The Invermere Valley Echo has obtained a town-by-town breakdown of election day voting patterns for the Kootenay-Columbia riding from this fall’s federal election (which has been made available to local candidates, but not yet to the general public), and, while the results do not include the nearly 25 per cent of the Kootenay-Columbia voters who cast ballots during advance polls, they still show several clear and intriguing geographic trends.
The western part of the riding voted strongly on election day for the NDP — the eventual winners. The southern part of the riding stood staunchly behind the then-incumbent Conservatives. The northern part of the riding was the most evenly divided, with no party able to capture more than 50 per cent of the vote in any of those areas.
There are, of course, several exceptions to these general trends but, by and large, in most communities in the western part of the riding (the Nelson-Kaslo area and surrounding regions), NDP candidate and new Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski captured at least 50 per cent of the vote on election day. In several places, he even managed to get more than 60 per cent of the vote, including 69.9 percent in Blewett (which was the largest vote share captured by any candidate in a single community in the Kootenay-Columbia).
In most of the smaller communities and rural areas in the southern part of the riding (Creston, Cranbrook and surrounding regions), Conservative candidate David Wilks took at least 50 per cent of the vote. In the larger municipalities in this area, Mr. Wilks did not manage to secure 50 per cent of the vote, but was still the clear favourite, grabbing roughly 45 per cent of the vote in both Cranbrook and Creston. This Conservative stronghold area extends as far north as the southern reaches of the Upper Columbia Valley, where Wilks earned 58.8 per cent of the vote in Canal Flats, and 50.3 per cent of the vote in Fairmont Hot Springs.
Immediately north of Fairmont Hot Springs, however, begins a string of communities — roughly corresponding to the northern part of the Kootenay-Columbia riding — stretching in an arc from Windermere and Invermere up through Golden and on into Revelstoke, in which no party clearly dominated and in which the top three parties saw their shares of the vote much more evenly divided than anywhere else.
In some of these communities, the Conservatives garnered the most votes; in others the NDP did; but across the board, none of the parties managed to crack 44 per cent of the vote. (In fact, in multiple northern Kootenay-Columbia communities, no party managed to even crack 39 per cent.)
At the same time in almost every single one of these communities, three parties (Conservatives, NDP and Liberal) each got at least 20 per cent of the vote.
The northern Kootenay-Columbia trend of a vote share gap of nine to 19 per cent (depending on the community) between the top party and the third party stands in stark contrast to the vote share gap in southern part of the riding (where it was more than 40 per cent between the top party and second party — nevermind the third party — in some communities), and in the western part of the riding (where the gap between the top party and second party was more than 45 per cent in some places).
This narrower gap in the north meant that it was the area of strongest showing for the Liberals. Although the party did not top the polls in any community, it consistently grabbed higher vote share in northern Kootenay-Columbia communities than its riding-wide result of 19 per cent.
The Green Party’s best results also had a geographic concentration — the 11.6 per cent of the vote it earned in Kimberly and 10.7 per cent of the vote in earned in the rural areas surrounding Kimberley were the only two places in the entire riding in which the party managed to crack 10 per cent.
Kimberley has long been a bastion of Green support in the Kootenay region, and is frequently the site of campaign headquarters for both federal and provincial Green candidates, including this year where it was the base of operations for Green candidate Bill Green.
Despite the Green sympathies in Kimberley, it was Stetski’s NDP that earned the most votes there, taking 35 per cent, with Wilks hot on his heels at 32.5 per cent.
Green, however, was not the only candidate to fail to top the polls in his campaign headquarters’ home turf. Liberal candidate Don Johnston was based in Nelson, which he hoped might help him steal some of the NDP’s thunder in a town that has long been an NDP stronghold.
Johnston was mistaken, however, as Nelson voted overwhelming for the NDP, with the Stetski getting 64 per cent of the vote, compared with the Liberals’ 18 per cent.
Although Steski outdid the Liberals in their headquarters, he too was defeated on his home turf in Cranbrook, where he had previously been mayor.
In Cranbook, the NDP got 24.3 per cent of the vote, while the Conservatives got 46.8 per cent. Wilks also had his headquarters in Cranbrook, which meant he was the only one of the four candidates to win the highest vote share in the community housing his operations base.
Wilks took the most votes in every single community in the Upper Columbia Valley, but the valley as a whole straddled the fault line separating the Conservative-dominated southern part of the Kootenay-Columbia riding and the more evenly divided northern part of the riding, with Wilks winning handily in polling stations in the southern end of the valley, and winning more narrowly in areas in the northern end of the valley.
In Canal Flats, the Conservative took 58.8 per cent of the vote, the NDP 19.2 per cent, the Liberals 17 per cent and the Greens five per cent.
In Fairmont Hot Springs, the Conservatives took 50.3 per cent, the Liberals 22.5 per cent, the NDP 21.7 per cent, and the Greens 5.6 per cent.
The gap then tightens in Upper Columbia Valley polling stations further north, with the Conservative getting 40.4 per cent of the vote in Windermere, the Liberals 27.1 per cent, the NDP 26.7 per cent, and the Greens 6.4 per cent.
In Invermere, the Conservatives got 35.6 per cent of the vote, the NDP 34.2 per cent, the Liberals 22.4 per cent, and the Greens 7.8 per cent.
In Panorama. the Conservatives took 41 per cent, the Liberals 21.3 per cent, the NDP 20.4 per cent and the Greens 6.2 per cent.
And in Radium Hot Springs, the Conservatives grabbed 43.8 per cent of the vote, the NDP 26.4 per cent, the Liberals 22.7 per cent and the Greens 7.1 per cent.
In all Upper Columbia Valley communities, a total of 3,862 voters cast ballots on election day — 1,673 of them (43.3 percent) for the Conservatives; 980 (25.4 per cent) for NDP; 872 (22.6 per cent) for the Liberals; and 252 (6.5 per cent) for the Greens.