Liberal Margaret Kunst got a hug of encouragement from dad Ted VanderHoek while she watched the election results. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

2020 Reflections: NDP win surprise victory in two Langley ridings

The snap election and local campaigning by Premier John Horgan flipped longtime Liberal seats

After more than 60 years of being represented by the Social Credit and Liberal parties, 2020 was the first year that Langley voters decided to send NDP representatives to Victoria.

The election was unusual – a snap call by New Democratic Party Premier John Horgan, who had governed with a narrow coalition of 41 NDP MLAs and three Green MLAs to the 44 of the Liberal Party’s since 2017.

In the midst of the pandemic, Horgan announced there would be a new vote, set for Oct. 24.

The NDP’s approval ratings had been very high throughout the spring and summer, as B.C.’s COVID-19 infection numbers were relatively low, and the government was seen as doing a good job responding to the sudden crisis.

The BC Liberals immediately denounced the election call as opportunistic, while the NDP’s Horgan said it was “never a bad time” to consult the public.

No matter who won, it was clear there would be at least one new MLA in the Langley area.

The Liberals had held both major Langley-area ridings – as well as two Abbotsford ridings that include parts of Langley – since the early 1990s.

But longtime MLA Rich Coleman of Langley East had already announced in early 2020 that he would step down.

A deputy premier, Liberal house leader, and multi-portfolio cabinet minister between 1996 and 2020, Coleman had been closely identified with the eastern Langley area for more than two decades.

He’d anticipated finishing out his full term and leaving office in 2021, when the next election was scheduled.

The Liberals nominated Margaret Kunst, a Township councillor and a founder of the PuCKS children’s sports charity, to carry the party banner in Langley East.

In the Langley riding, Mary Polak, another longtime MLA and former Liberal cabinet minister, was aiming for re-election.

The NDP’s campaign in Langley East had an unusual start.

Langley Township Councillor Eric Woodward was announced as the candidate on Sept. 26, but 24 hours later, he withdrew as a candidate.

He cited “truly horrible, false personal attacks” after his announcement as a reason for his withdrawal.

It also emerged that Woodward had explored running as a B.C. Liberal candidate, but he said he had dropped that idea after a controversy over Chilliwack-Kent Liberal MLA Laurie Throness earlier in the year.

Woodward was quickly replaced as an NDP candidate by Megan Dykeman, the chair of the Langley Board of Education.

In the Langley riding, lawyer and executive director of the B.C. Building Trades, Andrew Mercier, was to carry the flag for the NDP.

With candidates for the Green Party and B.C. Conservatives also running in both ridings, along with one independent and a Libertarian in Langley East, the ballots were full of choices.

It became clear early on that the NDP considered Langley’s ridings winnable for the first time in generations.

Flanked by Mercier and Dykeman, Horgan arrived in Langley on Oct. 8 to pledge $1.5 billion in provincial funding to complete the second phase of the Surrey-to-Langley SkyTrain.

“A re-elected NDP government will complete the Surrey to Langley SkyTrain route, right here to Langley,” said Horgan.

He returned on Oct. 21 for a distanced backyard chat with local supporters in Langley City, this time on the topic of health care.

Health Minister Adrian Dix also stopped by Langley on October 22, talking about upgrades underway to Langley Memorial Hospital.

The visits by a provincial leader and a senior cabinet minister during a campaign were without recent precedent. While Polak had some high-profile announcements, Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson did not come to Langley during the campaign.

Meanwhile, the NDP repeatedly attacked Kunst over a vote against a rainbow crosswalk for the Township. Kunst said that she’d voted for procedural reasons.

It was a subdued election night due to pandemic restrictions, and polling places were busy, but not highly crowded. Mail-in ballots and early voting in the Langley riding accounted for more than half the total votes cast.

As vote counting started in the evening of Oct. 24, it became clear that the Liberals would not romp to victory.

In the Langley riding, Mercier had a lead of almost 10 per cent over Polak by the time vote-counting stopped in the wee hours.

Dykeman had a narrower lead, of just over three per cent ahead of Kunst.

But neither Mercier nor Dykeman would declare victory, nor would Polak or Kunst officially declare defeat.

“Nobody declares the winner, except the voters,” Mericer said.

He was referring to the fact that thousands of mail-in ballots weren’t counted on election night. About a third of all the votes remained to be counted in each riding.

Counting of the final ballots began on Nov. 6, and by Nov. 8, it was clear that not only had Dykeman and Mercier won their seats, they had widened the gap between themselves and their Liberal rivals.

Dykeman improved her winning margin from just under 800 to just under 3,000, while Mercier saw his rise from just over 1,500 votes to just under 3,000.

At the end of November, both rookie MLAs got their new assignments in the B.C. Legislature: Mercier was named parliamentary secretary for skills and trades, and Dykeman was appointed to the cabinet legislative review committee.

BC Votes 2020LangleyYear in Review

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


John Horgan brought the NDP campaign to Langley on Wednesday, Oct. 21, just three days before the vote(Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

John Horgan brought the NDP campaign to Langley on Wednesday, Oct. 21, just three days before the vote(Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Langley Liberal candidate and incumbent Mary Polak gathered with campaign volunteers at the Match restaurant to watch results on Saturday night. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Langley Liberal candidate and incumbent Mary Polak gathered with campaign volunteers at the Match restaurant to watch results on Saturday night. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Just Posted

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, updates British Columbians about COVID-19 at a press conference earlier this week. (B.C. Government image)
B.C.’s 1st case of COVID-19 confirmed a year ago today

Here’s a look at some of the key dates in the province’s fight against the novel coronavirus

A Langley City graphic shows what the future core could look like. A virtual open house on the proposed new Official Community Plan will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 9.
New Official Community Plan charts a potential future for Langley City

A virtual public hearing on the proposed OCP is set for Tuesday, Feb. 9

As indicators of progress on the way to becoming carbon neutral by 2050, five “Big Moves” have been identified through the draft Climate Action Strategy. (Township screengrab)
Plan to fight climate change gets nod from Langley Township council

The plan looks ahead to 2050 and plans for a zero-carbon future

Langley RCMP has twice issued fines to Riverside Calvary Church in Walnut Grove. (Langley Advance Times file)
No action on tax penalty for churches defying COVID orders in Langley Township

Council heard that such a move would be legal, but couldn’t be retroactive

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

A lone passenger stands outside the International Arrivals area at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. As the federal government prepares to slap new restrictions on foreign arrivals, Health Canada data suggest a growing number of infections directly connected to international travel. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Holiday season vacations coincide with rise in COVID-19 travel-related cases

Between Nov. 30 and Dec. 27, 86,953 people flew into Canada from the United States

Gov.Gen Julie Payette walks in the chamber after greeting Senators before delivering the Speech from the Throne, at the Senate of Canada Building in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Report details yelling, screaming and aggressive conduct at Rideau Hall under Payette

Report says employees did not feel they had a place to go with their complaints

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker have been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
B.C. couple accused of flying to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine to appear in court

If convicted, the pair could serve up to six months in jail

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Grad student Marisa Harrington and her supervisor Lynneth Stuart-Hill say preliminary results from a study into the affects of stress on hospital nurses show an impact on sleep and heart variability. (Courtesy of Marisa Harrington)
University of Victoria study shows stress impact on B.C. nurses

Stress may be impacting sleep, heart health of hospital nurses in Victoria region

Sooke’s Amy McLaughlin holds Theodore, a bunny who will be going to a new owner in Nanaimo within the coming days if all goes will at an upcoming bunny play-date. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Vancouver Island woman looking to hop into bigger space for bunny rescue operation

Amy McLaughlin has rescued more than 400 bunnies, pushing for the capacity to help more

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

BC Place Stadium in a photo posted to
Roof of BC Place a stage for performers during online music festival

‘This will be the first time any artists have performed from the 204-foot iconic Vancouver rooftop’

Most Read