The moods at campaign headquarters didn’t really reflect which candidate Red Deer-Lacombe voters chose to send to Ottawa.
A bittersweet Conservative Blaine Calkins looked at the prospect of sitting in opposition and took solace in the strong local showing.
“I think I may actually be wired more to be an opposition guy than to be a government guy anyways,” said Calkins. “Now I’m going to unleash the hounds and hold the government to account.
“I want to make sure all the hard fought for things we won over the last several years such as support for families, getting rid of the wasteful long-gun registry, marketing freedom for grain farmers and make sure we keep going forward with the Trans Pacific Partnership.”
With 193 of 239 polls reporting, Calkins won the riding by a wide margin, taking 32,855 votes or 69.8 per cent. Liberal candidate Jeff Rock was the closest, finishing with only 7,143 votes or 15.2 per cent.
NDP candidate Doug Hart finished third with 5,725 votes, or 12.2 per cent. Green Party candidate Les Kuzyk finished in last place with 1,364 or 2.9 per cent. All results are unofficial.
“I’m very sorry to see the end of what I consider to be a tremendous run by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who’s done an absolutely admirable job governing Canada for the last 10 years and I know this will be hitting him very hard,” said Calkins.
“He’s a modest and humble man and he’s going to accept the results graciously and we’ll have some decisions to make as a group in the next coming days.”
For Liberal candidate Jeff Rock, a jubilant expression and a positive attitude overtook any disappointment in the local polls. His party had won a majority government, four years removed from a meagre showing of 34 seats.
“We sought out to engage as many people as possible,” said Rock. “We did that in spades. It’s not necessarily about winning or losing, it’s about engaging people. I couldn’t be happier, unless maybe one thing happened, which didn’t happen.”
Doug Hart, NDP candidate, had some pointed words for the results, calling it a win-win-win.
“Blaine Calkins got back in and he can sit in the back bench and say nothing and represent us, the Liberals are in and Jeff Rock is happy, Stephen Harper is gone and I’m happy,” said Hart.
“There is more to governing than low taxes, but that’s all it takes to appeal to the voters in Central Alberta.”
This was Hart’s fifth time running in a campaign, one federal and four provincial, and after five loses he doubts he will run again.
Harper announced he will step down as leader of the Conservative party, but will continue to sit as an MP following last night’s election results.
Blaine Calkins has been a member of Parliament for nine years. He was first elected in 2006 when the riding was called Wetaskiwin and did not include Red Deer.
The ridings were redrawn for this year’s election, with 30 new ridings added due to population growth. Alberta added six new ridings and many constituencies were changed as a result. The new riding includes the north half of Red Deer as well as Lacombe, Ponoka, Sylvan Lake, Blackfalds, Rimbey, Clive, Alix, Bentley and Maskwacis.
In 2011, Calkins won the old riding with 81.44 per cent of the vote, 37,756 total votes. The next closest was the NDP candidate, Tim Robson, who won 11.39 per cent or 5,281 votes.