With 94% of the votes counted as I type this it's guaranteed that our riding will be sending another Conservative to Ottawa. I can't say I'm too surprised as Fort McMurray-Athabasca has elected either Conservative or Reform MPs since its creation. However, as I watched the results come in tonight it was clear early on that the Liberals weren't about to fade quietly into the night. I suspected they would pick up some votes but was surprised by just how many. The Liberals had put a great deal of time and energy into the campaign here though and were able to tap into what seems to be a growing frustration with the government. I figured that if the Liberals improved their vote count only marginally then such a small increase would quickly be forgotten in Ottawa and things would carry on as before. With Conservative support dropping from 72% in 2011 to roughly 47%, clearly a warning shot has been fired across the bow. It will be interesting to see how these results carry over into the 2015 general election.
Two things do concern me as we move forward. Firstly, the abysmal voter turn out. This riding is notoriously bad in this respect. I'm sure the fact that the by-election was called so close to Canada Day played a role. Apathy too. The Conservatives have held this riding for so long that there was no doubt a sense among some of "why should I even bother?" Frankly, I don't know what the answer is. We had 3 days of advance polling and many people out on site were able to leave their shift early to vote (as I did) AND still get paid for the full shift. Clearly, we can do much better.
My other concern has to do with our MP-elect. I wonder how responsive David Yurdiga will be to people's concerns when he didn't bother to show up for any of the candidate debates. I will say that this played a role in how I voted. And I've generally voted Conservative for as long as I've been old enough to vote. I will say that Mr. Yurdiga has his work cut out for him if he hopes be re-elected next year.
While much of my focus over the past few weeks was obviously on the contest here I did pay a little attention (or at least as much as my schedule would allow) to the other 3 ridings which were also facing by-elections. John Barlow's win in Macleod was pretty much a no-brainer. Anything less than a Conservative romp would have been a huge disaster for the government. I was pretty confident the Liberals would pick up Scarborough-Agincourt but was surprised they cruised to victory in Trinity-Spadina. Maybe I just read the tea leaves wrong on that one but I was expecting the NDP there to put up much better results.
I would like to acknowledge all five candidates who put their name forward to represent our region. Its easy to be cynical and it takes guts to stick your neck out. So to David Yurdiga, Kyle Harrietha, Lori McDaniel, Tim Moen and Brian Deheer....Thank you!
Anyhow, there you have it. A bit disappointed here in the result but perhaps a strong message has been sent....yes, the oil sand are important here BUT it is not the only thing that defines us. This region (and this city) are not a monolith but rather more dynamic than the stereotypes can sometimes suggest. Here's hoping that at the very least, a strong message was sent to Ottawa tonight.