Maartman makes gains in Nanaimo-Alberni riding

For a short period, the wave of NDP orange that swept the country Monday looked like it might also take hold in the Nanaimo-Alberni riding.

For a short period, the wave of NDP orange that swept the country Monday looked like it might also take hold in the Nanaimo-Alberni riding.

Early election results had NDP candidate Zeni Maartman leading Conservative incumbent James Lunney in what turned out to be a two-horse race.

Comments from supporters gathered at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Departure Bay included: “My God, she’s winning by 500 votes” and “She just has to win, it will be amazing.”

The crowd of more than 70 cheered as television coverage showed the NDP heading to official Opposition status for the first time in its history. But the cheers quieted down as the evening went on and Lunney was elected to his fifth term as MP.

Lunney finished with 30,460 (46.5 per cent) votes and Maartman 24,997 (38.2 per cent). Maartman received 31.8 per cent of the vote in 2008.

Liberal Renée Amber Miller got 4,979 votes, Myron Jespersen of the Green Party 4,471, Jesse Schroeder of the Pirate Party 363, Frank Wagner of the Christian Heritage Party 94 and Marxist-Leninist Barbara Biley received  80 votes.

Maartman arrived around 9:30 p.m. to chants of “Zeni” and declared it a proud time to be a member of the NDP party.

“Canadians have spoken for positive change,” she said. “They want people who care about governing, not petty politicking.”

As for the Nanaimo-Alberni race, Maartman said she and her supporters worked hard since the day after the 2008 election.

“It’s been an incredible effort and I couldn’t have done it without the help of so many,” she said. “I’ve loved every minute of it.”

She said the thought of a Conservative majority government concerns her, but there are some positives to take out of the election.

“We made gains in the riding and I’m excited to see the youth of this country engaged in the election,” she said. “After all, what are we doing this for if not our youth?”

Brandon Brown, 24, was among the NDP supporters gathered to watch the results and said Maartman did an excellent job promoting the party in a tough riding.

“I hope Mr. Lunney got a message from the numbers Zeni received,” he said. “My concern is if he did, it fell on deaf ears.”