Jason Kenney clinches Calgary-Lougheed byelection, defeats 2 provincial party leaders

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​Former MP and United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney officially has a seat in the Alberta Legislature, after defeating two other provincial party leaders in the Calgary-Lougheed byelection Thursday night.

Kenney won the contest with more than 70 per cent of the vote. NDP candidate Phillip van der Merwe came in second with 16 per cent and Alberta Liberal Party Leader David Khan took third with just under 10 per cent of the vote. Green Party Leader Romy Tittel received less than one per cent of the total votes.

“Tonight sends a clear message that we are united, that we are stronger together and that if we stay humble and work hard, we are on track to defeat this job-killing, socialist government and to renew Alberta as a place of opportunity,” Kenney told a cheering crowd at his Calgary-Lougheed byelection headquarters.

36% voter turnout

Unofficial numbers from Elections Alberta show 10,852 people voted in Thursday’s byelection — just over 35 per cent of Calgary-Lougheed’s 30,023 registered electors. That number is down from the 51 per cent voter turnout in the 2015 election.

Van der Merwe said with voter turnout being so low, he doesn’t see tonight’s contest as a victory or a loss.

“The voter turnout was around 30 per cent, which still tells me that there’s so many voters out there that are disengaged, disenfranchised and not engaging in the process of democracy, and that concerns me,” he said.

The Alberta Liberal’s nine per cent of the vote was an increase from the 2015 general provincial election, where the party’s candidate Leila Keith got only 4.8 per cent of the overall vote. Khan said tonight’s voter turnout makes him optimistic about the party’s future.

“We really increased our vote share from 2015 so it’s showing that we’ve got momentum and we’re building this party and building to 2019,” Khan said.

Moving forward

Kenney, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister, helped spearhead the merger between Alberta’s two conservative parties — the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties. The UCP was officially formed in July, with Kenney being elected the new party’s leader on Oct. 28.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley congratulated Kenney on his victory on social media by tweeting, “I look forward to debating you in the House.”

The historically conservative Calgary-Lougheed riding, which has been held by a member of the Progressive Conservative Party since it was created in 1993, became vacant when MLA Dave Rodney stepped down to allow Kenney a chance to run for the provincial seat.

Elections Alberta used automated vote tabulators for the first time in the province for this byelection. The new technology meant the final tally was revealed less than an hour after the polls closed.

Anthony Sayers, a political scientist with the University of Calgary, said when the night’s celebrations have come to an end, the next step for Kenney will be to unify his caucus — a task that might be easier said than done in the new, unified conservative party.

“There are bruised egos, and egos, and historically quite big differences in the political preferences of the people currently in caucus,” he said.

Sayers called Kenney’s resounding win a “proof of concept moment” — evidence that it was the right move to unite the right into one conservative party.

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Jason Kenney clinches Calgary-Lougheed byelection, defeats 2 provincial party leaders

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