Michael Laycock and Rahoul Ghose
Whistler Question (Whistler, B.C.)
May 30, 1996

It was a dramatic end Tuesday night to what was a ho-hum election campaign at best in West Vancouver-Garibaldi.

Liberal candidate Ted Nebbeling handily won a seat in the legislature, defeating NDP runner-up Brenda Broughton by an almost two-to-one margin.

Preliminary results showed Nebbeling took 11,464 votes (56.9 per cent of the valid votes cast), Broughton took 5,952 (29.5 per cent) and Reform’s Jim Mercier took 1,321 (6.6 per cent).

But after mounting an early lead, Nebbeling’s party seesawed back and forth in the overall provinicial results for much of the evening and ended up facing an NDP majority government.

The NDP took 39 seats, the Liberals won 33, Reform took two and the PDA won one.

In what seemed an anti-climax, Nebbeling was pronounced the winner in the riding at about 8:30 p.m., half an hour after the polls closed and while only a couple of dozen of his supporters were present at his West Vancouver campaign headquarters.

Asked how he felt in the wake of his win, Nebbeling replied, “Excellent. I’m thrilled to be the representative in Victoria.”

And in a later speech to his supporters, he said, “This is a highlight in my life, not just my political career.”

He credited his win to his record as mayor of Whistler in creating a favorable climate for business and caring for the community, and he pledged to work for job creation, improved transportation links and stability in natural-resource industries in the Sea to Sky corridor.

As early results showed the Liberals with a commanding lead, the atmosphere at Nebbeling’s headquarters shone like the chrome of the fleet of Mercedes, Jaguars and BMWs parked outside.

Nebbeling worked the room, shaking hands, hugging supporters and joining in cheers as results were reported on the BCTV broadcast.

But by 9:15 p.m. the NDP had gained a narrow lead, and a hush fell over the 100 or so Nebbeling supporters.

Half an hour later, BCTV predicted the NDP would win, and as the Nebbeling supporters went to a Japanese restaurant next door for a lavish sushi dinner, the mood turned foul.

But just before he drove off to Liberal headquarters downtown, Nebbeling was stoic in the face of his party’s imminent defeat.

“I would be disappointed, yes, but that doesn’t mean my resolve would be reduced in any way, shape or form. Whatever position I’m in, I’ll be fighting for the riding.”

Supporters at NDP candidate Brenda Broughton’s West Vancouver office were on the edge of their seats as poll results started to trickle in around 8:15 p.m. with no one among the 30 people present, including Broughton, able to predict the evening’s outcome.

“It’s like watching a horse race,” Broughton said, adding the key to NDP success would be the splitting of the right vote between Liberals and B.C. Reformers.

“I was expecting it to be close but not this close,” she said of the overall election results.

Even as numbers indicated a possible minority government, Broughton remained cautiously optimistic, pointing out that in the past legislature the Liberal opposition had voted in favor of 90 per cent of the legislation passed.

When Nebbeling’s lead was confirmed later in the evening, with supporters now crowding Broughton’s small campaign office, she allowed that West Vancouver-Garibaldi has always had a strong Liberal showing, particularly in West Van.

“That was a real challenge to overcome,” she said of the local results. “Disappointed is not the right term . . . I was prepared for anything to happen.”

Broughton’s major support came from Squamish voters who supported her in all but one polling station by a three to one margin.

Broughton said she was ecstatic about the slim NDP majority government elected and gave much of the credit to Premier Glen Clark.

Commenting on the fact that the NDP won more seats but placed a close second in the overall popular vote, she admitted the party would have to concentrate more on fiscal policy this term.

“The electorate didn’t understand our debt management program and that growth in the province is the highest in Canada,” she said.

With the local riding electing a Liberal candidate, Broughton said she will now continue her work as director of the Employees’ Assistance Group. She will also be running for the mayoralty in Lions Bay again this November during municipal elections.

Reform party candidate Jim Mercier said he was disheartened by his loss as well as that of his party, which was reduced to two seats.

“Hey, how does anyone feel that loses?” he said. “It’s always disappointing. But I didn’t give up my day job.”

In explaining the party’s poor showing, Mercier acknowledged that some Reform supporters went over to the Liberals out of fears the NDP would win.

“There’s no question about it,” he said.

Mercier was also critical of Liberal leader Gordon Campbell for not forming a coalition with other right-wing parties at an early stage of the campaign — a mistake Mercier said likely cost conservatives the election.

But after blasting Nebbeling during the last days of the campaign, Mercier was more accommodating in defeat.

“I wish him well. He worked long and hard, and had a good campaign.”

Mercier plans to travel with his wife and to build a 22-metre power boat.

An official breakdown of votes within West Vancouver-Garibaldi was not available at press time.

But figures recorded at Nebbeling headquarters suggested a Liberal sweep in West Vancouver, Whistler, and Broughton’s home turf of Lions Bay, while the NDP won in Squamish, D’Arcy and Mount Currie.

Pemberton results were not available at press time.