In a repeat of the fundamental provincial swing away from Progressive Conservatives in last May’s provincial elections, Canadian voters on a national scale distanced themselves away from Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and handed the mandate to govern the country to Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who secured a comfortable majority with 184 seats in the 338-seat House of Commons.
Liberals picked up seats in every province and territory, significantly increasing their support in Quebec and Ontario. Stephen Harper has announced that he was stepping down as Conservative leader.
But in Alberta, the picture has not changed dramatically with rural ridings returning most of the incumbents back to Ottawa.
In the Red Deer-Lacombe riding, it was clear as soon as the votes started rolling in for Red Deer-Lacombe that Blaine Calkins was going to win a strong mandate.
And win he did. Calkins earned approximately 70 per cent of the vote on election night Monday, Oct. 19. It was not quite the 80 or more per cent in the last federal election, but enough for him to be pleased with the results. That joy, however, was bittersweet as voters across the country showed a clear desire to see a new government in the form of the Liberal Party.
“It looks like a resounding victory for the Conservative Party of Red Deer-Lacombe,” Calkins told supporters at his campaign office.
As the numbers showed Calkins was a clear winner, members of the press core gathered around him looking for answers to their questions related to the election. For Calkins the win was “bittersweet.”
“It’s a very humbling experience… The numbers across the country right now aren’t looking great for the Conservative Party, and the conservative government, but my job will be, whatever happens, to represent my constituents,” explained Calkins.
Holding the Liberal government to account will be his next order of business as he doesn’t want Alberta to be neglected.
“The Orange Crush now looks like the Orange Crash and Thomas Mulcair is going to look like one of those guys that was an ‘also ran’ and be a flash in the pan,” stated Calkins of the NDP and their run in this election.
The current outlook of the federal landscape has completely changed, much like the Alberta provincial election, although with a different ruling party. Among those changes are Calkins’ colleagues who lost their seat. He suggests that despite the change, he feels voters chose style over substance.
“I’ve known Justin (Trudeau) for a long time and I’m very concerned about the results that are coming in because we’ve had a great prime minister in Stephen Harper,” said Calkins.
For NDP candidate Doug Hart, the loss was only tempered by the fact the PC Party no longer ruled. He suggests the election was long and innocuous and feels voters were not as engaged as in the provincial election.
Seeing a strong campaign from the Liberal Party took him by surprise. “They didn’t falter. I expected they would falter on international policy,” said Hart.
He commended them for a strong campaign.
Despite the loss – Hart received less votes than Liberal candidate Jeff Rock – he still calls it a win. Calkins will be a back bencher for the PC Party, the Liberal Party got their vote and Harper is no longer the prime minister of Canada, stated Hart.
Meanwhile, Liberal candidate Jeff Rock was asked how he felt about the evening, considering his loss, but the huge majority his party won nationally.
“It’s all very surreal,” Rock said.
“We set out to engage as many people as possible. It was not a win or lose thing, our success came with the amount of engagement with voters we saw and I couldn’t be happier.”
Rock believes that the huge Liberal win was a result of those engaged voters looking for real change and the way the party – and leader Justin Trudeau – ran their campaign.
”I am so proud of how our team, Justin’s team, didn’t engage in the negative campaign and stuck to his word. Voters got weary of that negativity and chose optimism, hope and love. It was that optimism and work to earn votes that showed our success and that of our party,” explained Rock.
“All of our workers deserve a pat on the back for the team we built here. Tonight was all about the average people that seek to serve and make this a better country. I am a minister by day and not used to seeing a hundred or two hundred proud central Alberta Liberals coming out to show their support.
“We saw record numbers of First Nations people come out to vote. In the last election, we (Liberals) garnered only about two per cent of the vote in Red Deer. When the final numbers come out, I know we will be better than that and I look forward to what the future will bring.”