The Liberals retained their seat in the Cariboo-Chilcotin Saturday, with Lorne Doerkson nearly doubling the number of votes of his nearest competition to take the torch from outgoing MLA Donna Barnett.
Doerkson, who won 52.63 per cent of the vote with 2,013 out of 3,825 confirmed counted votes, appeared visibly shocked by his decisive showing in the polls. Scott Andrews of the NDP won 1,144 votes (29.91 percent), followed by the Greens’ David Laing with 389 votes (10.17 percent), Independent Katya Potekhina with 198 votes (5.18 percent) and Libertarian James Buckley, who won 81 votes (2.12 percent).
“I am pretty excited,” Doerkson said Tuesday. “Nov. 16 is obviously a big day because that’s when we’ll know the official outcome of the election and then we’ll also know when we are going to get sworn in so we can get busy and get down to work.”
Doerkson, who watched the results come in at his campaign office in Williams Lake, along with his partner Shelley Wiese and co-campaign manager Bryan Withage, said he will work hard for the riding and all its residents, citing land use and access, long-term care for seniors and lack of available childcare as the top issues for the Cariboo Chilcotin.
“I am sincere when I say that I want to represent everybody in the riding and I think the thing we have to focus on out there more than anything is conversation. When two parties are not talking how much do you expect to get done,” he said. “I’m going to work hard to build a relationship with those folks that I can help. For me, anything I can do for the community is a plus.”
Barnett, who backed Doerkson as her successor, said he is “dedicated person” and she intends to mentor Doerkson as he navigates the political scene. In the passing of the torch, Lorne gave Barnett a night at the Chilcotin Lodge for a much needed break, saying she was crucial in getting him to run.
“She was pretty tenacious about the whole thing, and so were others,” he said, noting people told him he was ‘made for the role.’
“I felt pretty humbled by that. To be honest, in the end I thought ‘maybe I am made for this.’ I love community service. I love the feeling of helping somebody, and I’m attracted to that, so I excited about it.”
Barnett, who held stints as the mayor of the District of 100 Mile House and MLA since 2009, said “it’ll be an exciting new time for Lorne and an exciting for me to see new energy coming to the riding.”
She said she also never intended to get into politics but was “talked into it” by members of the community. And while it was frustrating at times, she said overall it has been rewarding, especially with accomplishments such as Millsite Lodge and Fischer Place, and providing one-on-one support to individuals.
“I loved every minute, all the challenges,” she said. “When people ask you to do it and there’s a lot of support and help out, it’s not so hard. At times it’s frustrating but it has been rewarding in many, many aspects. I’ve had some good accomplishments and met some amazing people.
“It’s been a great experience and I’m thankful I had the opportunity to do it.”
While’s she’s stepping down from politics, she’s not getting out completely, Barnett said. There are things she would like to help Doerkson achieve, especially in an NDP majority government. “Our opposition is going to have to be very, very strong,” she said.
Beyond helping Doerkson and clearing out her desk, Barnett said she has no further plans. While she had intended to retire from politics in 2021 and travel the world – Germany, Africa, New Zealand, New Orleans and Mexico were on her list – the pandemic put a halt to that.
“It’ll be a long time before I go to the United States or anywhere else for that matter,” she said. “We’re probably safest right here in 100 Mile, or the Cariboo.”
With files from Angie Mindus