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Leader of the Green Party of Canada Elizabeth May watches as the poll results come in, while at her election party in Sydney, British Columbia May 2, 2011. (Ben Nelms/ Reuters/Ben Nelms/ Reuters)
Leader of the Green Party of Canada Elizabeth May watches as the poll results come in, while at her election party in Sydney, British Columbia May 2, 2011. (Ben Nelms/ Reuters/Ben Nelms/ Reuters)

Elizabeth May wins seat as rest of B.C.'s vote makes little impact nationally Add to ...

British Columbia had been touted as the province that might make the difference in the Conservatives' quest for a majority government. They worked enormously hard to pick up extra seats in the province they felt might put them over the top.

In the end, however, hanging on to the 22 seats the Tories won in 2008 was more than enough, since most of them had massive majorities. With late returns still to come, the Conservatives actually fell to 21 seats, but that had no impact on their national majority.

Still, the party lost one of its veterans. Cabinet minister Gary Lunn, who had won five straight elections, lost his seat in a dramatic, historic upset to Green Party leader Elizabeth May in the idyllic riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.

Ms. May is the first member of the Green Party to win election to the House of Commons since the party was founded in 1983. She led from the very first poll results, widening her margin with every count and prompting a wild celebration among her supporters when Mr. Lunn conceded defeat.

Her victory was cinched by a near total collapse of the Liberal vote in the riding, which seemed to go almost entirely to the Green Party.

Overall, with a handful of ridings still too close to call, the NDP were elected and leading in 12 (up three from 2008), the Liberals leading in two (down three), and the Green Party had its one cherished victory.

Mr. Lunn was not the only political veteran to be ousted.

Ujjal Dosanjh, the first Sikh premier in Canada and a federal cabinet minister after he jumped to the federal Liberals, went down in defeat to Tory challenger Wai Young after a bitter campaign.

NDP Surrey North challenger Jasbir Sandhu triumphed over incumbent Conservative Dona Cadman, widow of the late Chuck Cadman, who had represented the riding for many years.

While in Newton-North Delta, Jinny Sims took the seat from Liberal Sukh Dhaliwal.

And Randall Garrison took an unexpected win in Liberal Keith Martin's old seat, Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca.

The NDP had finished third there in 2008, and few expected the party to rocket all the way to the top of the polls just two years later. But Mr. Garrison is well-known in the area, having challenged several times before.

In Vancouver Island North, which the NDP also had hopes of snaring from the Conservatives, Tory incumbent John Duncan won out against New Democrat Ronna-Rae Leonard.

Liberal political veteran Hedy Fry, meanwhile, was declared elected, after a hard-fought three-way battle with the NDP and Conservatives in the highly-watched showcase riding of Vancouver Centre.

It was Ms. Fry's seventh straight victory in Vancouver Centre, won this time with less than 30 per cent of the vote.

Liberal Joyce Murray also survived in Vancouver Quadra.

That left the party with just two seats in British Columbia, but even that was more than some analysts had predicted.

Overall, the Liberal collapse was evident in the decline in the party's popular vote from 19 per cent in 2008 to a meagre 13 per cent this time out.

The Conservatives did much better in the B.C. popular vote than final polls indicated, boosting their support to 47 per cent, with the NDP a fair margin behind at 32 per cent.

This indicated a softening of New Democrat support in the final few days, while the Tories managed to pick up some of the lost Liberal votes.

In many ridings, however, the increase in Tory support merely padded already massive majorities.

Standings at dissolution were Conservative 22, NDP nine and Liberals five.

The final weekend polls had showed each party gathering votes at the expense of the faltering Liberals, who seemed likely to record historic low levels in popular support among British Columbians.

It was no accident that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Jack Layton of the NDP visited the province in the last days of the campaign, with Mr. Harper staging a large wind-up rally Sunday night in the Tory stronghold of Abbotsford.

This time, the Liberals were being pressed hard to avoid being shut out for the first time since the John Diefenbaker landslide of 1958.

Most of the lost Liberal support went to the NDP, as the so-called "orange wave" evident in other parts of the country swept over British Columbia as well.

"The centre-left vote is aligning with the NDP," said pollster Mario Canseco of Angus Reid Public Opinion, noting that his firm's last poll put Liberal support in B.C. at a meagre 12 per cent, down from 19 per cent in the 2008 federal election.

"So that's basically a third of their votes that have just gone." Most went to the NDP, he said.

At the same time, however, support for the Conservatives remained rock solid at about 43 per cent throughout the campaign, despite its many twists and turns.

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