Incumbent Michelle Stilwell addressing the crowd at the Mt. Arrowsmith Branch 49 Legion after her win in the Parksville-Qualicum riding. — Lauren Collins photo

Stilwell claims Parksville-Qualicum riding

Liberals, NDP deadlocked as Green Party gains ground

Incumbent Michelle Stilwell of the B.C. Liberal Party is headed back to the B.C. legislature, but it may have a very different look.

The Canadian Press called the Parksville-Qualicum riding for Stillwell just after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 9, an hour and a half after polls closed on the provincial election.

At 11:30 p.m., Elections B.C. showed Stilwell with 13,605 votes, or 45.37 per cent of the total in the riding. B.C. NDP candidate Sue Powell followed with 8,476 votes (28.26 per cent); B.C. Green candidate Glenn Sollitt had 7,671 (25.58 per cent), and B.C. Refederation candidate Terry Hand of Nanaimo had 236 votes (0.79 per cent).

Provincially, the Liberals and NDP were locked in a tight, back-and-forth duel with the projected advantage in legislative seats won or leading swinging back and forth. At 11 p.m. the Liberals and NDP both had won or were leading in 42 ridings, two short of the total necessary to form a majority government.

The B.C. Green Party, which held a single seat when the government was dissolved April 11, is projected to pick up two additional seats for three total, which would provide the Greens with a swing vote in the legislature.

Shortly after her victory in Parksville-Qualicum was called, Stilwell arrived to cheers from supporters at the Liberal election party at Parksville’s Legion Branch 49.

She momentarily alarmed those backers when she announced she has been on bed rest and was going to visit the hospital for a procedure Friday.

“Don’t worry, it’s all good, I’m gonna be fine,” said Stilwell. “I’m just going to go get a little tuneup. And no, I am not pregnant.”

Stilwell, a retired Paralympic wheelchair racing champion and world record-holder, said she has been having trouble with her spinal cord.

“But for the last 28 days I’ve done everything in my power to put my happy face on and work day in and day out along with my incredible volunteers to make this happen,” she said.

Stilwell told The NEWS that her campaign volunteers “took care of the nuts and bolts of the campaign.”

“It’s amazing what somebody can do laying down. I did a lot of phone calling, a lot of emailing, Facebooking, tweeting. I took care of those things,” Stilwell said. “I did everything I could to show up when I could. That meant I was at the debates, I was at the schools, I was doing everything I could to make sure I got out. I was out door-knocking when I could, I was just doing it in short, little bursts.”

Stilwell said her re-election felt like validation.

“Knowing that the people have chosen to re-elect me after four years, that I’ve done a good job and they want me to continue to do the work as their MLA and be their voice and that’s such an honour and privilege for me.”

Powell’s supporters and family, who gathered at the Quality Resort Bayside, were disappointed their candidate did not prevail, but found the energy to cheer as reports came in of an orange wave on Vancouver Island. Among the NDP candidates elected was Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser of Port Alberni, who will serve his fourth consecutive term.

“I’m kind of disappointed,” Powell said upon arriving at the Quality Resort Bayside. “I’ve come in second. I don’t much like second,” she told supporters in a speech. “But you know what, I think we did a really good job… I think the message that we got out there as the NDP was poverty, homelessness, seniors care, healthcare (need more) and do you know what? I don’t think the Liberals will be able to walk away from this, and I think that if we’ve accomplished that, we’ve accomplished so much.”

Powell, who has been on leave from Parksville City Council while running for provincial office, gave no comment when asked if she would consider running again.

Sollitt held his election party at his campaign office in a home in downtown Parksville. It was a family affair, as he entertained his parents, Wayne and Yvonne Sollitt, his wife Fiona and their three children, who all made the trip from Victoria.

“Our whole inner circle is here,” said Sollitt as he and other guests watched coverage on a television screen in a corner of the living room.

Like Powell, Sollitt was disappointed not to win the riding. But, he said, the prospect of forcing a minority government and giving the Green Party a determining voice would be a positive development.

“What I wanted was an NDP minority government with the Greens making up the balance of power,” Sollitt said. “I thought that that was going to serve B.C. better than anything. I haven’t seen the final results, but I think that may very well be the case. And if that is the case, then I think it’s great. I wanted to be a part of that, but take me out, if that still happens, I think that’s terrific.”

Follow local reports on Twitter at #PQelection17 …

and provincewide updates at #bcelxn17.

— NEWS Staff

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