Skip to content

A Squamish perspective on the federal election

Initial results show Liberal Party has secured Sea to Sky riding in third federal election.
Patrick Weiler and wife Nicole at federal election
West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country Liberal incumbent Patrick Weiler, with partner Nicole Pedersen, talks to supporters at his federal election party in West Vancouver on Sept. 20, 2021.

For the third term in a row, it appears the Liberal party has claimed Squamish’s riding in a federal election.

Preliminary results from Elections Canada point to victory for incumbent MP Patrick Weiler, who will be representing West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.

As of press deadline, Weiler has 19,424 votes, or 33.6%.

His nearest challenger, John Weston of the Conservative Party of Canada has 17,247, or 29.9%. Next was NDP candidate Avi Lewis with 14,833, or 25.7%.

The Green party candidate, Mike Simpson, took 3,850, or 6.7% of the vote, while Doug Bebb of the People’s Party took 2,178, or 3.8%.

The Rhinoceros Party candidate, Gordon Jeffrey, and independents Terry Grimwood and Chris MacGregor received under 100 votes.

CBC reported that about 6,100 mail-in ballots were left to be counted, and those figures could arrive late this week.

Weiler said that his first priority would be to go to work on making regional transit a reality for Squamish.

“The most immediate thing I would say is working again with the province to be able to bring in regional transit,” he told The Chief.

“That was something that was on the top of the agenda before the election was called and high-level discussions had been had with different orders of government on that.”

However, there is a question regarding the overall outcome. With results that almost identically mirrored the previous vote last time, many voters are wondering why a snap election was called.

Weiler told The Chief that there were still upsides to going to the polls.

“We are projected to pick up more seats in B.C. And I think that will be really important to have our province have more of a say in the way that the federal government operates.”

He noted that many people believed that the minority government had been working well, but, by his account, there were challenges this year in getting legislation passed. He said he hopes this election will serve as a reset.

Weston, who had previously served as a Conservative MP in the riding for two terms between 2008 to 2015, said he tried contacting Weiler to congratulate him on such a wide lead, but wasn’t able to connect.

He said, however, he’d be waiting until the end of the week to see how the results pan out.

“I think that the key thing I’ve learned over the 16 years since I’ve participated is that it’s definitely not about the candidate,” said Weston.

“It’s easy to think that it’s personal and that the responsibility for outcomes lies on your shoulders. It’s very much a team effort. And I would say our team won, though the voters came to a different conclusion.

He noted people appeared to be generally unhappy to have a snap election.

“$610 million later, we’ve ended up almost exactly where we’ve started,” Weston said.

Though Lewis didn’t come out the winner, the NDP candidate had a very optimistic outlook.

He promised that he would be running again in the Sea to Sky, despite the challenges it may bring.

“I’ve looked a lot of people in the eye and made the commitment,” said Lewis. “I realize there are easier ridings to win, but this is where I live, and this is where we’ve now built a huge connected community in every corner of this vast, complex and beautiful riding.”

He added he was well aware that an NDP victory in this riding was an uphill battle.

“I’m thrilled,” said Lewis. “I knew and I said from the beginning that it was an uphill battle to go from fourth place to first with a first-time candidate in a riding that we had really no organization to start with.”

Indeed, the NDP has vastly improved its proportion of the popular vote in this riding since last election.

Previously, in the 2019 election, the Greens won 14,579 ballots, about 22.4% of the popular vote, giving them third place in the riding. Back then, the NDP lagged behind with 9,027 votes, or about 13.9% of the electorate. This election the NDP have doubled their vote percentage, allowing them to clinch third place in the riding.

With respect to missing the Squamish all-candidates debate, he said that it likely didn’t play a big part in the final outcome, as he went to just about all the other debates in the riding.

Lewis said he regretted that the Squamish event fell on Yom Kippur, but added that he does not make public appearances during the holy day out of respect for those in the Jewish community who observe the occasion.

Finally, he said that he’s pleased with the connections he’s made in the community and hopes to build on this for the next run for office.

In the meantime, he’ll be working as an associate professor at UBC’s geography department. He said he hopes to support his partner Naomi Klein in getting a climate justice centre up and running at the university.

Doug Munroe, founder of Politikos Research, a political consulting firm, said perhaps the biggest untold story is the dismal voter turnout numbers at a federal level.

‘I think the most important story that isn’t being told about this election is that as of right now, as of the early hours of this morning, yesterday’s election had the lowest turnout in Canadian history,” said Munroe on the morning of Sept. 21.

He noted preliminary counts point to a turnout of 58.4%, which doesn’t include those who registered on voting day. The next lowest was in 2008, where there was a 58.8% turnout, he added.

“Obviously, there are some people who are switching teams there, but we also know that there are a surprisingly large number of people in West Van-Sea to Sky who didn’t show up this time,” he said.

This would likely be due to the pandemic, the inconvenient timing of the vote, and the perception that this was a needless election that “wasn’t about anything,” he said.

Concerning the preliminary results, Munroe said that does not expect the mail-in count to change the outcome, as it did in last year’s provincial election.

In that case, there was an outsize proportion of BC Liberal voters who hadn’t been counted yet.

He said he doesn’t expect the proportion of uncounted votes to be distributed largely in favour of one party.

As a result, Munroe suspects Weiler’s lead will hold.