The federal Conservatives kept their grip on the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding Monday with Frank Caputo ahead of the NDP’s Bill Sundhu by more than 9,000 votes to succeed Cathy McLeod as the new Member of Parliament.
With mail-in ballots still to be counted, preliminary results show Caputo, 42, on Tuesday had collected 27,597 in-person votes, or 42.9 per cent, followed by Sundu with 18,681 votes, or 28.9 per cent. Liberal candidate Jesse McCormick was in third place with 11,618, or 17 per cent, while Corally Delwo, of the People’s Party of Canada, snagged 3,763 votes, or 5.8 per cent, and the Greens’ Iain Currie 2,375 votes (3.7 per cent). Independents Bob O’Brien got 277 votes and Wayne Allan finished with 140 votes.
Caputo said Tuesday he was “humbled and honoured” to be the riding’s next Member of Parliament. The race in the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo had been wide open, following the exit of McLeod, who had been the MP in the riding since 2008.
“The fact that the citizens of Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo would entrust me with their future is a real honour,” Caputo told the Black Press Media. “You have to be an MP to all, not an MP to some, so even those who didn’t vote for me, I’m still honoured to represent them in the House of Commons.”
Caputo, who watched the polls with friends and family at his campaign headquarters in Kamloops, said the experience was a bit “surreal.” While he had taken an early lead in the polls, he and his team didn’t start to celebrate until about 11 p.m. when it started to sink in that he had been elected.
Preliminary results from Elections Canada suggest 64,388 out of the riding’s 106,354 voters cast ballots – about 60.5 per cent. in 2019, voter turnout in the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding was 69.9 per cent. Some 7,100 mail-in ballots had been requested.
Sundhu said he was surprised at the gap between him and Caputo but said “you should always be prepared to lose and hope to win.” The two-time candidate – he came close second to McLeod in 2015 – said this will likely be his last foray into politics, noting he put a lot of work and effort into this campaign and he will now focus on his human rights work.
“We probably had the best campaign but it wasn’t enough to overcome the entrenchment of the Conservatives in this riding,” Sundhu said.
He said he challenged Caputo to “really try and engage with people with different political viewpoints” in the face of extreme partisanship ramping up across the country. “We need to move beyond that for the health of our communities,” he said.
Caputo, who has been been involved with the Conservative Party for the past decade – serving as president and working closely with McLeod for the last three years – said he plans to meet with McLeod to follow her schedule and continue to provide a strong presence in the rural communities. He acknowledged the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding is rather large, with many rural communities surrounding Kamloops, the only major city centre.
His focus, he said, is to visit communities in the riding that he didn’t get to during the campaign, such as Clearwater, Vavenby and Forest Grove, and meet with district mayors and council as well as community leaders to ensure he is visible and accessible to all constituents.
“A person in 108 Mile or Savona or Clearwater or Barriere is entitled to the exact same representation that a person in Kamloops is entitled to,” he said.
During the campaign, Caputo pledged to focus on healthcare and see more federal dollars put into creating jobs for doctors in rural and smaller communities. Over the last few years, Caputo said he’s watched Justin Trudeau do “not a lot” for British Columbia and the people of the riding, which he would like to change.
“This area has always been home, I don’t ever see myself leaving because we love it here,” he said during the campaign. “I’m full of passion for the community and this is something I’m choosing to do not for any other reason but to serve the people of the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo.”
The Liberals’ McCormick, who watched the election results at Mason’s Bar and Grill and celebrated the overall success of the Liberal Party, said he dropped by Caputo’s office Monday night to congratulate him and got a “warm reception.” Although he didn’t win the seat, McCormick said he gave his best in the campaign and was happy to see the Liberals stay in power.
“It’s a good day for Canada. We were celebrating the success of the Liberal Party of Canada and celebrating our own success in rolling out a successful campaign in a limited amount of time,” he said. “Even without the outcome we were hoping for, it does mean I can spend more time at home with my little children and my wife.”
Currie and Delwo did not return calls by press time. However, independent O’Brien said he learned a lot and that if he runs again it would be as part of a federal party.
“I put in so much work on this – 70 hours a week for five weeks and only got 277 votes,” he said. “I got so many people interested, saying ‘this is what we need’ but I think they just got scared.”
Editor’s note: Includes comments from candidates