Vernon-Monashee election race remains a toss up between Foster, Sandhu

Who will win in Vernon?

As British Columbians went to bed Saturday night, the results of the provincial election were still a toss up in Vernon-Monashee.

The results were too close to call to declare a winner between incumbent Eric Foster of the BC Liberals and Harwinder Sandhu of the BC NDP.

Foster maintained a narrow lead for most of the night, with Sandhu nipping at his heels throughout.

As of 11 p.m., less than a percentage point separated them.

Sandhu and Foster went back and forth at the beginning of the night, but Foster took a slight lead shortly after 9 p.m. and held it until the end of the night. But, with the results so close and a record number of mail-in and advance votes yet to be counted, the riding could still swing either way.

Sandhu remained well within striking distance the entire night, and could still steal the riding. The largest lead Foster took the entire night was only four per cent, and that was right at the beginning of counting. It continued to tighten as the night went on.

"It's a real nail-biter, lots of back and forth," says Foster. "I feel bad about the provincial results, but this race is so close I'm by no means out of the woods."

Sandhu could not be reached for comment.

Once mail-in and advance votes are counted, it remains to be seen if a recount will be necessary.

Just up the road, in Sicamous, Foster's colleague Greg Kyllo coasted easily to victory in the Shuswap riding.

His victory was called with less than half the ballot boxes counted.

He finished the night with just under 54 per cent of the vote.

His nearest challenger, Sylvia Lindgren of the NDP had 31 per cent, and the Greens' Owen Madden 15 per cent.

Kyllo was happy about his win, but admitted he was "a little bitter" about the provincial majority for the NDP.

He called NDP Leader John Horgan's calling of the election during the pandemic "reprehensible."

Downtown Vernon Association asks city for free parking on Saturdays

DVA asks for free parking

The Downtown Vernon Association is pushing for free parking on Saturdays in 2021.

The DVA is asking the city to allow free metered parking every Saturday next year to help small businesses by attracting more people downtown.

"In years past, the DVA has made similar requests throughout our annual event and promotion calendar ... resulting in an average of seven free parking days and two non-enforcement days per year, which was very much appreciated by the DVA members, customers and guests," says Susan Lehman, DVA executive director.

Due to COVID-19, the DVA's marketing strategy has shifted focus from large public events to "sustained, activity-based promotions and ambient entertainment" that allows for downtown visitors to be "physically distant yet socially connected."

In her request to city council, Lehman says many small businesses would benefit from free parking, as a number are unable to take advantage of the city's sidewalk and patio programs.

The city allowed free downtown parking from April to July to bring more people downtown during the first stages of the pandemic.

City staff recommends council receives the letter and directs administration to refer to it in 2021 budget discussions.

Expect traffic disruptions next week on 25th Street in Vernon

Roadwork on 25th Street

Expect traffic disruptions next week on 25th Street in Vernon.

Motorists may need to take a small detour as 25th Street will be closed between 41st and 42nd Avenues, starting Wednesday.

The road is expected to reopen Nov. 3.

Crews will be upgrading underground utility works, and will be in the area between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. each workday.

The area will only be available to local traffic. 


Okanagan's resident 'monster' Ogopogo has been sighted for generations

Valley's resident monster

With Halloween just around the corner, it is officially the season of the creepy.

From the Scottish Highlands, to the northern forests of Nova Scotia, to the Slavic countryside, nearly every country has its own mythical monster whose tales frighten children and whose existence causes debate among even the most skeptical of adults. Our resident monster is, of course, the Ogopogo, and year after year a new story of this slippery serpent emerges.

In August 1926, while at a Rotary lunch held on the shores of Okanagan Lake, W. H. Brimblecombe decided to break out in song with a popular British music hall hit. He sang, “I’m looking for the Ogopogo, the bunny-hugging Ogopogo. His mother was an earwig, his father was a whale. I’m going to put a little bit of salt on his tail. I’m looking for the Ogopogo.”

By the time of this club luncheon, stories of a mysterious creature living in the depths of Okanagan Lake were already popular. Moreover, legends of a sea snake named N’ha-a-itk had existed for generations among the Okanagan Syilx people. But after this delightful lunchtime performance in 1926, the Okanagan’s resident monster would come to be known as the Ogopogo.

The first “modern” sighting of the Ogopogo occurred in 1873, when a woman named Susan Allison reported seeing a snake-like creature moving through the water near her home in West Kelowna.

A few years later, during the 1880s, the infamous Captain Shorts discovered a large vertebrae bone in the shallows of Okanagan Lake, which would be determined to be from a whale. How a whale bone came to lie in Okanagan Lake remains a mystery. Could it perhaps be a bone belonging to Ogopogo’s whale father?

While fishing one morning in August 1925, a man named J. Mitchell Boyd allegedly saw a strange creature with the head of a sheep moving languidly through the water (this is apparently quite the trustworthy account; as reported in the Vernon News a few days after the sighting, “Mr. Boyd stated, for the benefit of those who may have doubted his statement, that he had not partaken of cheese the night before, nor anything else which might have caused an optical delusion”).

Nearly 30 years later, in 1959, the Miller and Marten Families also described a close encounter with a large, snake-like creature while out for a day of boating.

In 1978, while driving across the Okanagan Lake floating bridge, Bill Steciuk and 20 other onlookers witnessed a dark head and three black humps protruding out of the water.

The year 2000 would bring about another sighting, when marathon swimmer Daryl Ellis was accompanied by two large creatures during his swim past Rattlesnake Point (perhaps Nessie was down for a visit?)

In 2004, John Casorso recorded the first alleged video of Ogopogo; from a vantage point on his family’s house point, Casorso was able to capture grainy footage of a dark creature, about 15 metres long, emerging from the still waters of Okanagan Lake.

And, less than two weeks ago, a Calgary resident celebrating Thanksgiving in the Okanagan recorded a video of a strange formation of waves that some viewers thought could have been another sighting of the Okanagan’s most elusive resident.

Whether you believe in the sea serpent or not, one thing is for certain; the Ogopogo is a lot of fun to talk about.

Gwyneth Evans is community engagement co-ordinator with the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives.

Foster, Sandhu too close to call in Vernon-Monashee riding

Too close to call

UPDATE: 10:45 p.m.

As the night ended, the provincial election race in Vernon-Monashee was too close to call.

BC NDP challenger Harwinder Sandhu gave three-time incumbent Eric Foster a real horse race, as the two were only a couple of per cent apart all night in vote share as the numbers came in.

As of 10:45 p.m., with 116 of 121 ballot boxes counted, Foster was hanging on to a razor thin lead.

The race was one of the tightest in the province, and the winner won't be known for sure until advance and mail-in ballots are counted.

BC Elections has previously said those votes may not all be counted until well into November.

  • Eric Foster BC Liberal Party – 5,970 (34.95%)
  • Harwinder Sandhu BC NDP – 5,821 (34.07%)
  • Keli Westgate BC Green Party – 2,804 (16.41%)
  • Kyle Delfing Conservative – 2,488 (14.56%)

UPDATE: 10:09 p.m.

Just over 15,000 votes have been counted in Vernon-Monashee, and the race remains as tight as it started.

BC Liberal candidate Eric Foster has a narrow lead with 34.85% of the vote, with the BC NDP's Harwinder Sandhu in second with 33.47%.

Keli Westgate of the BC Greens and Kyle Delfing of the BC Conservatives round out the bottom half of the riding, with each garnering 16.82% and 14.86% respectively.

UPDATE: 9:58 p.m.

With 100 of the 121 ballot boxes reported in Vernon-Monashee, the race remains neck-and-neck between BC Liberal Eric Foster and BC NDP Harwinder Sandhu.

Foster barely edges out Sandhu for the top spot with 34.45% of the vote, with Sandhu right behind him at 33.37%.

BC Greens candidate Keli Westgate is holding her third-place spot with 17.15%, and Kyle Delfing wraps up the riding in fourth place with 15.03%.

UPDATE: 9:44 p.m.

It's still a tight race in Vernon-Monashee, as BC Liberal Eric Foster is in the lead by less than one per cent.

Foster has garnered 34.33% of the vote after 93 of the 121 ballot boxes have been counted, with NDP Harwinder Sandhu close behind at 33.38%.

Keli Westgate of the BC Greens is sitting in third with 17.22%, and Kyle Delfing in fourth with 15.07%.

UPDATE: 9:32 p.m.

With 76 of the 121 ballot boxes reported in Vernon-Monashee, BC Liberal Eric Foster remains in the lead in a tight race.

Foster has 34.01% of the vote, with BC NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu close behind at 32.91%.

BC Greens candidate Keli Westgate has 17.37%, and Kyle Delfing has received 15.71% of the vote.

UPDATE: 9:24 p.m.

Vernon-Monashee has officially passed the halfway mark the initial count, and BC Liberal Eric Foster maintains his lead at 34.17% of the vote.

BC NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu is nipping on Foster's heels, as she is right behind him in second place with 32.55%.

BC Greens candidate Keli Westgate follows with 17.69%, with BC Conservative candidate Kyle Delfing rounding out the riding in fourth place with 15.58%.

UPDATE: 9:15 p.m.

As we near the halfway point of the ballot box count, BC Liberal Eric Foster has a tight lead over NDP Harwinder Sandhu.

Foster is on top with 34.66% of the vote, and Sandhu has 32.62%.

Keli Westgate of the BC Greens is still in third with 17.85%, and Kyle Delfing of the BC Conservatives has 14.87%.

UPDATE: 9:08 p.m.

BC Liberal Eric Foster is back in the lead in Vernon-Monashee with 35.16% of the vote.

NDP Harwinder Sandhu is close behind in second place with 32.13%.

Keli Westgate remains in third with 17.89%, and Kyle Delfing is still in fourth place with 14.81%.

UPDATE: 9:00 p.m.

NDP Harwinder Sandhu has retaken the lead in Vernon-Monashee after 25 ballot boxes have been counted.

Sandhu has 33.15% of the vote, with Eric Foster close behind at 31.81%.

Keli Westgate is in third with 19.52%, and Kyle Delfing is sitting in fourth with 15.52%.

UPDATE: 8:55 p.m.

17 of the 212 ballot boxes have been counted in the Vernon-Monashee riding, with the numbers staying relatively the same.

BC Liberal Eric Foster has a narrow lead over BC NDP Harwinder Sandhu – Foster has 33.29% of the vote, and Sandhu is sitting at 31.03%.

BC Greens candidate Keli Westgate is in third with 19.89%, and Kyle Delfing rounds out the riding at 15.79%.

UPDATE: 8:47 p.m.

Eric Foster has reclaimed the lead after 11 ballot boxes have been counted in Vernon-Monashee.

Foster has 34.16% of the vote, followed closely by the NDP's Harwinder Sandhu at 30.34%.

Keli Westgate of the BC Greens is in third place with 19.75%, with Kyle Delfing in fourth with 15.75% of the vote.

UPDATE: 8:40 p.m.

The BC NDP's Harwinder Sandhu is off to an early lead with only nine ballot boxes counted in Vernon-Monashee.

Sandhu currently has 32.56% per cent of the votes, to BC Liberal Eric Foster's 30.12%.

Keli Westgate with the BC Greens has 21.04%.

Kyle Delfing with the BC Conservatives has 16.28%.

UPDATE: 8:35 p.m.

Online polling website 338Canada is calling for a super-tight race in Vernon-Monashee.

Its projections see three-time incumbent Eric Foster neck and neck with NDP challenger Harwinder Sandhu, at 39.4% to 39.1%, respectively.

They're followed by the Greens' Keli Westgate at a projected 17.5%, and the BC Conservatives' Kyle Delfing with a projected 4%.

The pollster called the race a "toss up."

ORIGINAL: 8 p.m.

Each of Vernon-Monashee's provincial candidates is taking a different approach on how they're spending election night.

Incumbent Eric Foster is at his campaign manager's house with his BC Liberal team, and will be watching the numbers intently as they come in.

"This is my fourth election night, and I feel exactly the same as I did the first time – nervous," he told Castanet News. "This campaign was so different than any other election, but I think it went very well."

BC NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu is spending the night at home with her family and keeping an eye on the results.

She says she's not feeling nervous at all.

"I don't know if it's because this is my third campaign or if it's because the campaign was so positive, but I'm feeling very relaxed," she said Saturday evening. "I'm so grateful for my volunteers and supporters who made the campaign so great."

Keli Westgate, the BC Green candidate, will also be watching the numbers at home.

"All things considered, I'm very happy with our campaign, especially on social media," said Westgate. "As for how the election will turn out, I feel more confident than ever – we've made history in many ways, and I think there's been a shift between parties for voters in this riding."

Meanwhile, BC Conservative candidate Kyle Delfing won't be watching the numbers at all.

"I won't be tuning in ... Once 8 o'clock hits, we'll go around and take down some of the bigger signs around town," says Delfing.

"The campaign was a success, we got to talk to a lot of people and businesses."

Castanet is covering the election live and will provide updates as polling numbers become available.

Three challengers attempt to unseat BC Liberals' Eric Foster in Vernon-Monashee

4-way race 'like no other'

When three-time Vernon-Monashee incumbent Eric Foster announced he'd seek re-election in this provincial election, he called it "a campaign like no other."

And, thanks to the global coronavirus pandemic, he was right.

The BC Liberal is up against by three challengers – Harwinder Sandhu of the BC NDP, Keli Westgate with the BC Greens, and BC Conservative Kyle Delfing.

With social distancing concerns and provincial restrictions on large gatherings, there have been no normal campaign meet and greets, and no in-person candidate forums.

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce held an online forum via Zoom, but that has been the only real chance to see the candidates go head to head.

Foster called John Horgan's election call "totally unnecessary" and blasted the governing NDP for opportunism while it has been polling high for its response to the pandemic, and for putting people's health at risk.

He said this campaign would be "different than any we have done before ... no door-knocking, no hand shaking, that kind of thing."

Sandhu, a nurse at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, ran unsuccessfully against Steve Thomson in Kelowna-Mission in the 2017 provincial election.

She has volunteered with the party at both the federal and provincial levels and also ran federally in the last election.

Her campaign was marred by multiple acts of vandalism against her signs, including racist graffiti in at least one incident.

She says running in the provincial election is a natural extension of the work she does at VJH.

"When deciding to run, I had to ask myself, do I try to improve health care by working at the hospital or should I go to Victoria to join John Horgan's government and work for better health care for all British Columbians?" Sandhu said when she announced her candidacy.

Her leader, the NDP's John Horgan, was the only party leader to stop in Vernon during the campaign, making a brief whistle stop at a local coffee shop.

The Greens' Westgate earned a surprise endorsement during the campaign, getting a public show of support from former local NDP candidate Barry Dorval.

Westgate ran against Foster and Dorval in the 2017 provincial election, coming in third place.

"We had bumped into each other at a climate action rally a while back, and at that time he had expressed his disillusionment with the NDP and their handling of the climate crisis," said Westgate. "When the snap election was called, I reached out to him and he immediately knew he wanted to support the Greens in this election."

Westgate garnered 21 per cent of the popular vote in 2017's election, the highest-ever percentage the Greens have earned in the riding.

BC Conservative Kyle Delfing previously ran in the 2019 federal election under the People's Party of Canada banner.

The party is fielding just 19 candidates across the province.

Delfing owns a local moving company and says B.C. needs a fresh face in politics outside the established old-school parties.

Suspending the carbon tax and reinvigorating B.C.'s forest industry are among his top priorities, along with dealing with the overdose crisis and street entrenched populations, both locally and provincially.

Foster handily beat his rivals in 2017.

He took 48 per cent of the vote, compared to 29 per cent for the NDP’s Barry Dorval, and 21 per cent for Keli Westgate.

Vernon has cheapest fuel in BC, other cities in region paying up to 20 cents more a litre

Vernon home of cheap gas

Gas prices in Vernon continue to fall.

Prices have dropped over the past week, to 99.9 cents a litre, then 97.9, and have now dipped down to 95.9 cents a litre for regular fuel.

The charge appears to be led by Super Save, while Mobil, Safeway and Petro Canada have followed suit.

Other stations in Vernon are staying at 97.9 for now.

The city currently has the cheapest price at the pump anywhere in B.C., according to gasbuddy.com.

Armstrong pump prices are 99.9 cents a litre, except for the Co-op station, which is charging 97.8 cents.

Meanwhile, Kelowna drivers are paying 107.9 cents a litre across the board.

A hop across the bridge to West Kelowna has the Dobbin Road Super Save at 105.9.

Lake Country stations are priced the same as Kelowna.

Kamloops stations are mostly charging 111.9, with a handful at 109.9, and Costco, which is perennially the price leader, at 103.9.

Salmon Arm drivers are pumping fuel for 109.9.

In Penticton, drivers are paying 112.9 cents a litre. However, Canco is one cent less, as is the Esso a short drive south in Okanagan Falls.

Osoyoos, meanwhile, is paying the most in the region, with pump prices at 115.9 – a whopping 20 cents more than at the other end of the valley.

By comparison, Lower Mainland stations are hovering around 120.9, while drivers in Fort St. John, often the home of the cheapest fuel because of its proximity to the Alberta oilpatch, are paying 104.9.

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