Voters in Alberta awarded the New Democratic Party of Alberta a resounding victory and demoted Progressive Conservatives to the position of the third ranking party in the provincial legislature in a historic shift of political fortunes. Wildrose Party, under the 37-day-old leadership of Brian Jean, has become the official opposition.
Premier Jim Prentice resigned as the head of the government and declared that he was not going to sit in the Legislature as the MLA from the riding he was elected as PC candidate.
In the Lacombe-Ponoka riding, Wildrose candidate Ron Orr won with a fairly comfortable majority. With all results from the 71 polling booths in the riding, Orr received 6,502 votes against 5,481 of NDP candidate Doug Hart and 5,020 of PC candidate Peter DeWitt.
“I’m truly humbled and thankful and honored,” said Orr after the results were announced. “I’m thankful that we’ve won. I’ve thought about this for 20 years.”
While he ran the campaign and knocked on the doors, Orr said it was those who voted Wildrose that made his win possible. “Thank you for rejecting corruption,” he commented.
The Wildrose Party has been the province’s official opposition in the past and Orr says the party has grown to know how to be successful in the role and make a difference. “We are committed to fulfilling the role of opposition, which is important in our democracy.”
Orr says he will face learning curves going forward as he steps into his MLA role. “Fortunately we have a really strong team and an experienced team here in this riding, they’ve been through this before . . . so I’ve got a lot of resources to draw upon,” he added.
Responding to the reaction of the public stemming from previous Wildrose members’ crossing the floor was one of the challenges of his election campaign, Orr recalled.
“I think it a fair and honest issue,” said Orr, reflecting on the betrayal people felt. For him, the way to build back that trust is to be open and honest with those in the constituency.
The irony for NDP’s Lacombe-Ponoka candidate Doug Hart was that while his party was winning in ridings across the province, he was fated to lose to Wildrose candidate Ron Orr. It was so close, yet so far for Hart who has never had votes like this in the 35 years as an NDP candidate.
While the many Hart supporters kept a close eye on their phones for updates or watched TV news shows at the Ponoka Legion, it seemed clear as the night wore on that Orr was indeed the elected MLA.
“I’m mildly disappointed locally, but overjoyed provincially to see the New Democrats with a majority government. It warms the cockles of my heart,” said Hart.
“I see it as a vindication and some realization that there is a more progressive way to govern that simply kowtow through the corporate sector,” he added.
The challenge the NDP faces now is getting four experienced MLAs and 50 novice MLAs up to speed with running the province. Hart says many of the MLAs have strong experience in leadership roles and he feels Notley will be able to put together a strong caucus.
Up next for Hart will be to get back to taking care of his home and family. “I’ve got a honeydew list of things to do.”
For Alberta Party candidate Tony Jeglum the goal was to get the name of his party out to Albertans. “We’re a party that’s only five years old, so most Albertans have never even heard of us,” he said.
He felt all the candidates ran a strong campaign and he said it was quite an interesting campaign. “I’m delighted that Albertans voted for a progressive party,” he concluded.
Ponoka News Staff