It’s a surprising end to a remarkable era.
Two-term Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington was scheduled to announce today that she won’t seek a third term in this May’s provincial election.
The popular independent wanted to first inform her riding association and others that have supported her before going public with the news.
It’s a move that will certainly leave her many supporters in Delta South disappointed, especially after she confirmed last spring she would seek a third term.
As to the reason she’s not seeking re-election, Huntington would only say it was an extremely difficult decision but there were a couple of things she needed to deal with in the next year.
“It’s one of those things that happen and you think, ‘Well, there’s not too much option here. You’ve got to look after yourself and I just need to focus on getting my health back and getting into shape, and everything will be hunky dory and I’ll be back figuring out what’s next,” she said.
Having earned a reputation as someone not afraid to speak her mind and unwilling to toe anyone’s political line, Huntington is a trailblazer in B.C. politics.
She was still a member of Delta council when she ran against then Liberal MLA Val Roddick in the 2005 provincial election, losing a tight race. She said she ran at the urging of a group of people upset with the Liberals over a number of issues, including cutbacks at Delta Hospital.
The right-of-centre politician proved to be an appealing choice for many in the riding who wouldn’t normally vote New Democrat.
“We discussed it over a period of time and I decided we could give it a try - simply to send a message that people weren’t happy,” Huntington told the Optimist this week.
In 2009, after she had retired from council, she was again approached to run as an independent. Facing an uphill battle against Liberal cabinet minister Wally Oppal, the decision paid off when she became the first independent in 60 years to win a seat in the legislature.
She not only managed to hold on to disaffected Liberal voters in that race but also benefitted from many New Democrats who decided to park their votes with her.
In 2013, she made B.C. election history by becoming the first independent ever to be re-elected.
Huntington's first victory was a squeaker that required a recount, but the second time around she beat her Liberal challenger, and former Delta council colleague, Bruce McDonald by a much more comfortable 2,500-vote margin, garnering 48 per cent of the vote.
The veteran politician's candor and advocacy on issues impacting South Delta have made her a polarizing figure to some, but appealing to many others. Even before entering the provincial stage, Huntington's sincerity and desire to cut through the usual politician's jargon was evident during her days on council, where she spent 15 years.
Although her political leanings are Conservative, Huntington has long been outspoken when it comes to issues she cares about, including protecting the environment and the preservation of farmland.
“From what I’ve seen from the Liberals, they do not oppose the construction of Terminal 2. What I’ve heard is the job will be to mitigate the impact on agricultural land. From my point of view, those two points of view are diametrically opposed. If Terminal 2 is built, the agricultural land will disappear,” she said.
“So the fight is for agricultural land, period, and the impacts on Delta as an ecosystem. What has surprised and driven me so much in the eight years is trying to educate government what Delta actually is. Without Delta, the (migratory bird) flyway will collapse,” she said.
She added “it will be a sad day” should the Liberals reclaim Delta South because its residents expect truth and an unbiased analysis of the issues, not someone reading from talking points.
Huntington said she’s been blessed with great support in her constituency office to help people.
The Liberals have already selected municipal councillor Ian Paton as their candidate, while the New Democrats have yet to name a candidate in Delta South. The Greens didn’t run a candidate in the last election in a show of support for Huntington and planned to do the same this year, but will likely now field one.
The provincial election is set for May 9.