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NDP wins official Opposition

Newbie candidate snags close second in Van Centre

Karen Shillington says she'll be back to contest the Van Centre seat in the next election. Credit: Sarah Roberts photo

Just two votes nudged first-time NDP candidate Karen Shillington into second place in Vancouver Centre, following a neck-and-neck, late-night race for the riding’s second and third positions.

Shillington finished with 15,325 votes, inching ahead of Conservative Jennifer Clarke’s 15,323. Each took 26 percent of the vote share after Hedy Fry’s victory for the Liberals.

As the NDP was confirmed as Canada’s new official Opposition, the mood was jubilant at the party’s combined Vancouver gathering at Heritage Hall on Main St.

NDP candidates Libby Davies (Vancouver East) and Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway) comfortably held their seats, while Meena Wong (Vancouver South) and Victor Elkins (Vancouver Quadra) both finished third.

Referring to the party’s trademark colour, Shillington told the crowd, “This is the time for the orange crush. The support I got on the street and from people who dropped into my office was just tremendous.”

She describes the election results as “bittersweet.”

“I never thought I’d live long enough to see Quebec go NDP, but we have a Conservative majority. Thank goodness we have the NDP as the official Opposition — we’re going to give them hell,” she told the crowd.

Shillington later told Xtra she was delighted with the Vancouver Centre result, particularly as an NDP “newbie.”

An anti-poverty campaigner and a former Green candidate, Shillington added that she was “shocked” her previous party finished fourth in the riding, with only 15 percent of the vote.

When asked whether she would contest the next election, Shillington told Xtra, “Oh yeah. I’m here to stay.”

One of her gay supporters, Tim Armstrong — president of the New Democrats’ Vancouver Centre Riding Association — believes the local gay community should continue to fight for issues such as protection of St Paul’s Hospital and affordable housing.

“People are being priced out of the marketplace,” he says. “Along with the elderly and students, the [gay] community is being forced out because we can’t afford to live downtown.”

Armstrong expressed dismay at the federal Conservative majority but is confident the NDP will be a “strong opposition” advocating for human rights, same-sex marriage, access to medical procedures and other issues.

“We offer a clear alternative with the credentials to form a government in four years — a government that represents all people: the GLBT community and all Canadians,” he says.