Feature Story                                                                                                        Friday April 20, 2012


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O'Mahony wins the Chilliwack-Hope riding by-election

Craig Hill/Voice photos


NDP Leader Adrian Dix (L) and former leader Carole James (R) celebrate Gwen O'Mahony's victory at Bravos Thursday in Chilliwack.


hard rain fell in Chilliwack and on the BC Liberal Party Thursday night as Gwen O'Mahony became the city's first-ever BC NDP MLA.


O'Mahony jumped into the lead on the first 4 ballots and never looked back picking up 5,772 out of 14,013 that voted at 126 polls, finishing 1,373 votes ahead of BC Liberal Laurie Throness who managed 4,399 votes to John Martin's 3,548. Surprisingly, Libertarian Lewis Clark Dahlby received 294 votes but was not seen in the riding during the run up to the election.


The results Thursday were in stark contrast to the 2009 provincial election when O'Mahony finished over 3000 votes behind then-Liberal MLA Barry Penner.


Conservative John Martin congratulates O'Mahony Thursday night.

While Irish music played in the background, Adrian Dix, whose birthday is Friday, delivered the victory speech to the spirited crowd at Bravo's Restaurant.

"We came and we said that we would run a positive campaign and candidates like Gwen symbolize this," said Dix. "As you can see from the results, we have expanded our base, expanded our tent. People came to the NDP who have never voted NDP before and that's why we won these by-elections."

Dix said he was proud of the volunteers and of the other MLA's who were involved in O'Mahony's campaign like Carole James who went out door-knocking in Chilliwack with their candidate the last couple of days.

"The message I got the most on the doorstep, was that people were looking for something different, a positive message," James told the Voice.

She said voters backed O'Mahony in a positive way at the polls because she genuinely cares about the community.

"I spent two days with her on the doorsteps and I have to say I was really impressed by people's reactions to her, and by the care and attention she gave every individual. Even though people said they weren't ready to vote yet, Gwen took the time to talk to them about the issues that matter and that was very, very powerful to see."

Carole James looks forward to working with O'Mahony in Victoria.

"I think you saw people react to Gwen's positive message and Adrian's positive message. But people also saw Gwen as part of the community," said James. "They know that she's there, she's been on the marches, she's been in the trenches, been in the community, she's cared about the work that goes on here and she's warm and approachable and people were reacting to that."

James said she'll be taking the fledgling MLA O'Mahony under her wing in Victoria.

"I really looked forward to bringing her into the legislature and working with her. It's going to be a great part of our team."

The Voice caught up with Laurie Throness at the Coast Hotel, who was decidedly upbeat despite not winning the riding.

"It was a disappointment not to win, but I have my head held high and think I had a great team and we ran a great campaign. We were not unfair in our critique, and I stood by principles an d so I feel proud about our campaign and about our team."

Laurie Throness was upbeat despite losing.

Throness said he was surprised at how well the Conservatives did at the polls and that the Liberals are going to have to "run a tight ship" over the next year. He suggested the Liberals will need to reach out and communicate their successes more effectively if they are going to have a chance to remain in power.

Throness wouldn't confirm if he was going to run in 2013 saying he will "think about it."

One of the things he'll remember most about the campaign was how candidates treated each other.

"We got along well. Yeah we sparred in public but in private they had a cordial and warm attitude and I like that," he said.


MLA Harry Lali says people have had enough of Liberal mismanagement.


NDP MLA for Yale-Lillooet Harry Lali spoke with the Voice saying he was excited about the O'Mahony winning the Chilliwack-Hope riding, but doesn't think vote-splitting won it for the party.

"The win was not as a result of splitting the vote because the NDP picked up more votes than they did in the general election in Port Moody and right here in Chilliwack-Hope, so it's not a matter of splitting," said Lali adding that "BC has always had a multi-party system."

"The people of British Columbia and not just here in Chilliwack-Hope are very upset with the BC Liberals and the total mismanagement of the social and economic fabric of this province and basically everything the BC Liberals have touched in the last 11 years, they've turned into rot. Whether it's healthcare or education, or 40,000 jobs lost in the forest industry, and I think people have responded to that here in Chilliwack-Hope and also in Port Moody."

Lali noted that over the next year the NDP will focus on John Cummins who has been "coming on strong over the last year".

During her speech, O'Mahony said she was humbled by the support and honoured by the people that voted for her.

O'Mahony reflected to reporters about how hard she worked throughout the campaign.

"This came out of hard work and persistence and no other way around it. This was not handed to me by any stretch of the imagination."

It's been a roller coaster ride for O'Mahony who juggled a healthcare job and is raising her sister's two young girls.

"I am honoured and I am elated," she told the Voice later amid the clamor. "There are a number of emotions that I'm feeling at this moment in time."

"It's really something to see people come out and volunteer on your campaign team, that I'm really grateful for, but then it's another feeling when people put their trust in you in the ballot box and say 'we want you to be our representative."

On Monday, O'Mahony will roll up her sleeves and get to work as the new MLA. One of the people she'll be working with is Chilliwack riding Liberal MLA John Les.

She's not worried about having to work across party lines and will put aside any political differences for the best interest of the community on non-partisan issues like the environment.

"It doesn't matter I'll keep together on it for the community," she said. "I have a history of teaming up. I worked with Bill Vander Zalm on the HST petition and Clive (Western Block Party) was my opponent and I worked with him on the petition as well."

She promised to send us a photo of the first time she's in the Legislature and we'll hold her to that.

Listen to what it sounded like here.

Copyright (c) 2012 The Valley Voice