By COLLIN GALLANT on April 18, 2019.
It was a party not seen in Medicine Hat for at least a decade or more as local Tories rallied together in a hotel ballroom to celebrate the United Conservative win in Tuesday’s provincial election.
The re-formed political party – encapsulating factions that split before the 2012 vote but brought together – was brought together with the goal of replacing the New Democratic government by avoiding vote splitting.
They did just that, winning more than 60 seats in unofficial results and securing clear majorities in local voting. According to many of the 250 attendees to a victory party at the Medicine Hat Lodge, it’s just the beginning.
“It tells the province, the nation, the world that a sleeping giant has awakened,” declared emcee Marco Jansen, referring to the provincial economy, but perhaps also alluding to the federal election expected in the fall.
Carrying the momentum into an effort to beat Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as will as another Conservative premier in the fight against the national carbon levy, was the theme in conversations throughout the night.
But, it was mostly a night for celebration, handshakes and hugs in a room that brimmed with confidence.
Cathy Smith, who managed the local campaign and also has sat on the UCP provincial party board, likened the feel of the evening to when she arrived in Alberta in early 1976.
“The Conservatives had just come into power and there was a feeling of entrepreneurship for the province,” she told the News. “That continued under fine leadership of Peter Lougheed. Things change. Parties get off track.”
Speaking earlier about the number of young people in the current campaign, Smith said the goal of the campaign is to earn for young people the “Alberta Advantage” lost during the past decade.
“It wasn’t conservative in the end,” she said of later PC governments. We know that. They were all over the place.”
“We (the UCP) have a plan. We have good policy. A vision.”
Gone were bitter battles for seats in 2012 elections between Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose supporters, as well as the 2015 election win for the NDP which left many life-long conservatives in shock.
Under a UCP banner, they captured 55 per cent of the vote province wide, and to keep the momentum moving, winning candidate Drew Barnes announced that his campaign office on Dunmore road will remain open for another month. Workers there will field questions from potential party members and gather more support.
MP Glen Motz, who earned about 70 per cent of the vote winning the Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner riding for the Conservative Party of Canada in 2016 byelection, said the scope of the victory was invigorating.
“It’s what I was predicting, but not that quickly,” he said. “It’s great news for Alberta, great news for Canada.”
“We’ll work together to get Canada back on track. I’m optimistic for how things are shaping up for the fall.”
That’s in line with Kenney’s plans. He told a cheering mid-day crowd of more that 400 at a rally in Medicine Hat last week that “we’ll finish the job in the fall when we elect Andrew Scheer.”
Locally, it’s difficult to compare voting numbers in the ridings, which are drawn differently than in 2015. However, this year UCP candidates in both Brooks-Medicine Hat and Cypress-Medicine Hat registered a higher share of the vote than the combined Wildrose and PC campaigns four years ago.
Both ridings also experienced about a 10 per cent higher turnout.