Canada’s longest ever election campaign ended in a resounding defeat of the Conservative Party as voters sent PrimeMinister Stephen Harper his notice to move out of 24 Sussex Drive. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, Canada’s new PrimeMinister, will be moving in.
Earlier polls had showed a neck-and-neck race between Harper’s Conservatives and Trudeau’s Liberals. Early front-runnerTom Mulcair and the NDP dropped back into third place as the Conservative attack against the niqab and statements like“old-stock Canadians” appeared to have worked against the Conservative camp.
Conservative candidate and incumbent Kevin Sorenson will be returning to Ottawa, representing the Battle River-Crowfootriding. Sorenson was first elected under the Canadian Alliance banner in 2000 in the Crowfoot Riding, and won elections under the Conservative banner in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011 and now 2015.
”I am very pleased with the strong support I received from the voters in Battle River-Crowfoot,” Sorenson said once the unofficial results confirmed his re-election. “It’s always good when your constituents support you and want you to stay on.”
Alberta has long been considered a Conservative stronghold, but the success of the provincial NDP party, led by Rachel Notley, in May had left questions in the air about how the province would vote federally.
A handful of seats were won by the Liberals and NDP, primarily in urban ridings in Calgary and Edmonton.
Sorenson said he was “very disappointed” with his party’s return to the opposition’s side at the House of Commons.
“It takes away from the joy of a local win when we lose nationally,” he said. “I remain convinced the Conservative agenda is the right agenda. We had a strong leader. We had a prime minister that we are proud of. He is an economist. He gets it.”
Despite that, he offered Trudeau his congratulations and best wishes, echoing Harper, who has since indicated he will step down from his role as leader of the Conservative Party.
As for Sorenson, he’s preparing for a return to his early years representing the riding.
“I served in opposition during my first six years as a member of parliament, so I know the importance of good, strong opposition and we’ll have a good, strong opposition,” he said.
In one of of the largest ridings in the province, Sorenson won his seat in the 42nd federal election by an overwhelming 81per cent. NDP candidate Katherine Swamp netted 6.5 per cent of the vote, Liberal Andy Kowalski received 9.3 per cent of thevote, and Green candidate Gary Kelly brought in 3.2 per cent of the vote.
The polling stations in Stettler, located at the Legion and at the Stettler Recreation Centre, were busy all day, with long line-ups at the recreation centre at times going down the stairs and out the door as people came in to vote. Almost 80,000people in the riding turned out to vote.
Polling place difficulties
A Canadian Blood Services clinic at the Stettler Community Hall had Elections Canada splitting up polling stations to different locations in the community. While traffic was constant at the Legion, however, it didn’t see as much traffic as the recreation centre, where people had to wait for 15-20 minutes at times to vote.
Both voting stations opened on time however, with people waiting outside to vote as early as 7:30 a.m. Other polling stations across the country were reported opening late due to difficulties with polling station staff being late or no-shows.
A common thing heard at both polling stations was how families were divided and sent to different polling stations. Oneperson would be told to vote in Big Valley, while the other person would have to vote in Stettler. One person near Botha was told to go to Erskine. A lot of voters simply showed up at the nearest polls and had their voter information corrected so they could vote close to home rather than travelling.
New identfication requirements also caused some consternation as people showed up with passports or gun licences as identification documents. Under the recent elections laws passed by the Conservative government, identification has to prove both name and address. For most people that meant a driver’s licence, but others were sent away from the polls,scrambling to find a utility bill, one of the most common address identifiers.
New this year was the ability to show proof of address using a smart phone. People didn’t have to bring paper copies of their address to the polling station, but could instead pull up their proof on their cell phone.
Voting turn-out rises at advance polls
Interest in this federal election was up across the country, with voter turn-out at advance polls causing line-ups and ballot shortages. In Stettler’s case, the advance poll at the Stettler Recreation Centre saw line-ups on all three days, and on one day, the station ran out of ballots.
“The deputy returning officer noticed they were running low on ballots,” Leanne Nyirfa, spokesperson for Elections Canada,said. “They notified the returning officer, who made a call for more ballots — which were already being couriered in.”
The polling station had about a 10-minute wait after ballots ran out for the new ones to arrive, Nyirfa said.
In 2011, the last federal election, 160,199 Albertans voted at advance polls. This year, the number more than doubled, with358,830 casting ballots ahead of election day. In Battle River-Crowfoot, 7,246 people cast ballots at the advance polls.
Specific data about advance polls per riding from the last election was not available, Nyirfa said, because riding borders had been redrawn between the 2011 and 2015 elections. Battle River-Crowfoot was one riding created during the last riding redistribution, through the combining of parts of the now defunct Crowfoot riding (which Sorenson previously represented)and Vegreville-Wainwright (which had been represented by Conservative Leon Benoit).
In the 2011 election, there were 300 ridings in Canada. In this election, there’s 328, Nyirfa noted. The next election should be able to provide some comparison as it’s unlikely there will be a riding redistribution between now and then.