When Dick Harris returns to Ottawa this spring, he will be one of the longest-serving MPs there.
Originally elected in 1993, Harris cruised to his seventh electoral victory Monday, the last four in the riding of Cariboo-Prince George.
“I feel good,” said Harris who, at 66 years of age, out-campaigned three opponents in their 20s, adding he’s in better shape now than he was 20 years ago. When asked if he was ever worried about NDP contender Jon Van Barneveld, Harris replied: “I always campaign like I’m one vote behind.”
Harris captured 56.2 per cent of the popular vote, a slight increase over the 55.5 per cent he captured in 2008. With the Conservative majority government, Harris said the party has succeeded in preventing what it feared the most.
“My greatest fear was to have this country led by a coalition of Duceppe, Layton, and Ignatieff,” he said. “That would, in my opinion, would have been a disaster.”
It will be new territory for the NDP, now that they will be the official opposition. However, Harris doesn’t put much credence in the NDP’s future performance.
“The NDP will probably be much the same as they were in fourth place,” he said. “I’ve always thought there was more showmanship there in parliament than substance, so, we’ll see.”
Now that he will be heading back to Ottawa, Harris said he has two priorities he’s going to work on, the first being the Prince George Airport.
“I want to see the airport become a major air hub for western Canada and hopefully a major distribution centre.”
The second priority is to get the Prosperity Mine project west of Williams Lake through the environmental assessment process. The federal government denied its original application earlier this year.
As for Van Barneveld, he says the campaign was a lot of fun and equated it to a rodeo ride.
“Too bad I got bucked off at seven seconds,” he said.
He said the NDP made gains in the riding, going from 25.9 per cent of the popular vote in 2008 to 30.2 per cent this time.
“I think a lot of people are still tired of Dick Harris,” he said. “I think he gets the votes because of the party and not based on the candidate. But that being said, he’s a very strong candidate and people seem to like him.”
Green Party candidate Heidi Redl obviously would have liked a better result but was buoyed by the gains she made in the riding and the party made nationally.
“Hooray for Elizabeth May,” she said. “It gives the Green Party legitimacy. And, hooray for me, we came in third in this riding, ahead of the Liberals.
“That shows how hard the Green Party worked on the ground.”
She said the constituency association is having a strategy meeting next week to map out its plans.
“The next campaign starts tomorrow.”