Despite some campaign controversy, NDP candidate Nathan Cullen has prevailed handily in the Stikine riding.
With 50 out of 51 polls reporting as of 11:00 p.m., Cullen led Liberal candidate Gordon Sebastian by 1,362 votes, more than the number of mail-in ballots that still need to be counted.
“It was very exciting, not just for us locally but for the party right across the province, a historic win,” Cullen said on Monday. “We have a lot of votes left to count but it seems like the trend is very much towards a very strong majority for the party.”
As a former federal Member of Parliament, Cullen said that there will be a learning curve transitioning into provincial politics but he is excited for the opportunity.
“The issues that we deal with provincially will be obviously connected but different, yet the relationships I have across this region and I have across B.C. will help and having played a role in opposition and appreciating what that is, I think it’s helpful to be able to see how things get done, to be able to push things forward that matter for the people that live here.”
“I’m so grateful for the support people have offered me and I’ve always been a believer that when the election is over it’s over and then we get down to work for everybody.”
Sebastian was gracious in defeat while at home watching election coverage with his wife.
“Nathan has represented this riding for a long time, he definitely loves the riding, he loves the people and the people like him, so it should be a pretty good government in terms of what is to happen for this riding,” he said.
Sebastian said he will continue to build the Liberal party infrastructure and would like to run again under the Liberal banner in the next provincial election.
“I’m a hereditary chief myself, I’ll continue working with the Gitxsan and also this has sparked my interest, I was very interested in seeing how the electoral process works and how the government is formed in B.C. so I took quite a huge interest in this,” he said.
Cullen was the presumed favourite from the start, but immediately ran into controversy when Annita McPhee, a three-time president of the Tahltan Central Government was overlooked for the nomination seemingly in contradiction of the party’s own equity policy.
Later, during an all candidates meeting in Smithers he was caught on a hot mic making an insensitive comment about North Coast Liberal candidate Roy Jones Jr. (Cheexial), a Haida elder.
Both Cullen and NDP leader John Horgan later apologized for the incident.
Although the results are preliminary even the record number of mail-in ballots requested will not be enough to overturn the local result.
Providing, however, that the breakdown is not much different at the end of the counting, both Christian Heritage Party candidate Rod Taylor and Rural BC Pary candidate Darcy Repen said they were pleased with their percentage of the election day vote.
Taylor’s showing of almost 13 per cent was three points higher than the 2017 election.
“The percentage going up is a good thing,” he said. “We’re happy to have people endorsing our position. Obviously, we do this because we care about where the country’s going. In that sense, it’s disappointing not to see a greater groundswell, not only just for this riding, but the whole province. I’m going to say, I’m more or less disappointed that the province is going further and faster in the same direction, but it is what it is. It’s a democratic process and we’re glad that it is a democratic process.”
For his part, Repen said it is telling that he was able to get 10 per cent of the vote without even being in the riding during the campaign because he was working in Yellowknife.
“I’m doing pretty good compared to other third party candidates,” he said. “I got my issues on the table which is the main thing I was hoping to accomplish in this election, was to get people thinking about the representation they should have in the Stikine and the issues, particularly in the Stikine that are important.”
Due to the pandemic, more British Columbians decided to vote by mail-in ballot than ever before. Election results won’t be finalized until after Nov. 6., when those mail-in ballots are counted.
An estimated 1,234 number of mail-in ballots were requested by Elections BC within the Stikine riding. There are 14,250 registered voters in the region.
Across B.C., a total of 47,900 mail-in ballots were returned to Election BC, as of Friday, Oct. 23, approximately 69 per cent of the 724,279 they issued.
There are roughly 3.5 million registered voters in the province.