BC Election 2020  

Fires in Western Canada creating own weather systems, experts say

Fires creating own weather

A combination of intense heat and drought conditions is causing wildfires in Western Canada to generate their own weather systems, experts say.

Michael Fromm, a meteorologist with the United States Naval Research Laboratory, said the phenomenon is known as a pyrocumulonimbus firestorm and has been tracked this year in British Columbia, Saskatchewan Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.

Scientists have been tracking the storms since May. The first one was seen this season in Manitoba, Fromm said in an interview Monday.

The Village of Lytton in B.C. saw firestorms on two successive days in late June, he said.

"It was probably the single largest pyrocumulonimbus storm of the year so far," he added.

"In fact, we're still tracking the smoke plume from that storm as it's travelling around the world and it's about to kind of come full circle back over USA and Canada."

An abundance of fuel, heat and wind create perfect conditions for the firestorms.

Lytton hit a Canadian temperature record of 49.6 C the day before a wildfire erupted there, destroying much of the community.

"When you get all those three things together, you get the perfect triple that we call fire weather," Fromm said. "So, hot, dry and windy."

Simon Donner, a climate scientist from the University of British Columbia's geography department, said the storms also generate lightning that cause more fires.

"The fire creates the storm, and then the storm creates lightning, which can cause more fires," he said.

"That runaway feedback is the dangerous part."

Above average temperatures for many parts of B.C. aren't expected to ease soon. Environment Canada said there is no hint of showers until at least the weekend for some southern regions that have been hit hard by wildfires.

Emergency Management BC said more than 250 active wildfires were burning in B.C. on Monday afternoon. Since the fire season began April 1, 4,142 square kilometres of land has been charred from the 1,216 wildfires that had started as of Sunday night.

At that time, there were 58 evacuation orders in effect, which affected 4,260 properties. Another 83 evacuation alerts were in place, meaning people living at more than 17,500 properties had been told they should be ready to leave their homes on short notice.

The risk remained high to extreme over most of southern B.C. on Monday. The B.C. Wildfire Service said 40 blazes were ranked as fires of note, meaning the flames were either highly visible or posed an immediate safety risk.

B.C. is to get more help Tuesday in battling the fires, with 34 Australian firefighting personnel joining 113 from Quebec and 101 from Mexico.

The Australian contingent includes a nine-person incident management team and technical specialists.

The weather office is predicting lighter winds over several of the most challenging fires, including the 68-square kilometre Nk'Mip Creek blaze in the south Okanagan between Oliver and Osoyoos. But forecasters said temperatures there won't budge from the mid- to high-30s all week, and there's no sign of rain.

Showers could dampen parts of southeast B.C., where fires on both sides of Upper Arrow Lake have forced evacuation orders or alerts for hundreds of properties.

However, Environment Canada said the chance of rain is just 30 per cent and it won't come until Saturday at the earliest.

Fromm said a pyrocumulonimbus storm usually begins with a smouldering fire, which feeds on the surrounding air turning active and creating a thermal bubble. That creates a convection column that generates more energy and turns the fire hotter and larger, he said.

"It's just like if you have a stove and you have a small burner — you're not going to get as much of a fast boil in your pot as if you had a really hot, intense burner," Fromm said.

"So, the big, large fire just makes it that much easier for the air to be completely upset. And then if you do form a cloud, then that generates even more buoyancy and that feeds back down to the fire."

As the cloud goes "bubbling" into the air, it can create lightning, Fromm said.

The storms last anywhere between two and five hours, occur in the late afternoon, and end when the air turns cooler or it runs into a fire break, he said.

"When you look at it, you know, say from space as we do, you can actually see several bubbles of cloud form and flatten out up in the upper atmosphere," he said.

"Then they blow off and then you see another bubble coming up, like several chimney bursts in the life of that individual pyrocumulonimbus. So, on the ground, what that means is that fire is pulsating in a way that during those two to five hours is a very dramatic and dangerous event."

Central Okanagan Liberal candidates outspend all opponents combined to win seats

Letnick spends big wins big

Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal MLA Norm Letnick had almost as much money at his disposal during the last provincial election than all of the other Central Okanagan candidates combined.

Election spending figures released by Elections BC show Letnick, who won a fourth term by a landslide in October, received more than $86,500 towards his campaign.

Of that, $63,304 came from the provincial Liberal party, while the rest was categorized as "other income." Letnick did not reveal any contributions through fundraising.

All tolled, Letnick spent a little more than $46,000.

His nearest challenger, NDP candidate Justin Kulik spent just $613, while Green Party candidate Jon Janmaat spent $4,975, all but $250 of which came from the party.

Kelowna West MLA Ben Stewart spent $31,093 in his successful re-election campaign. All those funds came directly from the party.

NDP challenger Spring Hawes spent slightly more than $4,000, all but $250 of which came from the party, while Green Party candidate Peter Truch raised $3,950, or which $3.050 was contributed from the party.

Truch listed two private contributions totalling $300 each.

In Kelowna-Mission, first-time candidate Renee Merrifield raised $36,288, all of which came as a contribution from the provincial party.

Green Party candidate Amanda Poon, who finished a distant third, raised $10,985, most of which came from the party, while NDP candidate Krystal Smith spent $4,526, all of which came from the party.

Andrew Wilkinson steps down as BC Liberal leader

Wilkinson steps down

Almost a month after B.C.'s 2020 election, that saw the NDP form a majority government with a decisive win, BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson has announced he is stepping down as leader immediately.

When all the ballots were counted, the BC Liberals were left with 28 seats in the Legislature to the NDP's 57. With the crushing defeat, Wilkinson announced he would step down as leader of the party once a new leader had been chosen.

But in a Facebook post Saturday morning, Wilkinson said he will now step down as leader, making way for a new interim leader instead.

“It is now time for me to leave the role of Opposition Leader, as the voters of British Columbia have made their preference clear,” Wilkinson said. “In doing so, I welcome the selection of an interim leader from our caucus and will fully support her or him as our caucus prepares to act as the Official Opposition once again.

“Our party, the interim leader, and our members have a lot of work to do. We need to rebuild and renew – and that starts with tough conversations and sincere reflections. I know I’ve had many of those myself in recent weeks and I know there are many more to come for all of us as we work toward a leadership race that will define our new leader, and our positions and profile heading into the next election.”

It's unclear when a new interim leader will be chosen, or when the party will hold a vote for new leadership.

It appears that Wilkinson plans on staying on as MLA for the Vancouver-Quilchena riding. His full statement can be found here.

Vernon's first NDP MLA in 36 years to be sworn Tuesday

Sandhu sworn in next week

Vernon's first NDP MLA in 36 years will be sworn in with her colleagues on Tuesday.

Harwinder Sandhu won the Vernon-Monashee riding in a nail-biter election race that took two weeks to confirm because of its closeness.

On election night, Oct. 24, the votes were too close to declare a winner. But, when all was said and done, Sandhu ended up beating three-term incumbent Eric Foster of the BC Liberals by 424 votes. 

The final decision had to wait for the counting of 8,581 mail-in ballots, which reached record usage across the province due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Premier John Horgan says the legislature will return Dec. 7 after the NDP won a majority mandate in last month's provincial election.

The brief legislative session will begin with a throne speech that focuses on keeping people safe and the economy moving during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Horgan's cabinet will be sworn in Nov. 26.

The premier says they are still working on the details of distributing a $1,000 relief benefit for COVID-19, which the NDP promised during the election.

– with files from The Canadian Press

Final count for 2020 provincial general election has now been completed

NDP ends up with 57 seats

The final count for the 2020 provincial general election in British Columbia is now complete in every electoral district. 

At the conclusion of final count, 57 members of BC NDP were elected, 28 members of BC Liberal Party and two members of the BC Green Party. 

On Sunday, final electoral results were confirmed for Vernon-Monashee, where BC NDP member Harwinder Sandhu took the win. It was one of the closest races in the province, with only 424 votes between Sandhu and Liberal incumbent Eric Foster. 

In the Kamloops-North riding, Liberal incumbent Peter Milobar will keep his seat, after winning the riding with just a 196-vote margin above NDP challenger Sadie Hunter.

In the Central Okanagan, the BC Liberals easily held onto their seats. In Kelowna-Lake Country, incumbent Norm Letnick grabbed 55.73 per cent of the vote, more than doubling the NDP's Justin Kulik at 27.04%.

Newcomer Renee Merrifield secured 50.76% of the votes in the Kelowna-Mission riding, beating out the NDP's Krystal Smith who had 32.39 per cent, while Ben Stewart received 49.89 per cent in Kelowna West. The NDP's Spring Hawes had 34 per cent. 

Following the conclusion of final count, a candidate is declared elected in each electoral district, and the District Electoral Officer returns the writ of election to the Chief Electoral Officer.

The CEO then reports the candidate elected to the Clerk of the House, officially ending the 42nd Provincial General Election in that district. 

A judicial recount can be requested within six days following the end of final count, and a writ cannot be returned until after this time.

Every electoral district in B.C. will return the writ of election on the week of Nov. 16, with the exception of West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, which is subject to an automatic judicial recount due to the closeness of the results

Voting results for each electoral district by party and candidate are available on the Elections BC website

Eric Foster thanks Vernon voters for lengthy tenure as representative

Foster gracious in defeat

After serving the community for 11 years, former Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster hands the reins to the NDP's Harwinder Sandhu.

In a back-and-forth battle for the riding's seat, Foster fell just 424 votes shy of securing a fourth term. Foster led after Election Day by 180 votes, but the 8,521 mail-in ballots swung the election over to Sandhu.

"I'm a little disappointed for sure, we had hoped to have a different result," says Foster. "But it's not the way it worked out."

Foster is a long-time politician, serving as a councillor and mayor of Lumby before running provincially in 2009. Even though defeat wasn't the outcome he wanted, he says he and his wife will be taking a much-needed break.

"I've been at this a long time and Janice and I are ready to take a little bit of a rest," he says. "But we're certainly not going away, I'll stay involved in the community and continue to do volunteer work."

Foster was gracious in transferring his seat over to Sandhu, offering her congratulations and luck over the next four years.

"I had a nice chat with her this morning and congratulated her, and she's got a real exciting next four years," he says. "She deserves it."

Foster reflected on his tenure as MLA for the Vernon-Monashee riding, which spanned over a decade of service.

"It's one of those things where you wake up every morning and say 'Boy, how lucky am I,'" he says.

"There have been lots of highlights, but the real highlight is helping people each day. You don't get on TV for that or cut ribbons for it, but that is what the job is all about and it has been an honour to do it."

Harwinder Sandhu shares her thoughts on her historic election win

Sandhu feeling grateful

There will be a changing of the guard in the Vernon-Monashee riding.

BC NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu secured victory on Sunday after Elections BC staff completed their absentee ballot count. The race for the Vernon-Monashee seat was close right from the get-go, and the final tally shows Sandhu narrowly beating incumbent Eric Foster by 424 votes.

"I'm feeling great and very thankful, it's been stressful and exciting at the same time," she said moments after she was officially elected. "I'm so grateful to everyone who trusted me, and I'm excited to represent all the people of Vernon-Monashee, not just the ones who voted for me."

This is a historic win for Sandhu in multiple categories. She is the first NDP candidate to represent the riding since Lyle McWilliam was voted in via by-election in 1984. Sandhu is also the first person of colour to be elected in Vernon-Monashee, and the second woman to be voted in.

"It's no secret that during previous campaigns, including this one, I faced racism and misogyny," says Sandhu. "What kept me going was my faith in good people, because I always say 90 per cent or more of people are good and accepting."

Sandhu is a nurse at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, and she is feeling bittersweet about leaving her post. She is a patient care coordinator in one of the COVID wards at the hospital, and while she's overjoyed at her new position as MLA, she says she will miss helping people at the hospital.

"I hope there is a way where I can pick up shifts on a casual basis, so if that's not a possibility I will be out and about meeting people," she says.

Sandhu aims to make herself as accessible to the public as possible, citing the need for a clear line of communication as a key component to providing representation. She maintains her priorities that she laid out during her campaign, which include focusing on social services and issues.

"I will focus on child care, senior care, health care, mental health services and helping small businesses," says Sandhu. "We also need to focus on the environment and do what we can to help our planet."

The Vernon-Monashee election race was one of the closest in the province right until the very end. All four candidates ran respectful campaigns, even if they all didn't see eye to eye on certain issues.

"I would like to thank Mr. Foster for his years of service, and kudos to a great campaign to Keli Westgate and Kyle Delfing," says Sandhu. "It takes lots of guts, hard work and dedication to run and stand up for what you believe in."

Harwinder Sandhu wins Vernon-Monashee in one of the closest races in the province

Sandhu becomes new MLA

After two weeks of waiting, Harwinder Sandhu has officially won the Vernon-Monashee riding.

When it was all said and done, Sandhu ended up beating Foster by a 424 votes. The North Okanagan riding was a tight battle right off the bat, with Sandhu and Foster never being within more than four per cent of one another.

Foster had a narrow 180-vote lead once all the ballot boxes were counted on Election Day, but the race was far from over. A record number of mail-in ballots were used across the province due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which included a crucial 8,581 ballots in Vernon-Monashee.

The mail-in ballots favoured Sandhu, who made up ground once those votes began to get tallied on Friday.

Vernon-Monashee was one of the closest races in all of British Columbia, with the 180-vote margin that was left after Election Day tallies.

The region hasn't elected an NDP candidate since 1984, and Foster has represented the area since 2009. In 2017, Foster handily won the riding, taking 48 per cent of the vote to the NDP's 29 per cent.

As for the other challengers, BC Greens candidate Keli Westgate came in third with 4,464 votes, and BC Conservative candidate Kyle Delfing placed fourth with 3,472 votes.

Castanet will be speaking with both Sandhu and Foster this afternoon and will have their reaction to the election results coming up later today.

BC NDP's Harwinder Sandhu lead is increasing in the Vernon-Monashee riding

Sandhu NDP lead widens

UPDATE: 6:30 p.m.

Harwinder Sandhu and the BC NDP continue to widen their lead in the Vernon-Monashee riding Saturday evening, as the thousands of mail-in ballots in the riding are being counted.

Current Vernon-Monashee vote count as of 6:30 p.m. Saturday:

  • Harwinder Sandhu BC NDP - 9,568 (36.16%)
  • Eric Foster BC Liberal Party - 9,286 (35.09%)
  • Keli Westgate BC Green Party - 4,239 (16.02%)
  • Kyle Delfing Conservative - 3,369 (12.73%)

So far, 26,462 votes have been counted in the riding. 

ORIGINAL: 8 a.m.

Harwinder Sandhu and the BC NDP have taken the lead in the Vernon-Monashee riding, as the thousands of mail-in ballots in the riding continue to be counted.

The local riding remains one of the closest ridings in B.C.'s 2020 election, as Friday's absentee ballots count put Sandhu with 50 more votes than BC Liberal incumbent Eric Foster. After election night, Foster led the race with 180 votes, but mail-in ballots have favoured the NDP across B.C.

The Vernon-Monashee riding hasn't elected an NDP candidate since 1984, and Foster has represented the area since 2009. In 2017, Foster handily won the riding, taking 48 per cent of the vote to the NDP's 29 per cent.

Prior to Friday's counts, the riding had 8,581 mail-in ballots that had yet to be counted. And while Sandhu has secured a 50-vote lead as of Saturday morning, there remain about 5,500 ballots left to count. A difference of 100 votes or less will automatically trigger a recount.

Final counts are expected to be completed across the province by Sunday evening, but it could spill over into next week.

Province-wide, the NDP currently hold 57 seats to the BC Liberals' 27, while the Green Party holds three. The NDP will hold a majority government.

Current Vernon-Monashee vote count as of 8 a.m. Saturday:

  • Harwinder Sandhu BC NDP – 7,894 (35.11%)
  • Eric Foster BC Liberal Party – 7,844 (34.89%)
  • Keli Westgate BC Green Party – 3,621 (16.11%)
  • Kyle Delfing Conservative – 3,124 (13.89%)

As final counting begins, ultra-tight Vernon-Monashee race even closer

Foster, Sandhu nail biter

UPDATE: 2 p.m.

Eric Foster continues to hang on to a razor-thin lead as more mail-in and absentee ballots are counted in the Vernon-Monashee provincial election race.

The race had been too close to call on election night Oct. 24, with just 180 votes separating the BC Liberals' Foster from NDP challenger Harwinder Sandhu.

With votes still be tabulated, Foster and Sandhu were still only 164 votes apart Friday afternoon.

The vote count as of 2 p.m. was:

  • Eric Foster BC Liberal Party – 7,163 34.95%
  • Harwinder Sandhu BC NDP – 6,999 34.15%
  • Keli Westgate BC Green Party – 3,341 16.30%
  • Kyle Delfing Conservative – 2,990 14.59%

These numbers as of 20,493 votes counted.

UPDATE: 12:50 p.m.

With 20,076 votes now counted, the provincial election race in Vernon-Monashee is even closer.

The nail-biter race between incumbent Eric Foster of the BC Liberals and the NDP's Harwinder Sandhu is now separated by just 152 votes.

The votes totals as of 12:45 p.m. Friday are:

  • Eric Foster BC Liberal Party – 6,996 34.85%
  • Harwinder Sandhu BC NDP – 6,844 34.09%
  • Keli Westgate BC Green Party – 3,284 16.36%
  • Kyle Delfing Conservative – 2,952 14.70%

ORIGINAL: 11:45 a.m.

Numbers are starting to change in the ultra-tight provincial election race in Vernon-Monashee.

The final count began today of absentee or mail-in ballots from across the province, and Elections BC expects the count to take at least three days.

Vernon-Monashee was one of the closest races in the province, with just 180 votes separating BC Liberal incumbent Eric Foster and NDP challenger Harwinder Sandhu on election night.

While the count is in progress, Elections BC is updating its website with fresh numbers.

Daily totals will be updated until the final count is available.

Should Sandhu unseat three-time MLA Foster, it will be the first time the North Okanagan has elected an NDP candidate since 1984.

As of 11:45 a.m., Foster's lead had shrunk to just 163 votes, however it is unknown how many more ballots remain to be counted.

A record number of mail-in ballots were received during this election due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Current vote count as of 11:45 a.m.

  • Eric Foster BC Liberal Party – 6,890 35.01%
  • Harwinder Sandhu BC NDP – 6,727 34.18%
  • Keli Westgate BC Green Party – 3,196 16.24%
  • Kyle Delfing Conservative – 2,867 14.57%

The results on election night gave the NDP 53 seats, the B.C. Liberals 27 and the Greens three — leaving four ridings undecided, including Vernon-Monashee.



More BC Election 2020 articles

BC Election Results

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