By COLLIN GALLANT on April 17, 2019.
Drew Barnes has been re-elected in the riding of Cypress-Medicine Hat, and for the first time into a majority governing party, and, potentially, a cabinet position.
“Clearly our party has worked hard to win a mandate from Albertans to get the Alberta advantage back,” Barnes told reporters at a victory party for at the Medicine Hat Lodge ballroom.
“The best place to raise a family, the most opportunity, the most competitive tax rates, the best social programs,” he said citing his campaign mantra.
“These are things we’ve seen eviscerated in the last four years … I’m anxious to get at it tomorrow.”
Barnes upped his vote share from previous campaigns, and held about a 9,000 vote lead with only 2 polls outstanding at 11 p.m., capturing about 67 per cent of the vote.
After retirements and electoral results, Barnes is the likely remaining MLA from that class of 17 Wildrose candidates that broke into the legislature in 2012.
He rallied the Wildrose Party cause after the 2014 floor-crossing of its leader and half its MLAs to the governing Progressive Conservatives. Barnes ran for the leadership and then was one of the first members of the caucus to support the unification of right-of-centre parties under Kenney.
“(Running in 2012) was about what was important to rural people at the time … In just seven years, I’ve been a critic in almost every (portfolio), and travel to all of Alberta and listen to Albertans,” said Barnes. “I’m looking forward to being a servant and be my best for Alberta.”
Barnes, most recently finance critic, wouldn’t discuss potential cabinet position on Tuesday night.
“I will look forward to Jason forming a strong team for Albertans, and I’d look forward to offering my services wherever it’s deemed best,” he said.
In 2012 as a first-time candidate Barnes soundly defeated two-term incumbent Len Mitzel with 53 per cent support in the riding that at the time included south Medicine Hat, Cypress County and the County of Forty Mile.
That year the Wildrose party formed the official opposition, but was hamstrung heading to the polls in 2015 after a mass floor crossing led by Leader Danielle Smith.
Barnes was a vocal booster of rebuilding the party in short order ahead of a provincial election, and even sought the leadership before placing second to Brian Jean.
Local voters rewarded Barnes, a popular former realtor and father of three, with an increased vote share in 2015 as the Progressive Conservative vote-share plummeted.
This year, the party and local candidates of a unified party fought a focused campaign centred on the state of the economy and promises of new more-aggressive strategy to get pipeline projects moving. Over the course of the 28-day campaign, Kenney also repeated a long-standing vow to end the three-year-old carbon levy, lower corporate tax rate to woo investment and hold some program spending to eat into the province’s deficit.
Local campaign manager Cathy Smith said the campaign team worked very hard to secure the win.
“We stayed focused on policies of the party and didn’t get diverted by flack,” she said.
“We said right at the beginning that we’d keep our heads down, we know what the goal is – we wanted 70 per cent (of the vote) – and we’d work really, really hard.”
Trailing with 26 per cent support was NDP candidate Peter Mueller who trailed Barnes with 26 per cent support.
Following the two front runners, candidate Colette Smithers (Alberta Party) recorded 5 per cent voter support and other candidates Anwar Kamaran (Alberta Liberals) and Terry Blacquier (Alberta Advantage) trailed well behind.