If true North Islanders, those living north of Woss and along the Central Coast, had had their say in the federal election Monday night, Conservative John Duncan would not be their member of parliament.
Voters from North Island communities gave NDP candidate Ronna-Rae Leonard 200 more votes than Duncan. Sue Moen of the Green Party was a distant third with 230 votes.
But polls from the entire electoral area, which includes Campbell River and the Comox Valley, told a different story.
Duncan held onto his seat in yet another nail-biting Vancouver Island North tussle between the Conservatives and NDP. Duncan finished with 27,184 votes overall in unofficial results.
Pulling away as the last polls reported, Duncan finished Monday’s federal election atop the riding standings with a 1,799-ballot margin of victory.
Although he led Leonard most of Monday night, Duncan hesitated to claim victory at his Comox Valley election night headquarters in Courtenay.
Duncan received a congratulatory call from Leonard earlier in the evening, but refused to accept the win at that point.
“She wanted to congratulate me, and I said it was too early. In the last election, the NDP candidate here had made a victory speech, and of course, she didn’t win. I wanted more results to come in,” he noted.
With his victory, Duncan has won the seat in the sprawling, sparsely populated riding in six of the past seven federal elections.
In what quickly became a two-person race Monday, Duncan ended with 46.1 per cent of the riding’s popular vote, with Leonard at 43.1.
“It’s been a long campaign. I’ve worked hard in this riding for many, many years. We’re now a majority government, and I’m delighted to be part of it,” said Duncan during his victory speech in Courtenay.
In front of large, cheering crowd at the Bamboo Garden Restaurant, Duncan told supporters how happy he was with both his win, and a majority win for his Conservative Party.
“I’m so delighted for the riding, the team that helped get me here … we did everything possible to win the riding, and we’ll certainly work hard to represent the diverse interests of the riding over the next four years,” he added.
With a resounding Conservative majority, and two party leaders losing their seats, Duncan noted the overall significance of the evening.
“I don’t know if this has ever happened before; it’s very historic, and very interesting. I think when Parliament dissolved at the end of March, Mr. Duceppe looked like the cat that swallowed the canary. I think he thought he was sailing just fine and now his party has disintegrated and he’s lost his seat. This is going to really change the face of politics in Canada.”
NDP challenger Ronna-Rae Leonard may not have won this time, but she said she will be back.
“It’s not looking too good at this moment, it’s probably going to be a John Duncan day,” Leonard told supporters Monday night in Courtenay. “But there’s a lot of people who need representation, and the strength we’ve shown in the last five weeks is going to come through over the next bit of time, and we’ll continue to hold Mr. Duncan’s feet to the fire, and we’ll be around for the next battle.”
Although it’s cold comfort, Comox lawyer Mike Holland eventually wrested third place from Sue Moen of the Green Party.
Reflecting the Liberals’ collapse nationally, Holland totalled only 3,038 votes. Moen collected 2,995.
Independent Jason Draper and Frank Martin of the Marxist-Leninist Party trailed distantly with 290 and 56 votes respectively.
With files from the Comox Valley Record