Kelly Velonis (right) and supporters gathered at the Metis Association building at Stó:lō Nation to watch federal election results roll in on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. (Eric J. Welsh/ Chilliwack Progress)

Kelly Velonis (right) and supporters gathered at the Metis Association building at Stó:lō Nation to watch federal election results roll in on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. (Eric J. Welsh/ Chilliwack Progress)

Support slips for Liberal Kelly Velonis in Chilliwack-Hope riding

Running for a 2nd time, Velonis was well behind Conservative Mark Strahl and NDP candidate DJ Pohl

As it did in 2019, election night brought mixed results for Kelly Velonis.

While her Liberal party will once again form government, led by re-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Velonis had a tough time in her local race.

Two years ago, she finished second to Conservative candidate Mark Strahl, earning 10,848 votes, or 20.2 per cent of the 53,981 total votes cast.

Her numbers dipped this time.

Velonis faced a tall task to defeat Strahl and the Conservatives, who’ve owned the Chilliwack-Hope riding since 1968. But this time she also finished behind the NDP candidate, DJ Pohl, and saw her overall support dip around three per cent.

“Projection coming in was that Mark (Strahl) would probably lose about nine or 10 per cent from the PPC (People’s Party of Canada),” Velonis said. “I was hoping to gain six or seven per cent, and I thought that the NDP candidate would pull from the Greens. So absolutely not the results I had hoped for, but great lessons for us knowing what to do next time in order to be ready and move forward.”

In this election Velonis sensed a lot of anger toward one person that impacted her campaign and moved the results in the wrong direction.

“What I saw, unfortunately, is a lot of people were angry with Justin (Trudeau),” she said. “Unhappy that he called an election, unhappy hearing that name. A lot of the feedback I got was, ‘Kelly. I see what you do. I know who you are. I just can’t support a Liberal party.‘”

Velonis and a handful of supporters gathered at the Métis Association building at Stó:lō Nation to watch the results roll in, and the room erupted in cheers when news outlets declared a national Liberal win.

They cheered again when it was announced that Trudeau won his seat in the Papineau, Quebec, riding.

Keeping her eye on the big picture, Velonis said that a Liberal minority government isn’t an ideal result, it’s still a good outcome.

“But it is a minority government, so I’m thinking we’re back here in two years,” she added.

It was hard to not look at the Chilliwack-Hope results and think, ‘what if?’

At one point, conversation turned to the idea of Liberal, NDP and Green party progressives uniting under one banner to defeat Strahl.

“But the federal Liberal party platform is so different from the federal NDP platform, I can’t see us coming together unless there’s a big shift from the NDP towards fiscal responsibility and planning,” Velonis noted. “The Liberal Party is centre, and I can’t see us going that far left.”

But the numbers don’t lie.

The best outing by a Liberal in the Chilliwack-Hope riding in recent decades was Louis De Jaeger’s 17,114 votes in 2015. In that election he won 33.78 per cent of the vote finishing second to Strahl’s 42.33 per cent.

Strahl appears to be untouchable.

“I think it is changing, and the numbers show that tonight,” Velonis countered. “More people are moving into this community. Go back 20 years when Chilliwack was this sleepy little farming community, very much run by the Conservatives and the churches, and that’s no longer happening.

“People are saying, ‘No. This is our Chilliwack and we’re going to take it in the direction we want it to go.’”

Now 0-2 in head-to-head battles with Strahl, Velonis appears undaunted and strongly suggested she’ll run again for the Liberals if asked.

“I have a lot of signs, and it’d be a bad thing to not put them to good use, right?”

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