An orange drop in a red sea, the NDP took over most Vancouver Island ridings — including Courtenay-Alberni — in Monday’s historic federal election.
With 26,595 votes (38.1 per cent), New Democrat Gord Johns beat Conservative incumbent John Duncan, former government whip, who garnered 19,631 votes.
“It’s been a pretty exciting time as you can imagine,” Johns told The NEWS outside the Quality Resort Bayside in Parksville moments after the final votes were counted Monday night.
Inside, more than 100 supporters rejoiced the local NDP victory eagerly waiting to congratulate their new federal representative.
Asked what the first thing he’s going to do is as MP, Johns said: “thank my team and the people who gave me their vote and are sending me to Ottawa.”
While he radiated with his usual enthusiasm, Johns said it was “bittersweet” to watch his party reduced to just 44 seats nationally.
He said he was looking forward to working with MPs like Halifax’s Megan Leslie, who was one of many politicians ousted by the Liberal wave in Atlantic Canada. Leslie came to Parksville earlier this year to endorse Johns’ campaign.
“But right now I’m getting ready to walk into a room full of our supporters and celebrate an area that’s been a Conservative stronghold for two decades,” he said. “We surprised a lot of people, we have an incredible team, we worked really hard and it paid off!”
Johns, a father of three, currently lives in Tofino where he started his political career in 2008 on the Tofino Council.
After serving on council, he became the Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce executive director, doubling both the chamber’s membership and budget and successfully launching the Tofino Ambassador Program.
Before his successful bid for federal politics, Johns spent 14 years as an entrepreneur on the West Coast where he started a variety of small enterprises, from a natural clothing company to a vacation rental business.
He also founded what is now known as Tofino Earth Day.
Johns was born and raised in Victoria and has a family history on Vancouver Island dating back more than 100 years.
NDP MLA Scott Fraser was among the supporters at Johns’ campaign party. “Gord is the best candidate I have ever seen in the federal arena,” Fraser said. “The idea of being able to work closely with him as a federal counterpart… We’re going to get a lot done.”
Fraser, who ran and lost in the 2004 federal election, said he’s been waiting a long time for this day. “The Courtenay-Alberni riding will never know what happened with the level of representation they’re going to get (with Johns),” he said, noting he’s known Johns for more than 20 years and encouraged him to run for office.
Twenty-three-year-old NDP canvasser Andrew Skipsey said he was happy about the turnout locally. “Gord’s the hardest working candidate around,” he said after the results rolled in.
Johns said it won’t be hard to move forward with the issues he campaigned on. “Protection of the environment, making sure we kick-start the economy for Vancouver Islanders, focusing on issues related to seniors, health care, child poverty and fighting for electoral reform because do we ever need it, in this election it was so evident especially in Courtenay Alberni,” he said. “We (the NDP) feel fortunate people connected with our values and strength and wanted us to be the next voice for Courtenay Alberni.”