Gwen O’Mahony scored an upset victory for the NDP by taking the Chilliwack-Hope riding away from the BC Liberals in an April byelection.
Although the BC Liberals outspent the NDP in the election campaign, O’Mahony walked away with nearly 42 per cent of the total vote – 6,022 votes — compared to the nearly 32 per cent — 4,593 votes — garnered by BC Liberal candidate Laurie Throness.
BC Conservative candidate John Martin came third with 25.15 per cent — 3,615 votes — of the total ballots cast.
But those votes siphoned from the BC Liberals may have made all the difference.
The byelection campaign was the third for O’Mahony who had run previously — but unsuccessfully — as the NDP candidate in the 2009 provincial election and the 2011 federal election.
O’Mahony had hammered the BC Liberals during the campaign on local issues like the demand for a dialysis unit for patients in the Chilliwack area, and the backlog of court cases.
She also made political hay out of the BC Liberals’ apparent delay in calling the byelection.
“The Legislature has been sitting for two weeks, and people in our communities have not had a voice at the table,” she said. “It’s time for the Premier to call this byelection to make sure that we have a voice in the B.C. Legislature.”
BC Conservative candidate John Martin agreed, saying there was no reason for the delay, which treated voters in Chilliwack-Hope are “like second-class citizens.”
After the byelection, Throness said the NDP victory was due only to the split in the conservative vote, as the upstart BC Conservative Party took votes away from the BC Liberals.
He said voters in Chilliwack-Hope, angry with the BC Liberals, had voted “strategically to send a message” to the BC Liberal government.
But he didn’t believe they would do the same in the upcoming provincial election on May 14, 2013.
“I think they will send a message again … that they don’t want an NDP government,” he said.