B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)

Mail-in ballots could shift outcomes in tight B.C. election contests

Final count begins Friday for 662,000 votes province-wide

With the majority of votes counted on election night, the NDP majority isn’t in doubt as Elections B.C. staff around the province dig into a mountain of mail-in and absentee ballots that have been sent back to each of 87 constituencies.

There were a record 662,236 mail-in and absentee ballots cast in the Oct. 24 election, but overall turnout in the COVID-19 restricted and unscheduled vote was just over 52 per cent, the second lowest voter participation on record for B.C.

Election-day and advance poll votes for the 2020 vote leave NDP leader John Horgan with 55 seats, a significant jump from the 2017 result that saw the NDP and three B.C. Green MLAs form a minority government with a two-seat margin over the B.C. Liberals. The NDP’s 14-seat gain was all at the expense of the B.C. Liberals under leader Andrew Wilkinson, with the B.C. Greens apparently holding three seats despite the loss of former leader Andrew Weaver’s Oak Bay-Gordon Head seat to the NDP.

One of the closest results is Vernon-Monashee, where the NDP’s Harwinder Sandhu has 6,618 votes, close behind incumbent B.C. Liberal Eric Foster’s 6,801. There are 8,581 mail-in and absentee ballots still to come there.

In Skeena, B.C. Liberal incumbent Ellis Ross has about a 900-vote lead over B.C. NDP challenger Nicole Hallbauer, with 1,345 votes still to be counted. Rural seats generally saw fewer mail-in ballots than urban ones.

One of the highest mail-in totals is in Parksville-Qualicum, which has 13,306 ballots still to come. B.C. Liberal incumbent Michelle Stilwell is about 1,000 votes behind the NDP’s Adam Walker, in a traditional B.C. Liberal seat that saw nearly 1,000 votes go to Conservative candidate Don Purdey in the election-night count.

B.C. Green Party supporters will be watching closely as almost 7,000 mail-in and absentee ballots are counted in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, where Green candidate Jeremy Valeriote has a 600-vote lead on B.C. Liberal incumbent Jordan Sturdy, a two-term MLA. Valeriote would be the first Green MLA elected on the B.C. mainland.

Green leader Sonia Furstenau finished about 1,100 votes ahead of the NDP’s Rob Douglas in Cowichan Valley, after a scramble to nominate candidates and produce a platform for an election called a week after Furstenau was elected leader. Furstenau received 8,631 votes on election night, and there are 10,425 mail-in and absentee ballots still to be considered.

With incumbent Green Adam Olsen holding a two-to-one lead over the NDP’s Zeb King in Saanich North and the Islands, the B.C. Greens need one more seat confirmed to retain official party status in the B.C. legislature.

RELATED: No COVID-19 exposures found from B.C. election

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Election-night results show both Chilliwack and Chilliwack-Kent switching from long-time B.C. Liberal seats to the NDP. Incumbent Laurie Throness is 195 votes behind the NDP’s Kelli Paddon in Chilliwack Kent, after Throness resigned from the party during the campaign over his criticism of the NDP’s promise to provide free birth control.

In Chilliwack, the NDP’s Dan Coulter has already been congratulated by B.C. Liberal incumbent John Martin after Coulter’s election night count was more than 1,000 ahead of Martin’s. There are 5,058 mail-in and absentee ballots still to be counted in Chilliwack, in addition 11,920 votes counted on election night, and 7,325 in Chilliwack-Kent to add to the 15,613 that were counted on Oct. 24.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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