Elections

NDP's Donnelly re-elected in New Westminster-Coquitlam

Fin Donnelly held up an Orange Crush, symbolic of the NDP’s historic win on Monday. - Craig Hodge/Black Press
Fin Donnelly held up an Orange Crush, symbolic of the NDP’s historic win on Monday.
— image credit: Craig Hodge/Black Press

NDP incumbent Fin Donnelly carried the day in the riding of New Westminster-Coquitlam riding, edging out Conservative challenger Diana Dilworth.

He received 46 per cent votes cast, and he had a lead that grew slowly but steadily through the night Monday as the first of 255 polling stations in the riding began reporting in shortly after 7:30 p.m.

A handful of NDP supporters watched the televised returns at Sokela Restaurant on Austin Avenue in Coquitlam, and cheered as the NDP orange crowded out the Conservative blue, first by just 50 votes, then growing to a commanding lead as the night wore on.

At the other end of Austin Avenue, a considerably larger crowd of Dilworth supporters gathered at Original Joe’s restaurant, the candidate herself making an appearance just after 9:15 p.m. to concede victory to Donnelly.

Before her conciliatory speech, Dilworth quietly and privately thanked her supporters and the 45-year-old Port Moody councillor told Black Press that there was nothing that she would have done differently in her campaign.

“I had an amazing team of volunteers that were so inspired and really believed in a Conservative majority,” Dilworth said, crediting her door-to-door campaign with getting out the vote and growing the Conservative base in New Westminster-Coquitlam since the 2009 by-election.

Dilworth even showed off a pedometer on which she said she clocked a total of 350 km of walking while knocking doors in her riding.

“We left nothing on the table,” she said. “We ran an exceptional campaign and we didn’t win. That’s politics. That’s democracy. No regrets.”

And while Dilworth’s Conservative supporters’ moods were bolstered if not by victory locally then by the Conservative majority in Ottawa, back at Donnelly’s NDP election party, the candidate gave a brief speech thanking his supporters and volunteers while wearing his “lucky” neon orange-and-green tennis shoes and drinking Orange Crush—the orange-flavoured pop whose name has recently become a moniker for the huge wave of NDP support that swept Canada during this election campaign and swept the Liberal party out as Canada’s Official Opposition in Parliament.

Despite the massive gains the NDP made nationally and Donnelly’s convincing win over the Conservatives in New West-Coquitlam, the 44-year-old former Coquitlam city councillor said there are still gains to be made within his own riding.

“We’ve heard loud and clear the concerns in this riding of affordability, HST, health care, environmental protection... these issues they obviously want me to keep pursuing in the house,” Donnelly said. “We did very well getting our vote out in Coquitlam and Port Moody but in New West, there’s still some improvement there, so we’ve got to work harder there.”

Donnelly attributed his party’s diminished numbers in New Westminster to the personal popularity of the previous NDP candidate, Dawn Black, who left to become the provincial MLA for New Westminster before Donnelly first won his seat in the 2009 byelection.

Liberal Ken Beck Lee, who also ran in that byelection, said he was surprised by his party’s national showing on Monday. The results, he added, should be a wake-up call for Liberals across the country.

“I feel crushed,” he said. “I have seen many times... when a party becomes too confident, this kind of thing happens.”

Lee said Canada was becoming more polarized and feared the country was moving toward a more American style left-right paradigm.

In a text message, Helps commented on the win by Green Party leader, Elizabeth May, in the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands, where she defeated longtime Tory cabinet minister Gary Lunn to achieve her party’s first federal election victory.

“I am so happy Elizabeth won,” said Helps. “Her team worked hard and Canada was behind her.

“It is a new day in Canada. This shows that Canadians want change. Now that Greens know this is possible they need to keep working at it.”

– with additional reporting from Gary McKenna

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