The pre-election confidence by the NDP in Chilliwack evaporated rapidly Tuesday evening as the polls began to come in. Despite proud pronouncements by party leader Adrian Dix that Chilliwack was “NDP country,” and his “second home,” voters thought otherwise.
In fact, when the numbers were finally tallied, the two ridings looked pretty much like what they did when the Liberals won both in 2009.
The outcome should not be a surprise to anyone who can do simple math. However, early on pundits from outside the ridings were predicting the long Liberal supremacy in Chilliwack was over; that the byelection win by Gwen O’Mahony in 2012 was not an accident, but reflected the changing demographics of an increasingly urbanite (and therefore sophisticated) population.
But the pundits got a lot of things wrong this election, including who would form the next government. Even before the polls closed, they were talking about who would replace Liberal leader Christy Clark once the smoke cleared and the bodies counted.
Instead, Clark will lead a government with an even larger majority than what she went into the election with.
In Chilliwack-Hope, NDP supporters insisted that O’Mahony’s victory in 2012 was not due to a fractured vote on the right. This, despite the fact that the votes gathered by the Liberals and the BC Conservatives topped those earned by the NDP.
That hope vanished quickly Tuesday. Despite a year of hard work as the riding’s MLA, earning high praise for her community involvement and commitment, her percentage of the vote slid back to the familiar mid 30s, while the Liberals returned to their comfortable 50s.
In the riding of Chilliwack, the pattern was familiar, with the unapologetically brash John Martin following terrain stamped by John Les to secure a 20 per cent decision over his NDP rival.
So if the evening began with trepidation by those Liberals who read the polls and believed them, it ended with an exuberance summed up by John Martin: “Did we kick some left-wing socialist butt tonight, or what?”
For the NDP, the sting of the loss will fade. What will remain is the memory of the victory they tasted, and the desire and determination to change a pattern they’ve so far been unable to shake.