Fraser-Nicola BC Liberal Party candidate Jackie Tegart with supporters on the Ashcroft bridge, Oct. 21, 2020. Tegart gained the MLA seat for her third term, after B.C.’s snap election Oct. 24. Photo credit: Barbara Roden

Fraser-Nicola BC Liberal Party candidate Jackie Tegart with supporters on the Ashcroft bridge, Oct. 21, 2020. Tegart gained the MLA seat for her third term, after B.C.’s snap election Oct. 24. Photo credit: Barbara Roden

Jackie Tegart wins Fraser-Nicola seat

Incumbent BC Liberal Party candidate re-takes the seat after Oct. 24 snap provincial election

BC Liberal Party candidate Jackie Tegart won the Fraser-Nicola race in B.C.’s snap election, after mail-in ballot counting in the riding was finalized this weekend.

Tegart re-took the seat 282 votes ahead of BC NDP candidate Aaron Sumexheltza. It will be her third term as MLA for the swing riding, which has in the last two elections been won with narrow margins yet none as narrow as the under 300 votes that separate Tegart from Sumexheltza.

The riding, created in 2009, was first won by the NDP’s Harry Lali. In 2013, the riding switched to the Liberals, when first-time provincial candidate Tegart defeated Lali (by 614 votes). It was a feat she would repeat in 2017, once again defeating Lali (this time by 524 votes). The 2017 margin of victory was one of the six lowest in the province.

The results for the riding are as follows:

Dennis Adamson (Independent): 438 votes (3.2 per cent)

Mike Bhangu (Independent): 343 votes (2.51 per cent)

Aaron Sumexheltza (BC NDP): 5,414 votes (39.58 per cent)

Jackie Tegart (BC Liberal Party): 5,696 votes (41.64 per cent)

Jonah Timms (BC Green Party): 1,788 votes (13.07 per cent)

Tegart said she is excited to go back to the legislature as a member of a “strong opposition.”

“This is a critical time for British Columbia. We only have to look at the impacts of COVID to know that we need a strong voice for the Interior of British Columbia and also for small business.” Tegart is looking ahead at the February budget – one of the most important budgets the province will deliver – and what programs will be included for small businesses and others impacted by the pandemic. The other focus is “programs that are actually accessible,” she said, making sure that the stated aims of the programs live up to what they actually deliver and don’t involve multiple hoops to jump through.

Another focus is ensuring communities in the riding have projects shovel-ready to take advantage of government funding. “We’re going to see deficit budgeting for quite some time…What I want to do is make sure that the priority projects in the riding are on the top of the list, that we’re given serious consideration and that we see some success in receiving dollars from the provincial government.” This includes Tegart’s promise to continue lobbying to fund the rehabilitation of Othello Road.

About her narrow margin of victory, Tegart said the riding has always been a close one and elections have shown the importance of casting a ballot. “It again reinforces that, for people who sometimes think that their vote doesn’t count, every vote counts and how important it is on voting day or advanced voting or mail-in. That you take the time,” she said.

Tegart thanked the other candidates who ran, adding she will be working with them as they showed a great deal of interest in the riding. “We were very fortunate to have a good slate of candidates, it was a very respectful campaign,” she said.

Runner up Sumexheltza congratulated Tegart and the other candidates in the race on Twitter.

“Congrats to Jackie Tegart and all those who put their names forward as candidates for the Fraser Nicola riding,” he said. “Thank you to all the voters.”

A first-time provincial candidate, runner up Sumexheltza challenged Lali for the NDP nomination in the riding in 2016 (at which time he was using the surname Sam). Lali was asked by NDP leader John Horgan to step aside in favour of Sumexheltza, but declined, and won the nomination before going on to defeat at the polls.

This year, Sumexheltza won the nomination by acclamation; a decision that caused the entire Fraser-Nicola NDP riding association executive to resign in protest.

One of those executive members — former vice president Dennis Adamson — ran as an Independent candidate in the riding and garnered 438 votes, higher than the margin of victory separating Tegart from Sumexheltza. Adamson is well-known in the lower portion of the riding, having been an Electoral Area director for the Fraser Valley Regional District since 2008.

Another person with local government experience that ran as an Independent in the riding was Bhangu, a first-term councillor for the City of Merritt.

The BC Green Party was represented by Timms, a first-time provincial candidate, who ran in a riding which has seen support for the Greens rise since 2009 when the party received 6.53 per cent of the votes cast. In 2013, the party gained 9.66 per cent of the vote and 15.96 per cent (2,519 votes) in 2017. Despite coming in under the 2017 percentage, the Greens still managed this fall election to garner 13.07 per cent of the votes cast (1,788 votes).

Across B.C., the counting of 660,000 mail-in ballots was finalized over the weekend.

The BC NDP, which it was clear had won a majority even on election night Oct. 24, clarified the number of seats they will have in the legislature – 57 of 87 seats. This includes Abbotsford-Mission and Chilliwack-Kent. The BC Liberals won 28 seats, one of which – West Vancouver-Sea-to Sky – is pending a judicial recount following a very close race. The BC Green Party will hold two seats.

– Files from Canadian Press, Barbara Roden

BC Votes 2020hope