PROVINCIAL LIBERAL candidate Carol Leclerc’s close finish to NDP incumbent Robin Austin in last May’s provincial election came thanks to a strong showing in Kitimat, indicate official poll results released last week.
Kitimat, traditionally an NDP/labour stronghold, came close to turning Liberal last May with just over 130 votes standing in the way of a Liberal win – a major shift from 2009 when NDP voters outnumbered Liberal voters nearly two to one.
Austin would go on to win the Skeena region and his bid for re-election with 5,609 votes – just over 500 votes more than Liberal candidate Carol Leclerc’s 5,087 votes. Conservative candidate Mike Brousseau received 797 in total, with BC Party candidate Trevor Hendry receiving 263 votes. Out of the 11,756 votes cast in the Skeena riding, 65 ballots were rejected.
When the polls closed on election night May 14, 2013 and as counting began, the Liberals and the NDP were neck and neck. But with the official count solidified, Austin’s margin has widened – absentee voters tended to favour him.
But take a look at how the election played out in the different areas in the riding compared to 2009 to see just how close this race was.
Terrace proper went Liberal, with 1,584 people casting votes for Leclerc. That’s 308 votes more than Austin’s 1,276 votes. Brousseau took 232 ballots, with Hendry at 53.
In 2009, the margin between the Liberals and the NDP was a touch tighter. Liberal candidate Donny van Dyk collected the most votes in the immediate Terrace area, with 1,481 ballots cast in his favour. Austin received 1,327 votes. Brousseau, who also ran for the Conservatives in 2009, collected 233 votes and 126 votes went to the Green candidate, Anita Norman.
Voter turnout in Terrace mirrored the trend for the whole Skeena riding – which is that it has stayed relatively the same over the last two elections. Overall, 11,821 ballots were cast in Skeena in 2013 compared to 11,617 ballots in 2009. Terrace saw 3,145 ballots cast in 2013 compared to 3,167 in 2009.
In 2009, Austin blew van Dyk and the Liberals out of the water in the Kitimat polls, receiving nearly double the amount of votes – 1,786 for the NDP compared to the Liberal’s 870. The Conservatives grabbed 202 votes, with the Greens turning out 143 in their favour.
Four years later, the voting landscape in the industry-heavy area is quite different. The NDP took the now closely-contested area, with 1,272 ballots compared to 1,141 for the Liberals. The Conservatives saw 153 votes, with 67 going to Hendry.
Included in the Kitimat numbers is Kitamaat Village, which stayed decisively with the NDP – 126 votes for Austin compared to 29 votes for Leclerc. This is a wider margin than in 2009, where 129 votes went to the NDP, and 59 votes went to the Liberals.
And voter turnout in the overall Kitimat area was down – 3,001 people voted in 2009. In 2013, that number was 2,633.
In the area encompassing Thornhill and moving out past the Northwest Regional Airport to include Lakelse Lake, more people voted Liberal than NDP in 2013. The Liberals saw 752 votes cast in their favour, with 636 votes going to the NDP. The Conservatives saw 132 votes, with 52 going to Hendry.
This is a shift from 2009, when the NDP received 724 votes compared to the Liberals 700. The Conservatives received 225 votes in 2009, and the Greens saw 76 votes.
In 2013, voter turnout was lower in this area with 1,572 overall votes cast, down from 1,725 in 2009.
The area northwest of Terrace continued to be an NDP stronghold in 2013, with the Nass overwhelmingly choosing Austin – 434 votes went his way, compared to just 42 for Leclerc, five for Brousseau, and 17 for Hendry. Overall, 498 votes were cast in that area in 2013.
That’s similar to the situation in 2009, when Austin received 457 votes in the Nass compared to van Dyk’s 28. Brousseau and Norman received nine votes a piece, making the overall voter turnout sit at 503.
Another NDP stronghold. In Kitsumkalum, 107 people voted for Austin in 2013, with 11 voting for Leclerc and four for Brousseau, for a grand total of 122 overall votes cast.
These results are very similar to four years ago, when 102 votes went in Austin’s favour, compared to six for van Dyk, three for Brousseau and one for Norman, for a total of 111 votes overall.
In the Kitselas poll area, 24 votes went to Austin and the NDP, with six going to Leclerc and the Liberals. Neither Brousseau nor Hendry received any votes. In data from the 2009 election, numbers from Kitselas are combined with two other voting areas (one in Terrace proper, and one near the airport) so a comparison between this election and last is unavailable.
In the more rural areas of the riding, Austin received 212 votes, while Leclerc received 157. Brousseau saw 42 go his way, with Hendry receiving 13. That’s a wider margin for the NDP than in 2009 when 424 overall ballots cast in 2013 compared to 360 in 2009. More people voted overall in these regions in 2013 – 424 overall ballots cast in 2013 compared to 360 in 2009.
The number of people who took advantage of advance polls was higher in 2013 than in 2009, with 2,435 people casting advanced ballots. Of those votes, 1,175 went to Austin, 1,052 to Leclerc, 167 to Brousseau and 41 to Hendry. In 2009, 2,156 people used advance voting, with a similar breakdown between the parties.
And almost double the amount of people voted using absentee methods in 2013 compared to 2009 – which helps explain why the riding’s voter turnout stayed relatively the same despite that big drop in Kitimat. The absentee/special ballot count was 916 in 2013, with 497 of those votes going to Austin, 348 going to Leclerc, 62 going to Brousseau, and nine going to Hendry. In 2009, 530 absentee/special ballots were counted, with 287 going to the NDP, 186 going to the Liberals, 36 to the Conservatives and 21 to the Greens.