Rob Morrison for second term after federal election keeps status quo

By Steve Hubrecht
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The more things change, the more they stay the same. The federal election earlier this week ushered in a political scenario that is pretty much exactly what it was prior to the election, both here in Kootenay Columbia and across Canada.

In Kootenay Columbia, incumbent Conservative MP Rob Morrison has been re-elected to a second term as the riding’s representative in Ottawa, and, locally, the vote share percentage for the three candidates with the most votes was almost identical to what it was in the last federal election in 2019. To further heighten voters’ sense of deja vu, not only was the vote share the same, but those three candidates themselves were the same ones that had run the last time around (finishing in the exact same order in 2021 as they did in 2019).

The reported tally from the Monday, Sept. 20 vote in Kootenay Columbia did not include the 4,300 mail-in ballots cast in the riding (which should be counted by the end of this week), but those will not change the overall result since Morrison is already ahead by more than 4,600 votes, so on Tuesday, Sept. 21 Stetski called Morrison to congratulate him on his victory.

Morrison garnered more than 26,800 votes (44 per cent of the total) during in-person voting, as compared with slightly more than 21,400 (36 per cent) for NDP candidate Wayne Stetski. Liberal candidate Robin Goldsbury was third with almost 5,500 votes (nine per cent), PPC candidate (and Invermere resident) Sarah Bennet was fourth with more than 4,3100 votes (seven per cent), and Green Party candidate Rana Nelson was fifth with 2,400 votes (four per cent).

In the 2019 election, Rob Morrison won with 44 per cent of the vote, defeating then-incumbent Stetski (34 per cent), Goldsbury (nine per cent), then-Green candidate Abra Brynne (nine per cent), then-PPC candidate Rick Steward (two per cent), and Animal Protection candidate Trev Miller (0.5 per cent).

Federally, almost nothing changed either, and the Liberals will again form a minority government after wining (or as of press time leading in) 158 seats in the House of Commons. The Conservative have won or are leading in 119 seats, the Bloc Québécois 34 seats, the NDP 25 seats, and the Greens two seats. In the 2019 election, the Liberal won 157 seats, the Conservatives 121 seats, the Bloc Québécois 32, the NDP 24, and the Greens two.

The biggest change in vote percentage on both the federal and local level came from the PPC, which won no seats, but nearly tripled its vote share from 1.6 per cent nationally in 2019 to roughly 4.5 per cent this year. That trend was reflected locally, with Bennett taking the parties vote share in Kootenay Columbia from two per cent in 2019 to seven per cent this election.

Morrison told the Pioneer that the razor thin Kootenay Columbia election of 2015 led to a great bit of uncertainty across the board heading in the 2019 election, but that going into this election “we always knew it would be a tough race, but there was a sense of confidence that came from having helped thousands of local residents, in a nonpartisan way, with federal government issues over the past few years. That builds your confidence that people will vote based on the results you’ve delivered as an MP, and that’s what I think we’ve ended up.”

He said it might be that, after a variety of unique factors affected the 2015 election (antipathy toward then Prime Minster Steven Harper, new riding boundaries, a local Liberal candidate who managed to poll more than double the typical Kootenay Columbia Liberal vote share), the similar vote tallies in the 2019 and 2021 elections could reflect a sort of status quo for Kootenay Columbia.

While Morrison is disappointed with the federal results, he is eager to get back to work in Ottawa, where he vowed to push hard on issues critical to Kootenay Columbia, including infrastructure funding, an electric train, and helping the local tourism industry by trying to open national borders to fully vaccinated international visitors and by reinvigorating the temporary foreign worker program.

The Pioneer attempted to contact Stetski for his comments on the election results but was unable to reach him prior to press deadline.

Stetski pointed out that, in terms of the sheer number of votes, the gap between him and Morrison was closer this time than in 2019, which he was happy about, “but overall, of course, I’m disappointed not to be able to represent Kootenay Columbia again. The voting this time really did show the cultural divide between the West Kootenay, where we did really well, and the East Kootenay, where the vote was more variable. But that difference has always been there.” 

He said he’s hopeful the federal NDP can wield influence on policy put forward by the Liberal minority government, saying the NDP had success with that in the last parliament, upping Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payment amounts and small business COVID-19 support.

Asked if he plans to take a fourth run in Kootenay Columbia at the next federal election, Stetski replied “I’m going to take some time, go mountain biking, hiking, camping and then see where things are at.”

Goldsbury had been gunning to greatly improve the Liberal vote share in Kootenay Columbia, and was disappointed not to have done so, but told the Pioneer that the back-to-back nine per cent vote shares in 2019 and 2021 stand in contrast to the noticeably smaller vote shares the Liberals had managed in the riding for much of the 21st century, and this bolsters her “firm belief that we are gaining traction here.” She added she is delighted with the Liberal forming federal government again.

Bennett told the Pioneer that while she had hoped for more, she was heartened that the PPC leapt up in popularity at the polls. “The increase in support for the PPC is definitely linked to the fight for Charter rights,” she said, adding that controversy erupting around vaccine passports or vaccine cards and mandatory vaccinations as the election progressed was a big part of that. “COVID-19 was brought up in every debate or forum, and all the candidates had to at least face questions about some of the freedom issues stemming from the pandemic. While I may not have been thrilled with the other candidates’ answers, I am glad that clearly awareness about these issues is increasing…There is hope, going forward, in that there’s going to be a lot happening in the Kootenay in terms of freedom and rights.”

Nelson told the Pioneer she was “disappointed for sure” with her vote share in Kootenay Columbia and the Green showing nationally. She noted that right across B.C. the Greens were down and the PPC up in roughly similar proportions as in Kootenay Columbia and said “I think that’s up to the vaccine mandate. That maybe made it difficult for us.”

She said she also felt strategic voting hurt the Greens here, with many would-be Green voters opting instead to cast a ballot for Stetski, as the left-of-centre candidate with the best chance to win the riding. That result, she said, “underscored the deep need for proportional representation. People need to be able to vote for the party they think is best, without worrying about what strategic fallout that might entail.” Nelson said she plans to do what she can to push for electoral reform, and that she may possibly run for the Greens again next time around, pointing out that if the party runs a new candidate each time, there is a lot of groundwork that needs to be constantly redone each election cycle.