The Vernon-Monashee race isn’t over yet. It was one of the province’s four ridings with an outcome too close to call after ballots were counted on election night Oct. 24.
The final count of the remaining mail-in ballots will determine whether BC Liberal candidate Eric Foster, vying his fourth term as MLA, will be upset by NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu.
Sandhu followed Foster closely Saturday night as ballots were tallied and the final preliminary count keeps Foster ahead with a slim lead of only 180 votes.
“I knew it was going to be a lot closer than the past,” Foster said from his campaign chair’s home Saturday night.
“While it’s too early to say, with the margins so close, whether I’ll be serving this riding once again … I start this new day with gratitude,” Foster wrote in a post to social media.
The final count won’t be available for another three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Every vote counts,” Sandhu told Black Press Media on Sunday afternoon. “I respect whatever the decision voters make in the end.”
Sandhu was watching the results come in from her home, accompanied by family, and she said as she was doing chores around the house, her phone started to ring off the hook with messages such as “good luck” and “you go, girl” from friends and relatives around the province.
She described the atmosphere as “nail-biting,” but the early provincial NDP declaration, only an hour after polls closed, came as no surprise.
“I think the polls were suggesting the response we were getting from people,” she said of early numbers indicating an orange sweep. “Even here in town, it was just amazing. I’ve run a couple of campaigns and this time, the energy was so different and so positive.”
Premier John Horgan’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NDP’s fulfilment of promises, improvement in services, mental health initiatives and establishing the first-ever ministry of mental health were a few points Sandhu listed as reasons behind the party’s success on election night.
“People were very satisfied the NDP had done so well in three years. But there’s a lot more work to do.”
Despite hurdles along the campaign trail brought on by COVID-19 restrictions and vandals targeting her signs, Sandhu said she and her team of supporters and volunteers never heard anything negative.
Now, Foster and Sandhu must wait until the final ballots are totalled to determine the outcome.
Sandhu said she will be returning to work as a nurse at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital, which she said will keep her busy through the waiting game.
Foster and Sandhu both offered praise to their campaign teams, fellow candidates — BC Greens Keli Westgate and Conservative Kyle Delfing — as well as volunteers and voters who practised their democratic right.