New Democrats re-take riding after four Liberal years

  • May. 18, 2005 5:00 p.m.

Gary Coons has won the North Coast electoral area for the New Democrats, defeating incumbent Liberal Bill Belsey by a substantial 54-percent to 38-percent of the vote.

It was the first bid for provincial office by the 54-year old Prince Rupert teacher; final results showed him with 5,621 votes, compared to 4,014 for Mr. Belsey, with all 82 polls reporting by shortly after midnight.

The results trickled in starting just after 9 pm, and Mr. Coons was in the lead from the beginning. He held onto that lead as poll after poll added its numbers, starting out slightly ahead of Mr. Belsey, then racking up a wider margin as the night went on. It was clear by about 10 pm that he was unbeatable.

On the Charlottes, Mr. Coons beat Mr. Belsey everywhere but in Sandspit.
Final results on the islands, with all polls reporting, are as follows:

Masset-Mr. Coons 310, Mr. Belsey 120

Port Clements-Mr. Coons 96, Mr. Belsey 84

Tlell-Mr. Coons 61, Mr. Belsey 29

Queen Charlotte-Mr. Coons 225, Mr. Belsey 121

Skidegate-Mr. Coons 169, Mr. Belsey 39

Sandspit-Mr. Coons 70, Mr. Belsey 77

On the islands, Mr. Coons received 931 votes (57-percent) while Mr. Belsey trailed with 470 (29-percent). There were 1,639 votes cast on the islands, according to Elections BC.

Mr. Coons told islanders when he visited in April that land use is a key issue, and said that land questions need to be resolved and consultation needs to be strengthened. He supports moratoriums on fish farms and offshore oil and gas development, and described himself to islanders as a “community and a social activist”. We asked him to comment on what would happen if he were elected but the Liberals formed the government. “Â…I will represent communities throughout the riding, and I will be a strong voice,” he said. He also said he expects that government should treat people with dignity and respect.

Mr. Belsey was not available for comment immediately following the count, but he earlier told the Observer that “..no matter what happens, I’ll be able to walk down any street in my riding with my head up and say ‘I did a lot for this area'”.
The other two candidates trailed far behind; Hondo Arendt for the Green Party received about 5.8-percent of the vote overall, although he received 182 votes on the islands or 11-percent, while David Johns for the Marijuana Party polled less than one percent, both on the islands and off.
Mr. Johns told the Observer from his home in Stewart that he was “quite happy” with the result. “I would specifically like to thank the North Coast electorate for their confidence in me,” he said, “and look forward to working with Gary Coons or Bill Belsey in the future. I’ve already talked to both of them they’ve wished us luck as well. I look forward to the next one,” he said, meaning the next election.

Mr. Belsey won the seat in the 2001 election by only 831 votes, ending decades of New Democratic representation. Graham Lea held the seat for the NDP from 1972 to 1986, while New Democrat Dan Miller represented the area from 1986 to 2001.

Overall, the Liberals won 45 seats, the New Democrats 34 with no other party taking a seat in the 79 seat legislature. Big winners were the New Democrats, moving from just 2 seats to 34, and meaning a much stronger opposition to the Liberals in the coming four years.

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