The Lacombe-Ponoka riding joined a sea of Wildrose green across rural Central Alberta on Tuesday night.
Winning Wildrose candidate Ron Orr will take an indefinite leave of absence from being the pastor of the Clive Baptist church now that he’s an MLA. “I plan to give constituents 100 per cent of my attention. …
“I’m excited. I’ve thought about this for 20 years,” said the married father of three, who was celebrating with his family and other supporters at the Lacombe Memorial Centre.
While Orr was thrilled to win, he wasn’t overly surprised by the election results. He heard during his door-knocking campaign that Albertans were finally ready to make a change after more than four decades of Progressive Conservative rule.
The most discontent was expressed about PC Leader Jim Prentice’s early election call and unpopular budget — which Orr said would have stuck ordinary Albertans with higher taxes. “People felt there was a complete mismanagement and waste of funds,” added Orr, whose party promised to cut spending and not raise any more taxes.
Although Albertans in urban centres embraced change by electing the NDP, he believes the right-wing Wildrose party prevailed in rural parts of the province because farmers and those working in the oil industry are more comfortable with conservative values and fiscal policy.
Regarding his party’s relationship with Rachel Notley’s new NDP majority government, Orr said Wildrose has become adept at being an effective Alberta opposition party and that will continue. “Some of the issues might change,” he said, “but we’re still dedicated to fiscally healthy,” cost-effective governance.
New Democrat Doug Hart placed second in the riding that effectively had no incumbent.
He was very pleased with his party’s sweep across the province — even though it didn’t mean a seat for him. Thankfully, Albertans didn’t fall for PC “fear-mongering,” said Hart, a nurse at Red Deer hospital.
He added “the NDP isn’t going to do anything radical. We’ll follow through with a small corporate tax increase. This is not going to affect jobs …
Notley promised to dump the health-care premiums that were in Prentice’s budget, as well as new taxes for mid-income wage earners. Instead she promised to balance the books by 2018 by increasing taxes on corporations and the wealthy, while spending more on healthy and education.”
Hart feels the NDP’s ground-shifting win was due to a growing “distrust” in the departing Tory government. The PCs had described themselves as “business people,” yet somehow managed to accrue a $6-billion deficit just because oil prices fell to $50 a barrel, he added. “There was no confidence. They sold out our royalty rates.”
Lacombe businessman and PC candidate Peter DeWit came in third in the riding. He received a rough ride when he first started door-knocking, but thought the public’s reception had improved as he went along. Obviously, voters decided it was time for a change, he said.
DeWit believes his party wasn’t given enough credit for doing a good job for many years. And he feels “big implications” will come from electing an NDP majority government, since lot of new NDP MLAs are pretty green.
“It’s great to see young people getting involved,” said DeWit, but he feels there’s something to be said for balancing youth and enthusiasm with experience. “There will be adjustments.”
Alberta party candidate Tony Jeglum also ran in the election.
The Lacombe-Ponoka riding’s previous MLA was Rod Fox, a Wildrose Party member who crossed the floor to the PCs in December with former leader Danielle Smith and seven other Wildrose members. Fox paid the price for the unpopular move by later losing the PC nomination to DeWit.