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BC VOTES 2020: An unexpected orange wave hits Chilliwack and Agassiz

NDP’s Dan Coulter preliminary winner in Chilliwack with Kelli Paddon holding a thin margin in Chilliwack-Kent
Chilliwack-Kent provincial election NDP candidate Kelli Paddon watching results as they come in on election night Oct. 24, 2020. (Submitted)

Election night in two of the tightest campaigns in B.C. – Chilliwack and Chilliwack-Kent – ended the way it began, fraught with uncertainty.

But it appears the New Democrats have taken both ridings, long-held BC Liberal territory.

Incumbent BC Liberals John Martin in Chilliwack and Laurie Throness in Chilliwack-Kent were always up against a big challenge, the former because of a right-of-centre vote-splitting problem with BC Conservative Diane Janzen, and the latter with his removal from the BC Liberal caucus for controversial comments.

There was a multi-hour delay in ballot box counting, but at the end of the night, with all 82 ballot boxes reported, the NDP’s Dan Coulter looks to be the winner with 4,575 votes cast (38.39 per cent) compared to BC Liberal John Martin with 3,511 (29.46 per cent), followed by Janzen’s 2,189 (18.37 per cent). Green candidate Tim Cooper had 10.86 per cent or 1,294 votes, with Independent Josue Anderson earning 205 votes over Libertarian Andrew Coombes and his 144.

Dan Coulter. (Submitted)
Dan Coulter. (Submitted)

The shocking result relinquishing a BC Liberal stronghold is blamed by many on Janzen’s move to the BC Conservatives after nearly a decade as a BC Liberal supporter. Her move to the Conservatives came at the last minute when the party declined to hold a nomination meeting for the candidacy. The vote-splitting rhetoric proved accurate as more than 5,700 people voted for Martin and Janzen on election day, compared to 4,575 for Coulter.

• READ MORE: OPINION: Who exactly is the right ‘right’ in this election?

All results are preliminary, and the vote totals will almost double given the huge number of mail-in ballots and advance voters. Voters requested 5,809 mail-in ballots. How many of those were used and who the votes went to won’t be known for several more days.

The win by Coulter also could mean a byelection for the Chilliwack School Board. Coulter is currently a trustee and the chair of the board, but will have to step down with his victory in the provincial election.

In Chilliwack-Kent, the margin was razor thin after all 89 polls reported with the NDP’s Kelli Paddon holding a lead of 5,199 votes (33.31 per cent) to Laurie Throness’s 5,004 (32.06 per cent). Voters requested 7,650 mail-in ballots in Chilliwack-Kent.

Paddon issued a comment on the situation before midnight: “Like so many other people, my family and I were watching the results come in throughout the evening, but it looks like democracy is going to take a while longer here in Chilliwack-Kent. With so many mail-in ballots we won’t have the results for a few more days as the count is completed.

“I want to sincerely thank everyone who came out to support us, as well as our incredible campaign team and volunteers. Also, a huge thank you to Elections BC for making sure people had multiple options allowing to ensure everyone could vote safely.”

She also focused on the provincial result with the NDP majority meaning, she said, “that government will be able to immediately focus on helping British Columbians through the pandemic and building a long-term recovery for everyone.”

• READ MORE: Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Upstart Independent Jason Lum, a Chilliwack city councillor, received a remarkable 3,842 votes or nearly 25 per cent of votes cast on election day, not enough to contend but a large number given the inherent hurdles facing independent candidates in provincial elections in B.C.

Interestingly, Green candidate Jeff Hammersmark who confused voters and confounded his own party by coming out to say that people should vote for Lum and not him, received 1,326 votes or 8.49 per cent. Libertarian Eli Gagné earned 239 votes.

Due to the pandemic, more British Columbians have decided to vote by mail-in ballot than ever before. Election results won’t be finalized until after Nov. 6., after those mail-in ballots are counted. An estimated 5,809 number of mail-in ballots were requested by Elections BC within the Chilliwack riding, and 7,650 in Chilliwack-Kent. There are 37,676 registered voters in Chilliwack and 43,698 in Chilliwack-Kent.

Across B.C., a total of 478,900 mail-in ballots were returned to Election BC, as of Friday, Oct. 22.

There are roughly 3.5 million registered voters in the province.

See for updates on this story and full coverage of the election, including updates on final results as they are made available by Elections BC.

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