A strong win for Jennifer Rice means the North Coast will stay NDP orange, but until all the absentee ballots are counted on May 24, the winner of last night’s B.C. election remains to be seen. (Shannon Lough/Black Press)

A strong win for Jennifer Rice means the North Coast will stay NDP orange, but until all the absentee ballots are counted on May 24, the winner of last night’s B.C. election remains to be seen. (Shannon Lough/Black Press)

North Coast re-elects Jennifer Rice with strong support

North Coast looks much like four years ago, but voters won’t know the final B.C. result until May 24.

B.C. may be split this election, but not North Coast voters.

Jennifer Rice handily won her second term as North Coast MLA last night with a 58-per-cent majority.

“Not only did I work hard during the campaign, but I worked really hard in the last four years,” said the re-elected NDP MLA.

“I’ve tried my best to take the issues from the North Coast to Victoria and remind the government that often when we make decisions in the big cities, policies don’t always translate well in the rural communities.”

With all in-person votes counted, the May 9 vote in North Coast looks very similar to four years ago.

BC Liberal candidate Herb Pond finished just below his 2009 result, with 33 per cent of the vote. Even in Prince Rupert, the former mayor won just five of 14 polls.

“I think what was heard loud and clear across the entire riding was there’s a hunger for a different kind of leadership, there’s a hunger for a less partisan voice and a voice that really speaks to getting practical things done on the ground,” said Pond after his concession speech.

“While we were not able to gain a majority, in my experience on the doorsteps the majority of people I talk to really actually liked that message.”

Hondo Arendt of the BC Greens ended up with nine per cent of the North Coast vote, 22 votes less than he received in 2013.

“Well, I’m not stunned,” he said, noting that the riding has been NDP a long time.

But looking at the province overall, Arendt had more to cheer.

“We got three seats,” he said. “It’s also the highest percentage of the Green vote in any province, or federally with over 16 per cent of the vote.”

While it’s not sky-high, voter turnout in the North Coast rose to 61 per cent — a 10-point jump from four years ago. That figure doesn’t include absentee ballots.

Over in neighbouring Skeena, BC Liberal Ellis Ross turned the riding from orange to red last night, besting Bruce Bidgood of the BC NDP.

But when it comes to who forms the next provincial government in Victoria, election watchers had to first put their kettles on last night, and then go to bed after marking their calendars for May 24.

That’s how long it will take before Elections BC does a final count of the estimated 51,000 absentee ballots cast in the election, which could change the result, as could recounts of close races.

So far, B.C. voters appear to have elected a minority BC Liberal government last night, and Christy Clark remains premier.

The Liberals were elected in 43 of 87 ridings — one short of majority — while the NDP finished with 41.

Depending on the final tally, the Liberals could still squeeze out a majority government. It is also possible the NDP could form a minority government with the three-seat Greens.

BC Election 2017