Fifty-five percent for Cullen!

  • May. 4, 2011 7:00 p.m.

By Alex Rinfret–NDP candidate Nathan Cullen cruised to his fourth federal election victory in a row Monday (May 2), capturing an astonishing 55 percent of the votes cast in the riding, and heading back to Ottawa as a member of the official opposition. “It felt fantastic, really strong,” Mr. Cullen said. “We did really, really well on the islands…. I can’t help but feel a bit validated, and humbled.” Mr. Cullen’s share of the vote has been steadily rising. In his first election in 2004, he won with 37 percent of the vote. In the 2006 election that increased to 48 percent, and rose to 50 percent in 2008. The MP watched the election results from his campaign office in Kitimat with mixed feelings. While he celebrated his own victory – and the incredible election of 101 other NDP MPs across the country, propelling that party to official opposition status for the first time ever – he also lamented the Conservative majority win. Mr. Cullen said he is looking forward to meeting his new NDP colleagues in Ottawa, many of whom are from Quebec. Luckily, he is bilingual, as are at least four of the other NDP members from BC, he said. Conservative candidate Clay Harmon spent election night at his campaign office in Terrace, and like Mr. Cullen, had cause for both celebration and lament. “Federally, it was awesome,” he said. “And I’m so glad the Bloc Quebecois was shut down… We’re one country and it really bothered me that Mr. Duceppe wanted to break it up.” Mr. Harmon received 35 percent of the vote in Skeena-Bulkley Valley, about the same level as the Conservatives have received here in the past three elections. Mr. Harmon said he plans to take a bit of time off, then he’ll return to his consulting work. Running again is not out of the question. “We’re saving our signs,” he said, adding that he had very much enjoyed the campaign trail. “The overall experience, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” Mr. Harmon said he could see from the poll results that he did much better in areas of the riding where he had spent a lot of time and talked to voters one-on-one, and he’ll be remembering that for next time. Mr. Harmon congratulated Mr. Cullen and said he hopes the MP gets some quality family time with his wife and young twins before Parliament reconvenes. Mr. Cullen appears to have increased his share of the vote at the expense of the Liberals. The Liberal vote collapsed, with candidate Kyle Warwick – a 22-year-old student brought in from Vancouver at the last minute – receiving 1,266 votes, or 3.6 percent. Just seven years ago, the Liberals were the choice of 22 percent of voters here, but their vote share has taken a nosedive since then. For Green candidate Roger Benham of Smithers, the election result was a “disaster”, especially on the national level. “The Conservatives can just push through exactly what they want,” he said. “Now the reins are in their hands and they can unleash whatever ideology they want… I see our democracy being very badly hurt.” Even the victory of Green candidate Elizabeth May in the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding did not cheer Mr. Benham. He said although the Green Party now has a seat, it does not have official party status so Ms May will not necessarily get a chance to speak in Parliament. Mr. Benham said he had no expectation of winning, but ran so that people had the option of voting Green, as he has done in previous federal and provincial elections. He doesn’t think he will run again. “I’m 64 years old,” he said, and will be at least 68 by the time there’s another federal election. “I think that’s too old to run. How are you going to encourage young people to vote if you have an old person running?” Preliminary results for Skeena-Bulkley Valley (not all polls reporting):NDP-19,238 (54.9%)Conservative-12,255 (34.9%)Liberals-1,266 (3.6%)Green-1,098 (3.1%)Christian-1,044 (3%)Cdn Action-164 (0.5%)Copyright Haida Gwaii OBSERVER 2011

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