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More than 400 people sat in near silence at the Grand Taj Banquet Hall on 128 Street and 84 Avenue Monday night as Liberal supporters watched the unthinkable displayed on television screens.
Just before 8 p.m. local time, broadcast networks declared a Conservative party majority. There was not so much as a groan from the huge crowd as the numbers rolled in.
Sukh Dhaliwal, the Liberal Member of Parliament for Newton-North Delta, walked between tables, shaking hands and offering hugs.
Gone was the trademark kilowatt smile of Dhaliwal, a stiff upper-lip grin taking its place.
Dhaliwal declined to offer public comment until he’d thanked his supporters.
He told The Leader later that his early sombre reaction was due to the Liberal’s poor showing nationally. He didn’t see that coming.
Meanwhile, across the street at the Bollywood Banquet Hall, a gathering of NDP loyalists was quite different, as they watched the so-called “Orange Crush” of New Democrat support sweep the country.
At the Bollywood, nearly everyone stood, watching the screens, hoping the storm of support would sustain itself into Surrey.
The Newton-North Delta riding stayed true to its tradition of election night cliffhangers, with Conservative Mani Fallon, NDP Jinny Simms and Dhaliwal in a deadlock through much of the night.
The crowd erupted into cheers when televised results showed Simms with a small margin over Fallon, with Dhaliwal close behind. Another burst of applause occurred when results showed Surrey-North was being led by NDP candidate Jasbir Sandhu over Tory incumbent Dona Cadman.
It became apparent fairly early in the evening that the NDP would be the new Official opposition.
Even some of the strongest New Democrat supporters seemed surprised at how early the call was made.
At 8:30 p.m., Simms said she still hadn’t looked at any of the numbers coming in.
“What’s the point?” she asked. “I have an excellent team, I’m grateful for that.”
At the end of the night, she found out she had taken Newton-North Delta from Dhaliwal and Sandhu had wrestled Surrey-North from Dona Cadman.
Fleetwood-Port Kells remained with Conservative Nina Grewal and South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale will continue to be represented by Tory Russ Hiebert.
“Now we can proceed with long-term planning,” Hiebert said, adding he was “tremendously happy, tremendously relieved” the Conservatives had formed a majority government.
The voter turnout nationally was 61.4 per cent, slightly higher than 2008’s 58.5-per-cent turnout.
Turnout in Surrey ridings ranged from 65 per cent in South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale and 62 per cent in Newton-North Delta to about 52 per cent in Surrey-North.
Provincially, the Tories held their B.C. ground against a surging NDP, securing a majority government as Liberal and Bloc Quebecois support crumbled in Eastern Canada.
With most results counted, the Liberals were barely holding onto two of the five B.C. seats they had going into the election, with Joyce Murray in Vancouver Quadra and Hedy Fry in Vancouver Centre maintaining slim leads over their Conservative challengers.
The biggest surprise of the B.C. race was Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who defeated Conservative cabinet minister Gary Lunn in Saanich-Gulf Islands. The Green Party poured most of its national resources into May’s campaign, and were on their way to winning the party’s first-ever seat in the House of Commons.
“Today we proved that Canadians want change in politics,” May told cheering supporters after Lunn called to concede.
The B.C. Interior ridings saw little change, with Conservative and NDP candidates holding their traditional areas even as some incumbents retired. In Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, one of the closer races, Conservative Cathy McLeod held off a challenge from the NDP”s Michael Crawford.
In B.C.’s most closely fought seat of Vancouver South, Conservative Wai Young was victorious over Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh, who held the seat by only 20 votes in the 2008 election that gave the Conservatives their second minority government.
Conservative veterans Stockwell Day (Okanagan-Coquihalla), Jim Abbott (Kootenay-Columbia) and Chuck Strahl (Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon) have retired, but the Conservatives held those seats with new candidates.
– with files from Peace Arch News, Jeff Nagel and Tom Fletcher
RESULTS AS OF 7:00 a.m.: