A campaign expected to be close turned out to be anything but during the federal election.
Conservative candidate Rob Morrison won the Kootenay-Columbia riding on Oct. 21 by 7,000 votes in a landslide result that ousted NDP incumbent Wayne Stetski.
Morrison was new on the ballot but had the advantage of running for a party that has traditionally dominated the riding thanks to strong East Kootenay support.
“We always came in as the underdogs,” said Morrison after the victory. “It’s hard with the incumbent who has a lot of press time and has been around and has already built up relationships. We knew it would be an uphill battle. The days leading up the election, we were behind in the polls. It was pretty nerve-wracking.”
Those polls turned out to be meaningless.
Stetski, who eked out a surprising win in 2015 by just 282 votes, had been the first NDP candidate to win the riding.
But there were plenty of candidates ready to end his time in Ottawa. Abra Brynne of the Green Party, Robin Goldsbury of the Liberals, People’s Party candidate Rick Stewart and Trev Miller of the Animal Protection Party also shared space on the ballot.
The campaign featured 11 events throughout the riding, and it quickly became apparent where the frontrunners’ priorities were.
Morrison focused most of his attention on his base in the East Kootenay and opted to skip two public debates in Nelson. Stetski, meanwhile, tried to make his case to Green voters for their support.
That strategy didn’t work, and made months of hand-wringing over vote splitting moot. Brynne ended up finishing fourth, and even if all of her supporters had voted NDP it wouldn’t have been enough to sway the election in Stetski’s favour.
Still, there were surprises beyond the result once the dust settled.
Polling numbers showed Stetski led Morrison in a number of communities including Nelson, Revelstoke, Salmo, Kimberley and Fernie. Golden was much tighter, with Stetski edging Morrison by just five votes.
But where Morrison won, he won big.
He had nearly 2,000 more votes than Stetski in his Cranbrook stronghold, and also dominated in rural communities including Sparwood, Elkford, West Creston, Canyon, Lister, Baynes Lake and Elko.
Now Morrison has four years to show he was worth the avalanche of support.
“I’m going to hold myself accountable, to build on what we want and need for the Kootenay-Columbia region,” he said.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated Abra Brynne finished third in votes. Brynne was actually fourth behind Liberal candidate Robin Goldsbury.