Ron Orr will continue to be Lacombe-Ponoka’s voice in the Alberta Legislature – only now as part of a United Conservative Party majority government.
Orr, who was Lacombe-Ponoka’s incumbent MLA, was declared re-elected Tuesday night with a comfortable 71.1 per cent of the vote – an unofficial tally of 16,545 votes with 81 of 83 polls reporting.
“I’m really excited and looking forward to the opportunity to actually have the ability to try and influence some of the governing policy moving forward,” Orr said. “I think Albertans are really excited, by the way the votes came out, to see change in Alberta.
“The important thing for us moving forward now is to truly respect the trust Albertans have given to us and to work really hard at delivering good government. It’s one thing to win an election, it’s another thing to do a good job at governing it and that’s where I’d like to really focus my thoughts and where I want to go.”
It was just 38 minutes after polls closed that media outlets declared a UCP majority victory, and they’d finish the night with 63 seats, with the NDP falling to just 24 – advance polling results, which won’t be counted until the days following the election, notwithstanding.
There was no doubt amongst those gathered at Orr’s viewing party at the Track on 2 that he and the UCP would slide to victory – so much so that Orr gave a ‘victory’ speech before he was officially declared elected.
He touched on how uniting the Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives began the rebuild of the conservative movement in the province, while conservatism itself was revitalized with “exceptional policy” he believes will turn Alberta and the economy around in the next four years.
Orr blamed the NDP’s policy for high unemployment rates and loss of investment, particularly in the oil and gas sector and says he’s looking forward to changing that and getting Albertans back to work.
“Alberta’s been through downturns in oil before – that’s not new. What was new this time is that, in addition to the price downturn, we had significantly different policy that we’ve enver had in Alberta before and that drove a lot of investment out, that drove a lot of jobs out,” he said.
“I think policy has a huge impact on people’s lives and when we (the UCP) change that policy, I think you’ll see a new day dawn on Alberta.”
To that end, he says he plans on partnering with other central Alberta MLA’s – such as the newly elected Red Deer North and South MLAs Adriana Lagrange and Jason Stephan, as well as other re-elected MLAs in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake’s Devin Dreeshen and Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre’s Jason Nixon – to stand up for and address some of the unique issues in the region.
“Seniors care is a big one – we need to change the way seniors care is happening to increase the facilities, and we need to talk a lot about central Alberta’s delivery of health care because it has been inequitable,” he said. “We absolutely will work together as a central Alberta caucus, within caucus, to advance the causes of central Alberta health.”
The UCP’s majority victory, however, marks the first time since 1993 that the Legislature will have just two parties, as the Alberta Party lost all three seats it had when the writ was dropped, and failed to gain any others.
Orr said it confirmed his belief that many votes cast in 2015 had been protest votes, as well as reaffirmed the growing contrast between the left and the right-leaning parties in the province.
“What we’ve seen here is a clear demonstration of some of the polarization that has happened in Alberta’s politics. There’s nothing in the middle – you’re either strongly on one side or the other,” he said.
“It’s not all bad for people to have strong opinions, but it clearly demonstrates politics has become a little more polarized in Alberta – as is happening in other parts of the western world, as well.”
The polarization, however, is seen by local Alberta Party candidate Myles Chykerda as alarming.
“I’m concerned about the state of democracy in Alberta,” Chykerda said. “Unfortunately, I think we’re seeing the result of multiple years of this sort of narrative that’s been building that there are only two parties and that seemed to play out tonight.”
He said losing that “middle-voice,” even if it was the three seats that once belonged to Greg Clark, Rick Fraser and Karen McPherson, was unfortunate not just for the Alberta Party itself, but for the government.
However, he doesn’t believe the party needs a hard reset before the next provincial election, and rather should just continue to build on what they have done.
“We just need to keep focused on the positive message we have,” he said. “It’s hard for positivity to get through all the hate, but we do have some refocusing to do, some strategizing to do, some thinking of what’s next. We’ll do what we can to build the brand and get ready for the next election.”
While Chykerda came in third in votes within the riding with 2,418, he polled double the provincial Alberta Party average throughout the campaign, and that didn’t change too much on election night, finishing with a 10.4 per cent of the vote.
He may not have won the riding, but he said he viewed his campaign as a success, particularly in growing the Alberta Party’s support and brand within the riding.
“It’s good to see the message the Alberta Party put out did resonate with a lot of people here,” he said. “This was certainly my first kick at the political can, if you will…I was hoping for a bit better, but I’m still happy about what happened.”
He added a “tremendous thank you” to those that supported and engaged with him over the course of the campaign, as well as congratulations to Orr on his victory.
NDP candidate Doug Hart came in second with 3,491 votes. The Lacombe Globe was unable to speak with him on election night and will update this story once we’ve spoken with him.
The Freedom Conservative Party’s Keith Parrill came in fourth with 311 votes, followed by Alberta Independence Party’s Tessa Szwagierczak with 270, and Alberta Advantage Party’s Shawn Tylke with 224.