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Shin turns Port Moody-Coquitlam blue in nail-biter election victory

"It was like a suspense movie," said the 47-year-old former Ontario resident of her Monday night win. "It was a great feeling."
Nelly Shin was elected with a margin of fewer than 400 votes
Nelly Shin was elected with a margin of fewer than 400 votes

Nelly Shin moved to the west coast last year with the goal of winning a seat for the Conservatives in the House of Commons.

Monday, that is exactly what she did.

The 47-year-old former Ontario resident is the newest representative for Port Moody-Coquitlam, wrestling control of the riding away from the NDP in a tight three-way race.

Two days after her win, Shin told The Tri-City News that she is still trying to decompress.

"I think my clock for sleeping is still on the campaign," she said. "It will take a little time to get back."

Monday night, Shin was surrounded by supporters at the Burrard Public House in Port Moody, where the atmosphere was closer to that of a playoff hockey game than an election-night party.

With the lead changing hands multiple times, friends and family shouted at the television screens every time Shin's name appeared. When the final poll was counted and Shin declared the winner, the room broke out into an impromptu version of "O, Canada."

Nelly Shin was Monday night's election results with friends, family and supporters at the Burrard Public House in Port Moody. - GARY MCKENNA

"It was like a suspense movie," she said of the "nail-biter" results. "It was a great feeling."

But while the campaign may be over, Shin's work is just beginning.

After winning by a narrow 333-vote margin, she said efforts will have to be made to reach out to the 68.7% of residents who did not mark an X next to her name on the ballot. Shin said she is open to meeting with people from across the political spectrum.

"It really just comes down to putting aside the partisan boundaries, listening to people… and doing what's best for the community in the big picture," she said. "That part of me is one of my strengths — loving people and meeting them where they are and listening to what they have to say."

Shin may be new to the Tri-Cities but her involvement in Conservative politics traces back several years. She was once in line for the party's nomination in Toronto's Richmond Hill but her plans were thwarted when then-Liberal Leona Alleslev, who occupied the seat, crossed the floor and joined the Tories in 2017.

When Shin was unable to find a seat in her home province, she looked to B.C., eventually settling on a move to the Tri-Cities in 2018.

Her arrival was controversial. When she decided to seek the nomination in Port Moody-Coquitlam, the Conservatives blocked the candidacy of Burquitlam resident Matthew Sebastiani, her only opponent in the race, without providing a reason. The move paved the way for Shin to carry the Tory banner into the fall campaign.

As someone who has only lived in the area for a year, Shin acknowledges she still has a lot to learn about the riding. But she said she has become well versed in the issues residents are facing after meeting with many people on their doorsteps over the course of the campaign.

"I have more to learn than anyone else who may have lived here longer," she said, adding: "I am not shy about learning and admitting that I want to learn more. I need to be humble enough to say that."

But being a newcomer to the riding has its benefits, she added.

"Having that experience starting all over again in this part of Canada has helped me identify the struggles that a lot of Canadians are going through," she said.

Coquitlam city councillor Bonita Zarrillo gets a hug from the outgoing NDP Member of Parliament for the Port Moody-Coquitlam riding, Finn Donnelly, as she arrives at her election night party Monday night. - MARIO BARTEL

Meanwhile, NDP candidate Bonita Zarrillo said she will be retuning to her job as a Coquitlam city councillor, telling The Tri-City News she will be at the next meeting.

While she was disappointed with the final result, she noted the closeness of the race and that she was happy to see the top three finishers were women.

She added that the riding has seen a lot of changes since the NDP's Fin Donnelly last won the seat in 2015.

"We know this riding is in transition," she said. "We have regeneration that's happening in Burquitlam, regeneration that's happening even in the south end of this riding, and then we also have development happening in the north side of the riding, so, yes, this is a riding that's in transition and maybe it showed tonight."