B.C. ag minister keeps seat; ag critic, barely

British Columbia’s agriculture minister and official opposition ag critic appear to have held their ridings as the province’s Liberal government hung onto majority status in Tuesday’s election.

Premier Gordon Campbell’s Liberals won 49 of 85 seats, while the NDP, led by Carole James, earned 36. The two parties each won three of the six seats added since the 2005 election.

Ron Cantelon, who has been Premier Gordon Campbell’s minister of agriculture and lands since January, won his riding of Parksville-Qualicum with by a spread of 3,462 votes over the NDP’s Leanne Salter.

But Cantelon’s opposite number, NDP agriculture and municipal affairs critic Charlie Wyse, scored a far less decisive win in his northern interior riding of Cariboo-Chilcotin, once held by NDP ag minister David Zirnhelt.

According to preliminary results from Elections BC, Wyse drew 5,814 votes on Tuesday, just 23 ahead of Liberal candidate and former 100 Mile House mayor Donna Barnett.

Among other MLAs tied to the ag file, the Liberals’ forests and range minister, former ag minister Pat Bell, kept his Prince George-Mackenzie riding with 9,392 votes, 3,291 ahead of the NDP’s Tobias Lawrence.

The Liberals’ public safety minister and former ag minister (2001-05), John Van Dongen held the Abbotsford South riding for the Liberals, pulling 9,513 votes, over 5,600 ahead of the NDP’s Bonnie Jasiver Rai.

Van Dongen, formerly an Abbotsford dairy farmer, was briefly named interim ag minister in January after the death of Stan Hagen. Hagen’s Comox Valley riding stayed with the Liberals, as Don McRae beat the NDP’s Leslie McNabb by a spread of 1,423 votes.

The NDP, meanwhile, held the Nelson-Creston riding previously represented by former ag minister Corky Evans, who announced last June that he wouldn’t seek re-election. Michelle Mungall of the NDP drew 8,517 votes, over 3,500 ahead of the Liberals’ Josh Smienk.

The main parties’ leaders, Campbell and James, easily won their ridings in Vancouver and Victoria respectively, by spreads of 2,592 and 6,593 votes.

Other parties were generally not a factor in Tuesday’s election. The provincial Green Party in most cases finished far back in third place, while the provincial Conservatives finished third in some ridings.

Parties such as the B.C. Marijuana Party, the Sex Party, Your Political Party (YPP) of B.C., the B.C. Refederation Party and the People’s Front drew minimal support.

Independent candidates, however, put fear into the presumptive winners in two ridings Tuesday night. Campbell’s attorney general, Wally Oppal, almost certainly faces a recount in the Delta South riding after beating Vicki Huntington, a former Delta municipal councillor, by just two votes.

Another independent candidate, Baldonnel-area grain farmer Arthur Hadland, posted a respectable second-place finish in the Peace River North riding, where the Liberals’ Pat Pimm, a Fort St. John city councillor, won by a spread of 960 votes.

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