Albertans ignore Wildrose’s call for change in Calgary-Foothills, Calgary-Elbow, Calgary-West and Edmonton-Whitemud

The Wildrose party’s campaign message fell on deaf ears Oct. 27 as Albertans embraced the PC Party under newly elected premier, Jim Prentice. The Wildrose slogan was, “Send the PCs a message,” but the PC Party swept four of four byelection ridings in Calgary and Edmonton.

Prentice spoke to elated supporters in Calgary-Foothills after trouncing his closest competitor, Wildrose candidate Kathy MacDonald, by almost double the margin. Prentice earned 6,898 votes compared to 3,545 for MacDonald, according unofficial poll results from Elections Alberta.

“You don’t get excellence and you don’t get good government unless you talk to people,” said Prentice. “That’s what these byelections have been about, they’ve been about talking to people on their doorsteps”New Calgary-Foothills MLA and Alberta Premier, Jim Prentice, looks on at the crowd after his victory speech in Edgemont.

Photo by Danielle Harder

In Calgary-West, the race was much tighter. The mood at Wildrose headquarters changed from upbeat and loud to quiet and sombre as supporters began turning away from the tally board. Mike Ellis of the PC Party would eventually edge out Sheila Taylor by 315 votes.

A smiling Ellis walked out of his campaign headquarters, shaking hands with supporters congratulating him on the win.

“This is a new era for the PC Party, this is a new era for Alberta and I’m humbled to be a part of this,” said Ellis.

Alberta’s education minister Gordon Dirks earned an official spot in the legislature as he fended off a stiff challenge from the Alberta Party’s Greg Clark and John Fletcher of the Wildrose Party. Dirks “We have every intention of doing exactly what we said we would in the October byelections, and that is to listen to the people of Alberta and to respond to their priorities,” said Education Minister Gordon Dirks after winning Calgary-Elbow Oct. 27.

Photo by Cameron Perrierearned 4,207 votes compared to 3,412 for Clark and 3,056 for Fletcher in the Calgary-Elbow riding, a PC stronghold since 1971.

“To the people of the Calgary-Elbow constituency, I pledge to be present as your MLA,” Dirks said to a cheering crowd. “I pledge to be accessible as your MLA, I pledge to listen to you, I pledge to be an advocate and I pledge to be Elbow’s champion in the government, and that’s what Elbow needs.”

MRU politcal analyst Duane Bratt said he was surprised that the PCs pulled off the province-wide sweep which also launched former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel into the legislature as health minister. Bratt called the Alberta Party’s showing a moral victory as Clark grabbed more than 20 Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark, seen here with his wife Jessica Simon, tells supporters, “We’ve connected with the community in a way very few political movements ever have, so it’s a great start as we move towards 2016.”

Photo by Tiffany Ritzper cent of the vote, up from 2.7 per cent in the last election.

“More people supported the Alberta party in Calgary-Elbow than ever before in the history of Alberta. That’s huge,” said Clark. “We connected with the community in a way very few political movements ever have, so it’s a great start as we move towards 2016.”

Bratt said Monday’s results, where Wildrose grabbed 28 per cent of the popular vote, should result in the party doing some soul searching.

“They spent a lot of money, they faced a weakened PC Party and they had some good candidates, but at the end of the day they lost all four ridings and finished third in two of them.”

Meanwhile, speaking at Sheila Taylor’s campaign headquarters in Calgary-West, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith interpreted the loss in a more upbeat way.

“One thing is clear after tonight, the PCs are headed in the wrong direction and Wildrose is on the upswing,” Smith said. “I’m disappointed that we were unable to grind out a victory tonight.”

Editor’s note: In an effort to be as transparent as possible, the Calgary Journal editorial board notes that reporter Brent Dufault works part-time for the Alberta justice department.

Written By: QUINTON AMUNDSON, BRENT DUFAULT, DANIELLE HARDER, PAULINA LIWSKI, CAMERON PERRIER, TIFFANY RITZ AND MASHA SCHEELE.