It could be a fall of a decades-strong dynasty.
Toward the close of election night, Green candidate Jeremy Valeriote was leading in the initial ballot count, showing that a once-underdog party had a real shot at cracking a Liberal stronghold.
But there is a big caveat.
IMPORTANT NOTE / NOTE TO READERS about mail-in ballots: Due to the anticipated number of mail-in ballots, the election night vote count will not be complete. The Canadian Press will continue to publish updated riding results to the map and banners as available until counting is complete
With at least two weeks’ time before mail-in ballots can be counted, there will be a lengthy delay before the final results of the vote can be posted.
Locally, an unprecedented number of people have registered to vote by mail because of the pandemic, meaning up to 7,704 votes — the number of mail-in ballot packages issued in this riding — won’t be counted for some time.
This year, mail-in votes account for about 18% of the 42,786 voters registered in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, a massive increase from the 2017 election where only 114 ballots — 0.46% of the vote — were mailed in for this riding.
Provincially, major outlets such as CBC, Global and The Canadian Press have projected the NDP to form a majority government.
However, locally, the NDP’s chances have dwindled leaving it to become a race between the BC Liberals and the Greens — with the latter having a realistic shot at toppling a local dynasty.
The latest count at 11:05 p.m. shows that Green candidate Jeremy Valeriote is leading with 6,872 votes, about 40.18% of the vote. As of about 10 p.m. The Canadian Press has projected him as the winner.
Incumbent BC Liberal candidate Jordan Sturdy has 6,042 ballots to his name, about 35.33%
The NDP candidate, Keith Murdoch, trailed with 4,187 votes — 24.48%
A Green win would be a major upset.
The thought of this seemed to electrify Valeriote, who spoke to The Chief on election night while his family and friends were watching the election coverage on TV.
“I feel fantastic,” he said, over cheers and whoops in the background. “I’m still pinching myself. I feel great, I’m really very happy.”
Valeriote said he believed that the message of the Green party was resonating this time around.
“People are concerned about the environment, climate change and social equity and I think they’re interested in a collaborative voice at the table,” he said.
Valeriote said that the pandemic didn’t stop him from in-person campaigning, as he ended up going door-to-door to speak with locals.
He stood his distance and had a mask, and nobody had a problem with it, he said.
“It was a very, very positive experience,” said Valeriote. “People were very friendly and willing to talk.”
For him, getting the Sea to Sky regional transit will be top of mind, should he enter the Legislature.
“The plan is to get to, ‘Yes’ on a funding model and get it up and running and help the government understand why it’s essential for the Sea to Sky for economic development, for quality of life and for affordability for the people who live here,” he said.
Valeriote also added he wanted to prioritize giving economic aid to the tourism industry and small businesses, which have taken a substantial hit from COVID-19.
He said that while the NDP may have a majority government this time, an environmental voice is still needed.
The NDP needs to heed the call to transition to greener energy and economy, he said.
“They would ignore that voice at their peril,” he said.
Valeriote also extended his thanks to the voters of Squamish.
“Thank you for welcoming me to your doorsteps, for talking, for having really valuable and heartfelt conversations. And it was a privilege to get to know a whole bunch of different Squamish neighbourhoods.”
This riding has been a stronghold for the Liberals, with that party having held the area since 1991. Incumbent Jordan Sturdy has been the MLA since 2013, and last provincial election he won by a comfortable margin.
Sturdy had a commanding lead with 10,449 votes, about 43%.
The Green candidate, Dana Taylor took about 28% of the vote with about 6,947 cast in his favour. He was second place, beating out NDP candidate and fellow rookie Michelle Livaja, who amassed about 27% of the vote with 6,532 ballots.
While the Valeriote has a strong shot at de-throning Sturdy, it’s unclear how much sway he’ll be able to have in government.
The previous government relied on a power-broking agreement between the Greens and the NDP, giving the former part a big voice in governing despite having only a handful of seats.
Most major networks are projecting an NDP majority, so Valeriote and his Green colleagues would be unlikely to enjoy the same amount of influence.
Reached by text, Sturdy’s team said he would not be commenting until Sunday. The NDP's Murdoch was also not available to speak Saturday night.
*This story has been updated since it was first posted as results evolved.