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BC Liberal Leader concedes election after party crushed by NDP

Last Updated Oct 25, 2020 at 7:32 pm PST

FILE: BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson answers questions from the media following the speech from the throne in the legislative assembly in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, February 13, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The BC Liberals, dogged by controversy this election campaign, have lost a number of seats

Andrew Wilkinson's Liberals have seen notable riding losses in this provincial election

Wilkinson isn't conceding just yet, saying there are still thousands of votes left to count

RICHMOND (NEWS 1130) — BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson took to Twitter Sunday to tell British Columbians that he has congratulated John Horgan on the NDP’s win, something he didn’t appear ready to do on election night.

Election night was not kind to the BC Liberals, as the party lost ground in many ridings long-considered to be strongholds. The party has been dogged by controversy throughout the election campaign, with the result being evident after polls closed Saturday night and numbers started flooding in. The New Democrats cruised to a majority, winning 55 seats.

Wilkinson didn’t concede right away 

While he said the NDP was likely to form a majority government, Wilkinson said Saturday that more than half a million people who voted by mail still had a right to be heard.

Saying the function of our democracy depends on full voter engagement, Wilkinson said we owe it to every voter to await the final result.

“As the results stand tonight, the NDP are clearly ahead and it appears they will have the opportunity to form government. But with almost half a million mail-in ballots still to be counted, we don’t know what the final seat count will be,” he told reporters.

WATCH: B.C. Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson

There has been a historic number of mail-in ballots submitted this provincial election, with many British Columbians voicing concerns about safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Liberal leader has criticized NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to trigger a snap election during the health crisis.

“This has been a campaign like no other in the midst of a global pandemic. We had to learn new ways of campaigning, and new ways of reaching out to British Columbia,” Wilkinson said Saturday.

Wilkinson’s leadership has come under question amid the election campaign over his handling of various controversies. He did not take any questions from reporters on Saturday night.

Hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots have yet to be tallied. Absentee votes cannot be counted until at least 13 days after the election.

However, mail-in ballots are now only expected to affect four races in the election which are considered too-close-to-call.

NDP takes away Liberal stronghold in Richmond

The Richmond ridings have normally been a safe haven for the Liberals. They use to comfortably hold the four seats in that city.

However, going into Sunday morning, the Liberals only appeared to comfortably hold onto one of those seats — Richmond North Centre, where Teresa Wat won — with the others either too close to call, or flipping to the NDP.

Notably, Liberal Jas Johal lost the Richmond-Queensborough riding to NDP challenger Aman Singh in what’s arguably a major upset.

Johal, the prominent incumbent, won the riding in 2017. During his tenure, Johal was outspoken, serving as the Liberal critic for Economic Development, Competitiveness, Trade, & Technology, and previously spending time as the ICBC critic.

As of late Saturday night, Johal lost the seat to Singh by just under 1,000 votes.

Sullivan, Thornthwaite, Polak out, Greens steal one

Sam Sullivan was among the many BC Liberals to lose their seats to the NDP on Saturday. The former Vancouver mayor lost to Brenda Bailey. Sullivan recently faced backlash for an ad he ran against an overdose prevention site.

Jane Thornthwaite on the North Shore was another one of the Liberals to lose to the New Democrats.

She had been at the centre of one of the Liberal controversies for her comments about an NDP candidate in a leaked video.

First elected in North Vancouver – Seymour, Thornthwaite has served as the official opposition’s critic for Mental Health and Addictions.

Thornthwaite, who was elected in 2009, lost the seat to newcomer Susie Chant of the New Democrats.

Still on the North Shore, the Liberal Party also lost another riding — but it wasn’t to the NDP.

The West Vancouver-Sea to Sky seat was won by Green Party candidate Jeremy Valeriote in what’s been described as an upset for the Liberals.

Valeriote defeated two-term incumbent Liberal Jordan Sturdy, who was elected in 2013. Valeriote’s win marks the Green Party’s first riding victory on the Lower Mainland.

Meanwhile, farther east, long-time Liberal MLA Mary Polak lost to another NDP candidate, Andrew Mercier, in Langley.

Polak had held the riding since 2005. She was the chair of the Surrey School Board during most of the six-year fight to ban books featuring same-sex parents from district classrooms and libraries in the late 90s. That battle went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Historic flip in the Fraser Valley

Along with Polak’s loss, the Liberals have lost a lot in the Fraser Valley.

In Chilliwack, BC Liberal candidate John Martin was defeated by school board chair and NDP candidate Dan Coulter.

Martin had been MLA in that riding since 2013. He advertised in the same controversial publication as another now-former Liberal candidate, Laurie Throness, who resigned from the party amid the furor, but had never commented on said controversy, even as other members of his party issued public apologies.

The NDP also came out on top with the election of Megan Dykeman in the Langley East riding, which was up for grabs after Liberal Rich Coleman announced he was not seeking re-election.