INNISFAIL – The first poll result came in from the rural locality of Nisbet at 8:22 p.m. and Devin Dreeshen captured 78 per cent of the vote.
And the following results for the United Conservative Party (UCP) candidate kept climbing and never stopped. His two main rivals, the NDP’s Nicole Mooney and Abigail Douglass from the Alberta Party, ran neck and neck at around eight per cent of the vote. The Liberals’ Nick Jansen and Independent candidate David Inscho were non-factors. Inscho ran as an Independent candidate as his Alberta Advantage Party is not yet registered with Elections Alberta.
By 9:05 p.m., with 45 out of 86 polls reporting, Dreeshen was running away with 3,365 votes. That was more than 82 per cent of the votes cast. Although victory was not yet officially declared, it was all over.
“With the overwhelming support that came out, it’s a testament to the fact that people want a change,” said Dreeshen, who was joined by party leader Jason Kenney at his Gasoline Alley byelection headquarters.
“People sent a clear message today that the NDP’s time in government is nearing an end,” he added.
“Ultimately, in the next election in 2019 when the entire province is voting and watching, we all need to push our positive conservative message of how Alberta can be a better province,” Dreeshen told the crowd of supporters. “I think in 2019 we’re going to have amazing results as well.”
By the end of the evening with all 86 polls reporting, the unofficial results showed Dreeshen collected 8,033 out of 9,825 votes cast, an overwhelming 81.76 per cent of the total vote. The NDP’s Mooney earned 907 or 9.23 per cent of the total vote. The Alberta Party’s Douglass had 729 or 7.42 per cent of the vote to finish in third. The Liberals’ Nick Jansen and Independent candidate David Inscho both finished with less than one per cent of the total votes cast. All results are unofficial until confirmed by Elections Alberta.
Kenney, who was also ecstatic that UCP candidate Laila Goodbridge easily won her July 12 byelection in the Fort McMurray-Conklin riding, said the results proved voters in central and northern Alberta spoke with a clear voice for change.
“They want a common sense government focused on jobs and economic growth that will stand up for and defend Alberta,” said Kenney, who heaped praise on Dreeshen. “I want to thank all of you here in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake for all the tremendous work you’ve invested in getting this brilliant, young, principled Albertan.”
Meanwhile, the NDP’s Mooney said despite the loss she was happy with the effort her party and volunteers put into the campaign to get the key issues out to citizens, including education, health care and jobs.
“I am so happy with the response we got from the community. I am feeling real great right now and really proud of the foundation we have built here in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. I think it is going to be amazing moving forward and I am excited to see where it takes us,” said Mooney.
When asked what the main contributing factor was for Dreeshen’s overwhelming win, she pointed out that Innisfail-Sylvan Lake was traditionally a “very conservative riding.”
Despite the loss, Mooney is optimistic for the party’s overall fortunes for the next provincial election, which is expected next year.
“I think provincewide the NDP has done amazing things for Albertans,” said Mooney, adding she is confident the NDP can also build on its support in the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake riding. “I think there is a lot of excitement in the province with the pipeline being built, about the economy, about the jobs that have been created in the last year. I have heard from my supporters that they are really proud of the work Rachel Notley is doing in the province and they want to see that continue.”
The Alberta Party’s Douglass also took her result as a foundation to build on. As for Dreeshen’s overwhelming victory she pointed out it was a byelection in the middle of the summer and there was challenges getting the party’s message to more voters.
“I am just so focused on what we can do in the future and how we can keep building,” she said, adding her party has the ability to make serious inroads in the riding in the future. “I heard a lot of positive feedback at the doors. I think there is great momentum to build on. It is about more education and building on the momentum we have created.”
The Liberals’ Jansen declined to be interviewed but in a prepared statement he said his party will continue to fight for the issues that concern all Albertans in the legislature.
“The Alberta Liberals are fighting for a fair and balanced society that promotes economic growth and supports strong social services,” said Jansen.
Independent candidate Inscho said he was not surprised with the results and was “very happy” to run in the byelection as it gave more exposure for the platform of his Alberta Advantage Party.
“That I managed to accomplish. I am not saddened with the results, and of course I am the same as anybody else — you want to win but you have to be realistic,” he said, adding the party will be running a local candidate in the provincial election next year but it likely will not be him, but probably a local citizen. “We will definitely be running a candidate here, and I myself will definitely be running in the election.”
With files from Johnnie Bachusky