Incumbent New Democratic Party MLA Nicholas Simons has been re-elected for a fourth term in the Powell River-Sunshine Coast riding.
Simons and his supporters gathered at McKinney’s Pub in Rodmay Hotel the night of Tuesday, May 9, to watch election results come in.
With recounts underway in two ridings, it is still unknown which party will form government, although current results point toward a BC Liberal Party minority with 43 seats. The NDP currently holds 41 seats and BC Green Party holds three.
Simons finished with 11,846 votes in Powell River-Sunshine Coast, more than half the 23,344 total ballots cast in the riding. Simons won with 50.75 per cent of the vote.
“I’m quite pleased with the results, at least locally,” said Simons on election night.
Mathew Wilson, BC Liberal Party candidate for the riding, came in second with 5,717 votes. BC Green Party candidate Kim Darwin came in third with 5,629 votes, trailing Wilson by just 88. BC Cascadia Party candidate Reuben Richards finished with 152 votes.
A few days after the election, Simons spoke about his decisive win and his long-term resonance with voters in the riding. Simons said he thought the tight election results sent a clear message to premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberals.
“People in the province expected a change in government and wanted change,” said Simons, “even though it was my fourth time in government, they still saw me as that person for a change.”
Sitting as one of the NDP’s veterans in the legislature, Simons has made his mark for taking the government to task on a variety of issues over the years, from ferry service and seniors driving licence testing to the state of provincial child and youth services and housing affordability.
Whatever side of the legislature he sits on, or what role he plays in a potential NDP government, Simons said his first priority is the riding and making sure the voice of the constituency is heard in the legislature.
“My goal in politics is to influence public policy in a positive way and I’m sure whatever role I have I’ll be able to do that,” he said. “It’s an honour to be an MLA and any opportunity to increase that influence over public policy is one that I would welcome.”
Simons said much work needs to be done to improve ferry service on the coast as well as improving access to health care and housing for seniors.
“We need to address the demographic changes that are going to occur and be thoughtful and not do government as if it were a photo opportunity,” he said.
Regarding the state of some of the riding’s roads, such as the stretch of Highway 101 outside of Lund, Simons said he thinks it might be a good visual metaphor for the last 16 years of BC Liberals in government.
“Imagine what other ministries look like, the ones where there’s nothing physically to see,” he said. “Our social service system looks like our roads. It has potholes and edges that fall into ditches.”
On election night, Wilson spoke with Simons by phone at 9:20 pm and congratulated him on the election race.
“The results aren’t exactly what we had hoped for when we went in,” said Wilson, “but I have no regrets about how we ran the campaign, or how it was put together.”
Wilson said he knew through internal polling that the Liberals were facing an uphill challenge to breakthrough in the NDP stronghold.
“Some may have called it insurmountable, but we didn’t let that deter us,” he added.
Simons said both Wilson and Darwin ran “really strong campaigns with very loyal supporters.” He added that he will do his best to serve everyone in the riding.
Darwin said, despite her loss, she is excited about the breakthrough in the election for her party.
“That is the message of hope that I wanted,” said Darwin. “It is more representative of British Columbians to have three parties making the decisions instead of just one. The NDP and the Liberals are going to have to learn how to get along.”
Simons said that, going into the election, he and his campaign felt confident that he had maintained strong support. Simons has held the riding since 2005.
A couple days after the election, it was clear the province would be watching the recounting of votes in the Courtenay-Comox riding to see if the NDP’s nine-vote victory would hold, denying the Liberals the narrowest majority government possible.
Powell River-Sunshine Coast riding results:
Total registered voters in riding: approximately 37,458
Total votes: 23,344 (62.3 per cent, not including absentee ballots)
Nicholas Simons, NDP - 11,846
Mathew Wilson, BC Liberals - 5,717
Kim Darwin, BC Green Party - 5,629
Reuben Richards, BC Cascadia Party - 152