Simon Gibson watching the vote count at the Best Western Hotel in Mission. With 98 polls reporting, Gibson leads NDP challenger Alexis by 188 votes. / Kevin Mills photo.

Simon Gibson watching the vote count at the Best Western Hotel in Mission. With 98 polls reporting, Gibson leads NDP challenger Alexis by 188 votes. / Kevin Mills photo.

Abbotsford-Mission riding too close to call, mail-in ballots will decide

98 polls reporting: BC Liberal incumbent Simon Gibson leads NDP challenger Pam Alexis by 188 votes

The Abbotsford-Mission riding on election night (Oct. 24) was a back-and-forth battle until the end – but the final results won’t be known for weeks.

Currently, incumbent Liberal candidate Simon Gibson holds a slim 188 vote lead over the NDP’s Pam Alexis. However, an estimated 8,119 mail-in ballots were requested from Elections BC within the Abbotsford-Mission riding, and those ballots will determine the winner.

There are 47,043 registered voters in the region.

“Looks like democracy is going to take a little longer tonight. With so many mail-in ballots we won’t have the results for a few more days yet,” Alexis said by email. “I want to thank everyone who took the time to come out to support us, and a big thank you to Elections BC for making sure people could vote safely.”

It was one of the closest races in the province, with BC NDP candidate Pam Alexis, and BC Liberal incumbent Simon Gibson neck-and-neck as the votes rolled in after polls closed at 8 p.m.

“It was a very stressful evening, certainly. I was encouraged by the level of support I received as I spoke to hundreds of residents throughout our communities,” Gibson said. “I’m certainly shocked and surprised by the vote at this time. I am optimistic, of course, that we will be victorious with the inclusion of the mail-in ballots, but clearly it is still unforeseen.”

Early on election night, with 33 of 98 polls reporting, Gibson led with 1,217 votes to Alexis’ 1,112 votes; with 55 of the polls reporting, Gibson led 2,421 votes to Alexis’ 2,221.

Alexis was then up 100, then down 100 as the candidates overtook each other numerous times in those final polls.

With all 98 general polls reporting (17,982 votes), Gibson leads by 188 votes with 7,075 votes to Alexis’ 6,887, while Green party candidate Stephen Fowler has 1,869 votes, Trevor Hamilton of the Conservative party has 1,641 votes and Aeriol Alderking of the Christian Heritage Party of BC has 510 votes.

“I think, to the government’s advantage, we were caught off guard, significantly, so our leadership was scrambling to come up with clear options for the voters, a platform they could receive and understand,” Gibson said. “So time was limited and it put us to a huge disadvantage and I suppose the results are evident tonight as we see a majority NDP government apparently elected.”

Simon Gibson dominated the Abbotsford-Mission count in 2017 by 5,326 votes. The NDP’s candidate that election, Andrew Christie, did not live in the area, and Alexis, as Mission’s current mayor, was undoubtedly a stronger candidate.

Both NDP and Liberal candidates duelled for the riding’s votes this election with future spending promises.

The NDP struck first on Oct. 13, with Maple Ridge-Mission candidate Bob D’Eith and Alexis making a joint announcement at the site of the 70-year-old École Mission Senior Secondary, vowing to replace the school if their party is re-elected.

As the district’s only high school, the school was due for a seismic upgrade which would come at a cost of $66 million dollars. Instead, the candidates announced plans to replace it with a brand new school at a cost of $87 million.

On the same day, Gibson and Maple Ridge-Mission BC Liberal candidate Chelsa Meadus matched that promise, and added the Liberals had earmarked $20 million in upgrades to Mission Memorial Hospital, along with $50 million to widen Lougheed Highway.

On Oct. 22, the NDP candidates made another surprise announcement under the Mission bridge, pledging $11 million in provincial funding for Mission’s unfinished sewer-pipe-twinning project to Abbotsford, if re-elected.

The aging 36-year-old pressurized sewer line has operated at capacity for years, and was a hot topic both of the riding’s debates.

Provincewide, 724,279 mail-in ballots have been sent out, and there are 3,485,858 registered voters.

Mail-in ballots will be counted by hand, starting on Nov. 6.

The counting process is estimated to take three days but an extension may be needed, according to Elections BC.

“It’s possible that due to the large volume of mail-in ballots for this election, the period between Election Day and the start of final count, and final count itself, will need to be extended,” a spokesperson for Elections BC said by email. “Results will be reported on our website as final count progresses.”

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