by Steve Kidd
and John Arendt
Dan Ashton started his election night off biting his nails.
It wasn’t, though, because the B.C. Liberal candidate was nervous about the election, or even the results of the hockey game playing on the big-screen TV at the Penticton Ramada Inn, where friends and supporters were gathering to watch the election results come in.
“I’ve got a hangnail I’m trying to get rid of,” said Ashton, who had put a hard day in working the phones and getting the vote out in the riding.
He was successful and by 10 p.m. he had been declared winner in the Penticton riding.
Ashton, however, was cautious though happy at the news.
“I sure hope the experts are right,” he said, commenting that only about half of the 184 polls in the riding had reported in so far.
By the end of the evening, the trend shown in the earlier results continued.
Ashton received support from 45.83 per cent of voters. Next was New Democratic Party candidate Richard Cannings with 40.3 per cent voter support. Sean Upshaw of the Conservatives received 9.25 per cent of the vote while Doug Maxwell of B.C. First received support from 4.62 per cent of voters.
Ashton’s election mirrored what was happening across the province, with the polls in Penticton closer than expected earlier in the campaign. Ashton was still running neck and neck with NDP candidate Dick Cannings when a Liberal majority had been declared in B.C.
By midnight, the Liberals were elected or leading in 50 of the province’s 85 ridings while the New Democrats were elected or leading in 33 ridings. One riding was won by an independent candidate and one went to the Green Party.
The election is the fourth consecutive majority for the Liberals, who have formed the provincial government since 2001.
From six months before the election, polling had indicated an NDP victory, though their margin narrowed to seven per cent as election day neared.
“I am too old to be surprised by any of this anymore,” said Liberal organizer Mark Ziebarth, speaking of the local race. “I am surprised that the Liberal party, in all 85 ridings, appears to be doing much better than anyone expected.”
In Penticton, Ashton said he knew it was going to be a close vote after the writ had dropped and no Green candidate stepped forward to run in the riding.
No vote splitting on the left and B.C. Conservative Sean Upshaw drawing off about 10 per cent of the right-wing vote was definitely a bonus for NDP candidate Dick Cannings.
“I knew it was going to be close here and it was close,” Cannings said as the votes were being calculated. “It was a very interesting race locally. We’re still waiting for the final results.”
B.C. First candidate Doug Maxwell said voters were reluctant to embrace his platform, which called for an end to party politics.
“It’s difficult to put forward a new concept,” he said, but added that he plans to continue his message in the future.
Conservative candidate Sean Upshaw said he had no regrets after the election.
“My motives were to contribute to the good of the riding,” he said. “I do wish the citizens of the riding well.”
By late evening, after most of the votes had been counted, Ashton reflected on the work ahead as he prepares for his role in provincial politics.
“My full attention will be on this riding,” he said. “I look forward to representing this riding in Victoria.”
He said his team of volunteers and the voters helped to seal the victory for him.
Ashton’s victory means the City of Penticton will have one more election to deal with. Ashton took a leave of absence from his position as mayor to run, and now plans to step down. City council will be meeting in the near future to decide how and when the byelection will be handled, but Ashton has already agreed to pay the costs, up to an amount of $35,000.