NDP's Richard Cannings wins in South Okanagan-West Kootenay

B.C. Interior's only non-Tory

UPDATE 11:40 p.m.

NDP incumbent Richard Cannings has won re-election in the South Okanagan-West Kootenay, making him the only non-Conservative MP in the B.C. Interior. 

In an extremely close race, Cannings was elected with 36.4 per cent of the vote over Conservative challenger Helena Konanz at 35.3 percent with 275 of 280 polls reporting.

“It feels good. These are long campaigns, they are hard, and you never know what’s going to happen until the night of the election,” Cannings told reporters at a wrap-up party at the Penticton Lakeside Resort.

His campaign received a boost Saturday from a last-minute rally hosted by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. Cannings credited Singh for “lifting the whole campaign for the last month or two.”

Across town at the Penticton Golf and Country Club, a defeated Konanz was emotional as she addressed supporters. 

“I want all of you to feel proud, I want you all to feel proud about what we did, and the next time, it’s going to happen,” she said.

Konanz worked hard during her campaign, first announcing her intentions to run federally back in June 2018 and has been knocking on doors since — something Cannings acknowledged in his remarks to reporters. 

“We worked hard and did everything we could. Obviously, it wasn’t enough, but I’m so proud of these people, they all believe in what they are doing,” Konanz said, referring to her volunteers.

The former Penticton city councillor could not say if she is done with politics and congratulated Cannings on his win. 

“I know he cares a lot about the community and a lot about the riding. He obviously fought a harder, better battle. I’m not sure how it worked out the way it did, but it did, and I congratulate him.”

Liberal candidate Connie Denesiuk secured 17.2 per cent of the vote in her second attempt running under the Liberal banner in the riding. 

She told supporters gathered at her campaign offices on Main Street the campaign they ran “left a legacy.”

“We elevated the dialogue. It wasn’t about ideology, what we talked about was evidence, research and science,” she said. “We ran a very clean campaign... We didn’t fall into what some have done and the negative politics… we kept it high road.”

Denesiuk said she’s happy to see “a progressive voice” like Cannings headed to Ottawa to represent the riding. 

Nationally, the NDP slid from 44 seats to 24 due to a resurgent Bloc Quebecois. 

Cannings told reporters he believes the NDP remains in a strong position.

“Naturally I would have liked to have twice as many seats, but we are in a very good position to carry forward our commitment to Canadians on affordable housing, on pharmacare and climate action. We are obviously in a minority government situation and I think we hold a good position in that Parliament.”

Cannings chalked up his victory to a “positive message.”

“We talked to most of the people about things that they cared about. On affordable housing, on climate action, on healthcare,” he said.

UPDATE 9:50 p.m.

NDP incumbent Richard Cannings held a lead, albeit a slim one, all night.

Cannings has earned his second term to represent the South Okanagan-West Kootenay, narrowly edging out former Penticton city councillor Helena Konanz.

With 225 of 280 polls reporting Cannings had 37.2 per cent of the vote, ahead of Konanz at 33.8 per cent. Those figures should float around as the final votes are tallied this evening.

The narrow margin was expected by most, as shown by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s visit to Penticton Saturday just two days before the election.

The South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding spans Penticton to the U.S. border and east to Trail and Castlegar. Cannings will be the only non-Torie MP in the entire B.C. Southern Interior.

Konanz worked very hard in her campaign, getting started early, declaring her intention to run federally back in June 2018.

Liberal candidate Connie Denesiuk finished in third place, conceding at her campaign offices, speaking to volunteers.

“We are all celebrating tonight, disappointed in some ways, but celebrating that Canadians have chosen forward," she said, of the Liberal minority government.

She said she had spoken to Cannings to congratulate him on the win, saying she is happy "a progressive voice" will represent the region.

Cannings is addressing supporters now. Reporters are awaiting comment from Konanz. More to come. 

ORIGINAL 9:45 p.m.

Richard Cannings has retained the only seat for the NDP in the Okanagan.

Canning's race in South Okanagan-West Kootenay was by far the closest in the Thompson-Okanagan, decided by less than 2,000 votes.

Conservative Helena Konanz kept it interesting all night, and the Liberals' Connie Denesiuk was a distant third.

We'll have more from Colin Dacre and Chelsea Powrie in Penticton.

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