A moment of hesitation preceded an uproar of cheers and a shower of praise for Terry Beech as the Liberal incumbent, in Burnaby’s tightest race, reclaimed his seat in Parliament Monday night.
Throughout the night, the vote counts had been just close enough that, even with major outlets declaring him the victor, he was hesitant to claim victory for himself until the official decision was in. And because of that close race, Beech said his big takeaway is that he needs to work harder.
“I think I have to find some ways to better communicate with my constituents,” Beech told reporters in his victory speech. “Less than 50 per cent of the population voted for me. I want to go out and learn what kind of governance that 50 per cent is looking for and serve their needs.”
Election night this year was a longer one than in 2015, as Beech’s party dropped to minority status. The newly re-elected MP for Burnaby North-Seymour didn’t emerge for his victory speech until just before 10 p.m., shortly before he was officially declared the winner over star NDP candidate Svend Robinson.
When the first results came in, they were met with quiet approval from Beech supporters. But each time the TV screen showed Burnaby North-Seymour’s results, the cheers grew a little bit louder, more confident, until the room erupted in cheers when Beech returned to the event with his wife.
In his speech, he acknowledged one of the biggest issues in the riding was the contentious Trans Mountain pipeline, which has its terminal in North Burnaby.
“I'll say this: There are people on my campaign team that want to see the Trans Mountain pipeline be built; there's people on my campaign team that don't want to see the Trans Mountain pipeline be built,” Beech said.
“My number-one priority is making sure that my community has great representation.”
Beech also offered some warm words for Robinson, saying the veteran former politician gave him advice on how to work as a constituency advocate.
Across town, in the NDP’s Burnaby election event, Robinson said it was “a disappointing night – but the voters have spoken, and I respect that.”
The unsuccessful comeback candidate said he hopes the elected NDP MPs will press hard for the issues they campaigned on.
“For me, from this community, I'm hoping that one of those key issues will in fact be the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and that we will be very clear that there will be no support for a Liberal government that's prepared to push this pipeline expansion project through.”
Robinson said Monday’s defeat won’t silence him.
“I will continue to speak out. I may not be a member of Parliament but I will continue to speak out on the issues of climate crisis and inequality,” he said.
From the get-go, Monday night, Beech remained consistently ahead of Robinson, his primary opponent, but that lead fluctuated throughout the evening.
At one point, his lead was a strong 10 percentage points, while at other times, it was closer to its final resting point, around three points. Ultimately, Beech took in 35.5 per cent of the vote, compared to Robinson’s 32.3 per cent.
Heather Leung, a Conservative on the ticket but running without the support of the party, managed to hold onto 20 per cent of the vote, a surprise to some after the Conservatives ejected her from the party over past homophobic statements.
A NOW photographer stopped by Leung’s campaign office Monday night, where silhouettes were seen through the window crowded around a TV, but no one answered a knock on the door.
In Beech’s election event, the mood was positive throughout the night, and it only gained more steam as the night pressed on.
Supporters – who came to the Brentwood-area event from both the Seymour side of the riding and the North Burnaby side – found comfort in the early leads of both the Liberals and their own candidate in a hotly contested election and an even equally divided riding.
The rising NDP popularity in the polls in particular threatened Beech’s re-election efforts, with Robinson the forecasted winner by pundits for much of the previous week.
But in recent weeks, what was a tight race became even more unpredictable after Leung was fired by the Conservatives.
Meanwhile, Green candidate Amita Kuttner, whose predecessor Lynne Quarmby raised just over five per cent of the vote in 2015, managed nearly 10 per cent support Monday night, which likely pulled mostly from the local NDP vote.
Between an apparent vote split to the left of Beech and Leung’s stumble to the right, the riding landed with the middle-of-the-road party.
—with files from Cornelia Naylor