It looked like a party – and it was.
Inside Liberal candidate Cindy Derkaz’s campaign office in the old courthouse, a celebration is in full, boisterous swing.
It’s 8:30 p.m. Some 50 campaign workers and supporters are jubilant about the Liberal sweep that began in the Maritimes several hours earlier.
More supporters are streaming through the door, taking the noise level to new heights.
Thrilled with the national result, former Okanagan College dean Lynda Wilson says strategic voting means the candidate from the governing party usually becomes the MP for the riding.
“I am thrilled to have a government that represents the values that Canadians hold dear, but I think strategic voting should be removed from the process,” she says of the local results.
Environmentalist/historian Jim Cooperman is more blunt.
“I am ecstatic that the tyrant that has been running Canada is gone, but I am disappointed that this riding did not choose the best candidate and environmental lawyer and community advocate.”
Derkaz enters the campaign office to loud, sustained applause, cheers and whistles. Enthusiastic clapping continues for at least two full minutes as Derkaz greets everyone in the room with a hug.
The sound is turned up and attention turns to outgoing prime minister Stephen Harper’s televised speech, which elicits a few loud complaints.
Harper forgotten, animated conversation continues and even more people stream through the door to share in the celebration.
Handed a glass of appropriately red wine, Derkaz says the local result is much less important to her than the “fabulous” results nationally.
“They went to the Liberal party in droves for change and that is wonderful, because we will be rejoining the world,” she said. “We’ll be in Paris in December to start tackling climate change, we will rejoin the international community, we will have a prime minister who will sit down with the premiers to make things work – things like health care and to build a new relationship and partnership with our First Nations.”
Asked if she will take up the Liberal charge in the next election, Derkaz doesn’t commit.
“I’ve got four years to think about it,” she says with a wide grin, acknowledging the energy and excitement of the team that supported her.
Over at the Salmon Arm office of NDP candidate Jacqui Gingras on Ross Street, things are much quieter. Gingras is in Vernon, spending the latter part of the evening with supporters there.
About half a dozen Salmon Arm supporters sit watching the TV as the New Democrats drop from their all-time high of 103 seats in 2011 under then-leader Jack Layton to 44 seats in this election.
Added to the disappointment is Gingras’ standing in the polls, with the final tally showing her receiving 26 per cent of the vote, a third-place finish, to winner Conservative Mel Arnold’s 39 per cent and Derkaz’s 30 per cent.
Long-time NDP supporter Bill Eaton expresses his surprise and disappointment.
“We felt Cindy and Jacqui would probably be the leading candidates in this riding. We’re surprised to see the Conservatives doing so well.”
Regarding national results, he said: “I think people are just voting for the best chance of defeating Harper. It’s definitely strategic voting. People are so upset with Harper.”
A few doors down at Mel Arnold’s campaign office, about six supporters sit in a back room with an abundance of snacks on the table as they watch results on television roll in. Like Gingras, Arnold is spending the evening in Vernon.
Although the Conservatives are dropping nationally from 166 seats in 2011 to 99, the atmosphere at the Salmon Arm office is more jubilant than next door. Their candidate is leading.
When Arnold is declared the winner, the group cheers.
“I’m happy,” says supporter Al Schalm. Regarding national results: “Trudeau is going to have to grow up awfully fast.”
Supporter Jordan Ross attributes some of Arnold’s success to his early start campaigning.
“He started the process early, got people on the ground and organized quickly.”
Nationally, Ross says the Conservative loss is not unexpected, but the Liberal majority is a shock.