Wildrose challenger Kerry Towle won a decisive victory over longtime Tory incumbent Luke Ouellette in the race to represent Innisfail-Sylvan Lake in the provincial legislature.
With 69 of 72 polls reported on Monday, Towle received 6,452 votes while Ouellette had 5,716.
“I think we won because the Wildrose listens to Albertans,” said Towle, who was overcome with emotion. “I made all the effort to be out there door knocking and listened to the voices and showed we can go forward and have a great Alberta.”
Towle, 38, said her party as the official Opposition will ensure the Progressive Conservative government is kept in check and doesn’t override Albertans’ rights.
As her first order of business, Towle said she will work to repeal the land-use bills, work hard for an urgent care centre in Sylvan Lake and improve the controversial Hwy 11/Hwy 780 intersection near Sylvan Lake.
“We have lots of priorities but those are my personal priorities and I will be lobbying hard to get those done,” said Towle.
Ouellette was elected in 2001, again in 2004 and 2008, in the mostly rural riding that includes Bowden, Innisfail, Penhold and Sylvan Lake.
Over the years, Ouellette has held various cabinet posts, including Infrastructure and Transportation, until October 2011.
Ouellette was not available for comment.
In third place, Alberta Party candidate Danielle Klooster received 694 votes, followed by New Democratic Party candidate Patricia Norman with 656 votes and Liberal Les Vidok with 576 votes.
Klooster said she was disappointed with her party’s showing but she said they will continue to build the base of supporters over the next four years.
Norman said she was surprised with the overall provincial results and expected a tighter race between the Wildrose and Tories. She said the Wildrose will be a strong opposition to the governing Tories in the legislature. She’s pleased the NDP gained two more seats.
“I didn’t run a campaign,” said Norman. “I was just a name on a ballot but I am not going away. I am pleased with the votes I got. I hope to be a strong NDP voice in Central Alberta.”
Vidok said equally shocked the Tories won the amount of seats they did and expects the Wildrose were just as surprised.
“It’s hard to change the mindset in this province,” said Vidok. “You can tell people the truth, the facts and they do not want to hear that. They want the feel-good story.
They want to be faithful to what they always have supported regardless of how bad it is.”