Expert says losing can be devastating but can set politicians up for future wins

Stewart Heuser hug-thumbnail

The math is simple. Calgary has 10 federal electoral ridings, which means that on the federal election that took place on Oct. 19, there could only be 10 winners among the 58 people who ran for federal office in the city.

On election night eight of 10 ridings stayed strongly Conservative despite a federal win by the Liberals under the now Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Calgary Journal recently caught up with two candidates who came up short —
Liberal Matt Grant and NDP Kirk Heuser. Both fought hard in Calgary Confederation to win a seat in the House of Commons. They knocked on thousands of doors attempting to sway votes away from the Tories. Both lost to Conservative, Len Webber.

Produced by Zarif Alibhai with files from Brendan Stasiewich

Losing a race is disheartening, says David Taras, a political analyst at Mount Royal University.

“A loss is equivalent to a period of mourning because you have high hopes,” he says. You’re in love with what you might become and then when you’re defeated it really hurts, more than other things because it’s a rejection of you.”

Grant Balloon-finalBalloons are scattered on the ground at the Red & White Club at McMahon Stadium where Liberal Matt Grant lost a tight race in the Oct. 19 2015 federal election. 
Photo by Caitlin Paton

Taras adds it’s especially tough when candidates have interacted with so many supporters face-to-face in the ridings.

“You’ve knocked on 30,000 doors so when you lose it’s like a knife to the heart.”

Grant was one such candidate who estimates he knocked on 80,000-plus doors.

Losing by two per cent, Grant has since returned to a downtown Calgary law firm where he works as an associate at Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer LLP.

Grant says, “You get all in and it’s a very time-consuming endeavour and when you lose something you focus on all the sacrifice. It was a huge sacrifice.”

Grant Speech 2-finalDespite losing by two per cent in the Calgary Confederation riding, Liberal Matt Grant delivers hopeful speech at the Red & White Club at McMahon Stadium on Oct. 19.
Photo by Ashley Visser
Grant campaigned for more than two years in the riding.

“So many doors knocked, a lot of money raised, a lot of work and thought and team building went into what we try to accomplish.

“I was part of this massive campaign which was well financed and very well supported and now I go back to being a third year associate which means I am pretty far down on the ladder in terms of seniority and that changes things. My day-to-day is very different.”

Like Grant, Heuser ran and lost in Confederation. While he received seven per cent of the vote, he didn’t enter the race until after the writ was dropped.

“I didn’t find the loss emotional because I went into the election understanding having covered as many elections as I have that losing was a possibility, and so I was prepared for that, and that’s why we focused on the messaging throughout the campaign and at the end of the day being able to hold our heads up and saying we ran a good campaign.”

Stewart Heuser hug-finalCalgary Confederation NDP candidate Kirk Heuser embraces wife Chantal Perron after losing to the Conservatives in the Oct. 19 federal election. Heuser captured seven per cent of the vote.
Photo by Laura Stewart
Heuser has since returned to the Pembina Institute where he is the communications lead.  Despite Heuser’s pragmatic view of his loss, Taras reiterates political defeat is no easy pill to swallow. He also points out that many successful politicians — Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi to name one – have had to endure losses before turning the corner.

“You’re building for next time. And what’s the next time? It could be municipal, it could be something with the federal government.” 

The editor responsible for this article is Caroline Fyvie,

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