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Politics B.C. swept up in red tide as Liberals have best showing in decades

Tom Mulcair and Stephen Harper are criticizing Justin Trudeau over the resignation of the Liberal campaign co-chairman. Dan Gagnier resigned after giving advice to a pipeline company on how to lobby a new government.

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The red tide that swept across the country starting in Atlantic Canada swamped the Conservative base in the West and gave Justin Trudeau more seats in British Columbia than the Liberals have had in more than 40 years.

Mr. Trudeau, who played to boisterous crowds in the Vancouver area, dramatically increased the Liberals' seats in B.C. from two in the previous election and appeared to have topped the party's record from 1968, when Mr. Trudeau's father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, led the Liberals to win 16 seats in the province.

With 95 per cent of polls reporting, the Liberals won in at 15 seats and were leading in three others.

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B.C. will be expecting the majority Liberal government to act quickly on a number of files important to the province and that Mr. Trudeau had identified as key West Coast issues. Action has been promised on reopening the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station closed by the Conservatives, reversing federal approval of the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project and reinvesting in infrastructure, including Vancouver's plans to extend rapid transit along Broadway and build light rail to Surrey.

Full coverage of Federal Election 2015

The Liberal Party has also said it would replace the Conservatives' so-called Respect for Communities Act, which harm-reduction advocates say impedes the operation of supervised-injection sites such as Insite. Mr. Trudeau has in the past expressed support for the sites and advocated for evidence-based drug policy. And the party has promised to support the highly ambitious 90-90-90 HIV/AIDS target spearheaded by B.C.'s Dr. Julio Montaner, which would include widespread HIV testing.

Legalizing and regulating recreational marijuana use, which Mr. Trudeau argued will prevent funds from going to criminal coffers, has also been promised, although the party has not yet disclosed how it would tax recreational pot sales.

The Liberal gains came at the cost of the Conservatives. But as significant as the change for Liberal fortunes is in British Columbia, the red seats are almost entirely centred in and around the Lower Mainland. With the exception of Stephen Fuhr's win in Kelowna-Lake Country, where he beat Conservative incumbent Ron Cannan, the rest of British Columbia continues to look like a split of NDP orange and Conservative blue

National Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay went down to defeat in Delta and Andrew Saxton, parliamentary secretary to the finance minister, was defeated in North Vancouver.

Conservative John Weston lost his West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country seat to Pam Goldsmith-Jones, who was the former mayor of West Vancouver. Conservative MP John Duncan, whose parliamentary tenure with the party dates back to the Reform Party, lost to the NDP candidate in Courtenay-Alberni.

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Conservative Ed Fast, who had been international trade minister, won his riding, as did incumbent Alice Wong in Richmond Centre. Star candidate Dianne Watts, the former Surrey Mayor, won in South Surrey-White Rock, though by a surprisingly slim margin.

The New Democrats hung on to their most traditional seats, with Jenny Kwan well out in front in Libby Davies's Downtown Eastside riding of Vancouver East, and Nathan Cullen was easily re-elected in Skeena-Bulkley Valley. But NDP candidate Kennedy Stewart, a prominent opponent of the Trans Mountain pipeline, was in a tight fight in Burnaby South against the Liberal contender.

The Liberals won in the new seats of Vancouver Granville and Steveston-Richmond East. Party stalwarts Joyce Murray, who challenged Mr. Trudeau for the Liberal leadership and former cabinet minister Hedy Fry enjoyed comfortable victories.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May held on to her seat, but she remains alone in the House of Commons.

Pollster Greg Lyle said it was clear that B.C. voters intent on ousting Conservative Leader Stephen Harper coalesced around the Liberals, leading to a "huge swing" in the province.

"People that were in that NDP-Liberal switcher block ended up going to the Liberals big time at the end," Mr. Lyle, operator of the Innovative Research Group, said in an interview. "Clearly, people decided, 'We know who we want to vote for if we want to defeat the government.'"

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In the previous election, the Conservatives took 21 seats in B.C., while the NDP got 12, the Liberals two and the Greens one. Before dissolution, the Conservatives had 20 seats, as James Lunney left the party to be an Independent earlier this year.

There has been riding realignment since the last election, increasing the total number of seats at play to 42 from 36.

B.C. has long been a province where the vote is divided between the right and the left, with the Liberals traditionally reduced to third place, and it became an important battleground for all the parties. Mr. Harper was in the province 11 times during the campaign, while Mr. Trudeau made 13 visits and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair tried to shore up his ebbing support with 19 trips here.

While Mr. Harper and Mr. Mulcair started their campaigns in the Ottawa region, Mr. Trudeau launched his bid in Vancouver, then marched in the Vancouver Pride Parade before speaking at a community gathering in Surrey.

An average of results from several public opinion polls showed the Liberals edged into the lead in B.C. in the late stages of the campaign, passing the NDP about 10 days ago. At about the same time the Conservatives, who had wavered between second and third place throughout the campaign, moved slightly up, pushing the NDP into third place. The Greens never climbed above 12.5 per cent of the vote, and in the dying days of the campaign, the party fell to below 10 per cent.

With reports from Justine Hunter, Wendy Stueck, Sunny Dhillon and Mike Hager

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Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly said the Conservatives lost Richmond Centre. In fact, Conservative incumbent Alice Wong won the riding.

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