New Democratic Party members went with political experience in choosing two Red Deer riding candidates on Monday night.
Two-term city Coun. Paul Harris and longtime NDP party member and veteran of four previous provincial campaigns Doug Hart got the nod. The vote count was not released.
Perhaps as a sign of the party’s rising fortunes locally, it was a standing room-only crowd at the Red Deer Public Library’s Snell Auditorium.
Red Deer-Mountainview candidate Harris defeated Red Deer Public School Board trustee Dianne Macaulay.
Harris said after the vote count he has a good feeling about the party’s prospects, dismissing the area’s long-time Conservative voting history.
“I don’t believe this is a Conservative stronghold. Certainly, provincial politics in the last election showed that.
“So, I’m quite confident that we’re going to get the vote out and we’re going to send a different candidate to Ottawa.”
Harris believes voters are looking for a party that will listen to them after years of Conservative rule.
“I don’t think Albertans have been heard for a number of years. I think we have been taken for granted. I think that is going to have a strong resonance (with voters).”
The Conservatives’ poor environmental record also doesn’t sit well with many people, especially in the agricultural community.
Harris will face off against incumbent Conservative Earl Dreeshen, Mason Sisson for the Green Party and James Walper for the Libertarian in the riding that covers the north part of Red Deer. A Liberal candidate has not yet been chosen.
Doug Hart, who has been an NDP supporter for 40 years, senses a high level of dissatisfaction with the government of Stephen Harper among voters.
“It’s not unlike the sense I sensed about two weeks into the provincial campaign. I think there are people are dissatisfied with the closed-door decision making of the current government and I think they want a more transparent government.
“They want government to represent their interests better,” said Hart, who is from the Ponoka-area and has a background in nursing administration.
The federal government’s controversial anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-51 “rubs a lot of Canadians the wrong way,” he said.
“And I think those are the kinds of things that are going to haunt the prime minister; and I don’t think his chances are as good this election as they were last election.”
Hart’s opponent was Katherine Swampy, a mother-of-five and Revenue Canada worker, who said in her speech she hoped to provide a voice in Parliament for Aboriginal people and women.
In Red Deer-Lacombe, the incumbent is Conservative Blaine Calkins and Jeff Rock is running for the Liberals.