“It means I can speak for the people now. I can be the voice for the people of Red Deer South,” a delighted Barb Miller, NDP MLA-elect for Red Deer South, said late Tuesday evening.
As several dozen very happy supporters gathered earlier at the One Eleven Grill restaurant, cheering ecstatically as provincial election results were reported, Miller chose to stay home until later so she could tuck her grandchild into bed.
Miller, 56, had been fighting laryngitis for the past few weeks but on Tuesday her voice was strong and clear on a night when Albertans decided it was finally time for a change, and the “orange crush” as her party’s campaign became known, won a majority government.
Red Deer, historically a Progressive Conservative stronghold, saw both constituencies go to the NDP, with Kim Schreiner taking Red Deer North.
“The more and more I door-knocked, the more and more I expected it, that I was going to get in, but it didn’t really sink in. And I didn’t think it would be by this margin,” said Miller.
With all 82 polling stations reporting, unofficial results show Miller had 7,023 votes. PC candidate Darcy Mykytyshyn was second with 5,413 and Wildrose candidate Norman Wiebe was third with 4,814 votes.
Miller, a Safeway cashier, union shop steward and president of the Red Deer and District Labour Council, said matter-of-factly that nothing is going to change in her life this week.
“I’m still going to work on Thursday like I’m supposed to (at Safeway),” she said.
“After that, everything changes.”
As for the overall election results, Miller said, “I think it’s amazing. People wanted change and they got change,” adding she was thrilled with the large number of women NDP candidates who won.
Mykytyshyn thanked a much quieter group of about 100 supporters, saying “at the end of the day it looks like our victory wasn’t meant to be.”
The PC candidate took the torch from former MLA Cal Dallas, who decided not to seek a third term.
Mykytyshyn will return to his job as dean of the Donald School of Business at Red Deer College.
“The results are showing that the NDP sweep of Alberta is going to hit Red Deer as well.
“I think the NDP wave has come through and we got caught by it. I don’t think it has anything to do with our campaign. I’m proud of our campaign.”
Mykytyshyn, 44, said based on indications from door-knocking, he did not anticipate the results. He said what he heard the most was that people were undecided throughout the campaign “and so when they walked into the polling stations today they made their decision.”
Wiebe, 50, said he was disappointed. “We’re all hoping we’re going to win, right?”
“I was really hoping for a minority government regardless of whoever was going to form the government. I was hoping it would be Wildrose of course but Wildrose will be official Opposition it would seem.
“I think that’s a good thing and hopefully Wildrose is as effective holding this government to account as they were with the last one,” said Wiebe.
“When I was knocking on doors, probably about 80 per cent of the doors I hit, people were so angry they said ‘Anything but PC.’ There was no way to know where that vote was going to go.”
“There was a lot of animosity toward the PCs,” he said.
The results for the other candidates in Red Deer South (82 of 82 polls) are: Patti Argent (Ind) with 232 votes; William Berry, (Ind) 60; Deborah Checkel (Lib) 738; Ben Dubois (Green) 274; Serge Gingras (Alberta Party) 1,035.
There were 35,912 eligible voters in the Red Deer South constituency and a total of 19,589 votes cast, which represents a 54-per-cent voter turnout.