A jubilant Dan Albas celebrates his win in the federal election on May 2. Albas

A jubilant Dan Albas celebrates his win in the federal election on May 2. Albas

Albas wins Okanagan Coquihalla seat

  • May. 2, 2011 6:00 p.m.

 

Dan Albas will vacate his seat on Penticton city council for a seat in the House of Commons in Ottawa as the Conservative MP for Okanagan Coquihalla as part of a majority government under the leadership of incumbent Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Albas, who replaces retiring MP Stockwell Day, won with 53.6 per cent of the local vote.

Summerland resident David Finnis, who served nine years on that community’s council, finished in a distant second place in the riding under the New Democratic banner with 24.1 per cent. 

Liberal John Kidder took the third-place finish with 10.9 per cent whereas Green Bouchard occupied fourth place with 9.4 per cent. 

Self-described Conservative Independent Sean Upshaw and Independent Dietrich Wittel secured1.6 per cent and 0.3 per cent of the local respectively. 

Albas, who celebrated his victory in the company of his family and several hundred supporters at the Penticton Golf and Country Club, perhaps the ultimate insider place in Penticton, told his audience that he would represent the riding with an eye towards ensuring that the federal government would “not only work well, but wisely and perhaps even a little more efficiently.” 

Albas also turned philosophical during his speech when he paraphrased the late U.S. president Ronald Reagan, an icon if not saint of many conservatives everywhere. 

“I pledge to balance my willingness to do good in Ottawa with the knowledge that government is never more dangerous than when our desire to have it help us blinds us to its great power to harm us,” said Albas. 

Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton welcomed Albas’ victory. Albas, he said, will continue to be an effective representative for the residents of the region, only this time in Ottawa. 

“I know he will take experience to the next higher level,” said Ashton, who expects that Albas will be an effective voice for municipal concerns. “It is always nice to have a friendly voice . . . in government,” said Ashton. 

Albas’ likely margin of victory once again confirmed Okanagan-Coquihalla as a Conservative stronghold during what many observers have already called an historic election that appears to have realigned the Canadian political landscape. 

Not only did the Conservatives win their first outright majority since 1988 with 167 seats; the election also confirmed polls that showed the New Democrats under Jack Layton surging. 

The rise of the New Democrats, which claimed Official Opposition status for the first time in its history with 102 seats according to official results, came at the expense of the Liberals who finished the evening with 34 seats, a loss of 43, and the Bloc Quebecois which lost 40 seats to finish with four seats, a devastating decline by any measure. 

Monday’s decisive outcome in favour of a Conservative majority also turned out to be a personal defeat for two major party leaders. 

Both Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe went down to defeat in their respective Ontario and Quebec ridings.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May also made Canadian political history when she became the first member of her party to a win a seat, winning the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands. 

Bouchard welcomed this historic development, but feared that the Conservative victory will polarize Canadian politics and society. 

“I think we have seen the absolute polarization of Canadian politics,” he said. “Everybody is in shock right now over what we have seen.”

It is not clear yet whether Albas’ victory in a fairly safe Conservative riding will earn him a prominent place in the Conservative caucus. 

But one could not deny the victorious atmosphere that marked his election. 

Conservative party supporters including several prominent local community leaders had started to gather at the Penticton Golf and Country well before polls closed at 7 p.m. 

As national results started to scroll across five big screen TVs tuned to CTV after Elections Canada had lifted its blackout of results elsewhere in the country, the mood of the room brightened as the Conservatives inched their way towards their eventual national majority of 167 seats, 12 more than the minimum.  

Finnis said the election outcome is good for the New Democrats as the party reached Official Opposition status for the first time in its history.

“We are the party that jumped the most seats,” he said. “We found a really strong base.”

However, he wondered if the Official Opposition status would be enough in a majority Conservative government.

“Will the Prime Minister even recognize that we are an opposition?” he asked.

At the Liberal party headquarters, John Kidder said the party nationally and in the riding will work on rebuilding itself.

He also mourned the decline of the Liberal centre voice in Ottawa.

“I think it’s important we don’t go into polarization now,” he said. 

Monday’s election concluded one of the most interesting campaigns in Okanagan Coquihalla in recent memory. Colour if not controversy accompanied the race to replace Day from the start when the shortened process leading to the nomination of Albas inspired several Conservatives inside and outside the riding to level charges of corruption against the local party establishment — complaints which the Albas camp vigorously rejected. 

While this alleged yet unsubstantiated stain on Albas’ nomination never appeared to threaten his prospects, Dietrich and more so Upshaw, did not miss many chances to frame the issue as evidence of their apparent superior integrity, ultimately unsuccessfully. 

Wittel, for his part, also used the platform which the election had offered him to promote his, well, rather unorthodox opinions about a number of issues, some relevant like genetically modified foods, others far less so, like his non-pharmaceutical cure for HIV/AIDS. 

Finnis and Kidder for their parts ran honourable but ultimately futile campaigns as the Conservatives won their long-desired national majority, a position that may be permanent for decades if the New Democrats, whose natural base of support is smaller than that of the Conservatives, solidify their position as the main opposition party. 

Canada, in other words, could feature an electoral alignment comparable to British Columbia, or perhaps more ominously in the minds of some, the United States.