A wide swath of blue washed over the province as Alberta will see its second straight new government.
The United Conservative Party (UCP) unofficially took 63 seats in the legislature with one of those going to Jackie Lovely with a big victory in the Camrose riding.
“I’m grateful for our team whose hard work led to our great success,” said Lovely in a phone interview following her win April 16.
With the advance poll ballots finally counted, the unofficial results (released April 19) show Lovely had garnered 15,593 votes with the NDP’s Morgan Bamford an extremely distant second with 4,395, while Kevin Smook of the Alberta Party further back with 3,059. The other four candidates results were: Wes Caldwell (Freedom Conservative) 387, Sandra Kim (Alberta Advantage) 171, Don Dubitz (Alberta Independence) 167, Bonnie Tanton (Independent) 128.
Turnout in the riding was high, much like the rest of the province, with 78.4 per cent (or 23,888) of the 30,456 of eligible voters making their mark. The provincial average was around 70 per cent.
In the three Bashaw and area polls, the turnout was far less with just 710 ballots cast among the nearly 1,400 eligible, or about 51 per cent, with Lovely getting 506 votes — a spectacular 71 per cent.
“The people we talked to at the door and at other venues were unhappy with the carbon tax and were looking to have someone fight Trudeau and stand up for them,” Lovely added.
“And, despite all of the attempts to attack personally and take jabs at our party, Albertans wanted a change. I believe it was our consistent and positive message that helps us win.”
Next up for Lovely is to await the results to become official on April 28, when Elections Alberta finishes confirming the final numbers.
“We will be getting organized and ready for when Jason Kenney calls us together. Then, we will get going on passing Bill 1 to get rid of the carbon tax,” she said.
The new government will be sworn in on April 30 with the new legislative session kicking off on May 21. In the meantime, Lovely and her team will be gathering up the election signs around the riding and preparing for her new job.
The two biggest opponents in the riding were Kevin Smook of the Alberta Party and the NDP’s Morgan Bamford.
However, the race wasn’t even close right from the start, with Lovely belting out a 150 vote lead on the pair after just one poll was reported.
Smook, who will be back at his job this week as a councillor for Beaver County, felt Albertans were ready to be represented by a more centrist party.
“I was happy with the campaign we ran. It was positive and I thought we offered up some really good solutions to the problems this province is facing,” he said.
“And apparently, the people clearly aren’t ready for a centrist viewpoint. It’s obvious that Alberta is a two-party system with a left and a right. I felt that there was a spot for us in the centre, but apparently there is not enough space there yet.”
He was also disappointed in the fact the Alberta Party lost all three of the seats it had held in the previous legislature.
Going forward, Smook is concerned about where the province is headed financially with the plans the new government laid out during the election.
“To be quite blunt, I’m concerned the UCP is going to be too aggressive when it comes to its budget and end up making cuts to front-line services in health care and education,” he said.
“I’m also worried there won’t be money left for municipalities. The province keeps downloading costs on them and the UCP during the election made no commitment to stable funding for municipalities beyond the program funding that is currently due to run out after next year.”
Smook added it’s hard to say just exactly what levels of service cuts will be made, but that it may well look similar to what occurred more than two decades ago.
As for Bamford, he couldn’t be reached for comment and the other candidates were not available at press time.