BC Liberals win election, while Clark and Eby wrestle for victory
Proving pollsters wrong, BC Liberals defeated the NDP tonight and won their fourth majority government in a row, despite the fact Premier Christy Clark lost the race in her own riding to NDP contender David Eby.
Clark came out swinging with an aggressive campaign, running negative ads against Adrian Dix and even buying a front-page ad in 24Hrs news at one point, claiming that Clark was scoring high ratings after a televised debate.
"Tonight, we have been given a mandate by the people of British Columbia," Clark told a room of jubilant supporters who erupted into cheers as she entered the room.
"(People) told us that they wanted us to balance economic and environmental concerns. We will heed their concerns...British Columbians will always know what I stand for."
She said that focusing on energy resources, such as LNG, will help lead BC toward a debt-free future.
Chants of "Christy! Christy!" interrupted her speech, as she talked about her political past. Her father was a schoolteacher and unsuccessful political candidate in Burnaby, she said, and he passed down his values to her. She said that today would have been her father's 85th birthday.
A stunning turn-around
"I am stunned at how Christy Clark performed in the past few months," former Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan, who won a seat in Vancouver-False Creek, commented.
"She went through so much grief with the things people were throwing at her. And she kept motoring on, so great leadership."
Among supporters, the mood went from quiet in the beginning of the evening to triumphant as the results came in.
"I'm ecstatic. I've been a strong supporter of Christy Clark all the way through," long-time Liberal supporter Kevin England said at the Sheraton Wall Centre, where BC Liberals have gathered to watch the results.
"I really believed she was going to win. I had so many friends who said 'Oh give up, she doesn't stand a chance' and I said, 'No, you're misreading the media. She's definitely going to win. And we're vindicated. This is a really exciting night, and it's a great night for the province of British Columbia."
Clark took over a shattered BC Liberal Party after Gordon Campbell resigned due to his broken promise over the Harmonized Sales Tax. Widely criticized for her unclear position on controversial oil sands pipelines and her support for the energy sector, Clark managed to win despite some prominent Liberals expressing support for the NDP.
Shock and disappointment among NDP supporters
NDP strategist Marcella Munro expressed her surprise while on the CBC, especially since polls by Angus Reid and Justason predicted a solid NDP win.
Photo of Adrian Dix by Chris Lane
In the NDP camp, supporters expressed disappointment and shock.
"I feel like crying. I'm really shocked," NDP volunteer Meganne O'Leary said.
NDP volunteer Stephen Barker said the Liberals used the "fear factor" with negative advertising, and that attack ads against Dix played a large part in the BC Liberals' comeback tonight.
Polls: why were the results different?
Many critics were quick to blame the polls, which showed a 20-point NDP lead early in the campaign, and predicted solid NDP win tonight, rather than a Liberal majority. Alberta Premier Alison Redford tweeted:
"I'm not in the Alberta camp, where the pollsters say that the electorate just changed their minds....I think the polls just got it wrong," polling expert Barb Justason of Justason Market Intelligence said.
"We're managing new methods. We're relatively new to online polls, and we're trying to manage in a world where we no longer have a probability sample in terms of landline telephones to rely on."
Given the result of tonight's election, Justason said that polling agencies will have to work on new methods to accurately predict results.
"If we're getting an election poll meaningfully wrong, then we need to look at our data and figure out how to do that right."
With files from Chris Lane and Sarah Casimong