she wasn’t “a career politician” but definitely “knew how to get things done” and advocated for workers and the middle class during her campaign, as well as for mental health services.
The team is going to take what they did well this time, and prepare for the next time, she said, asking her supporters not to give up on her.
“I am so grateful for all the support, time and energy my family, friends and volunteers have given,” Velonis posted. “A huge thank you to everyone who worked so hard and gave so freely of their time and talent.”
No matter what the result was going to be, Velonis had big shoes to fill in Chilliwack-Hope, particularly after Liberal candidate for Chilliwack-Hope Louis De Jaeger managed to commandeer almost 34 per cent of the vote, which was unprecedented but still not enough to take down Strahl’s 42 per cent of the local vote in 2015.
During the campaign in Chilliwack, Velonis reminded voters that it was Liberal funding of $7 million that paid for the new Family Centre built by Ruth & Naomi’s Mission as well as $11.7 million in low-interest loans in the Webb Avenue affordable housing project, and $45 million for diking infrastructure at Shxwha:y Village.
Velonis, who went by the name Janveaux, ran unsuccessfully for school trustee in the 2018 election. She managed programs for at-risk youth for YMCA of Greater Vancouver, and most recently worked as executive director of the Chilliwack & District Seniors’ Resource Society.