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Stilwell elected in Parksville Qualicum

Liberals win fourth majority government; NDP's Fraser wins Alberni-Pacific Rim
PASSING THE TORCH OF VICTORY: B.C. Liberal Michelle Stilwell accepts congratulations from former B.C. Liberal MLA Ron Cantelon after Stilwell won the Parksville Qualicum Beach constituency Tuesday night.

MLA-elect Michelle Stilwell said she knows what the people of Parksville Qualicum Beach were telling her when they overwhelmingly chose her Tuesday night to be their representative in Victoria.

Stilwell, an international Paralympics track star, won the constituency with 13,405 votes, more than 3,500 votes ahead of her closest competitor, former Qualicum Beach town councillor Barry Avis of the NDP. B.C. Conservative candidate David Coupland was third with 3,451 votes.

After her victory speech at 10 p.m. Tuesday in front of 100 happy Liberals at her Parksville campaign headquarters, Stilwell was asked what message she thought voters gave her when they sent her to Victoria with such a decisive victory.

“I believe it’s a clear message that the economy is what’s important,” Stilwell said between hugs with supporters. “We need a solid economy in order to provide the services and programs that we all depend on — that’s how the revenue is generated.”

Stilwell was asked if she could compare the campaign to the rigours of elite athletics. “You put a plan into place and you try to execute the plan the best you can, like in any Olympic race, and that’s exactly what I did in this campaign.”

Provincially, the B.C. Liberals won a majority government, a shock to many who read recent polls which had the NDP up by as many as nine percentage points.

Stilwell said her first priority as MLA is to “get to know all those amazing people who were elected today and start working with open communication and a clear vision for this province.”

After the results became clear Tuesday night, Avis said he was at a loss to explain what had just transpired.

"I don't know what happened," said Avis.

"We spoke to the key issues. We ran in my mind — not just here in this constituency, but province wide — a very positive campaign and tried to speak to the issues."

Coupland certainly didn't endorse the decision of voters. "The people of B.C. aren't ready for better government yet," said the B.C. Conservative candidate who has been mentioned in discussions related to the leadership of his party. "People are just going from bad government to bad government."

Former Parksville Qualicum Beach B.C. Liberal MLA Ron Cantelon, who retired from provincial politics this year after serving two terms as this region's representative to Victoria, said he was pleased with the big victories by both Stilwell and his party.

"I couldn't be happier," said Cantelon. "Michelle speaks from the heart and she will represent from the heart."

Cantelon was also asked what message he believed the people of Parksville Qualicum Beach conveyed Tuesday night.

"They said we have a rising star and they do have a rising star in Michelle Stilwell," said Cantelon.