Liberals win symbolic victories in Western Canada

They're not the West's best. But the Liberals scored big Prairie wins, anyway.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau arrives at a campaign rally in Calgary, Alberta, October 18, 2015. Canadians will go to the polls in a federal election on October 19. REUTERS/Chris Wattie - RTS5032

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau arrives at a campaign rally in Calgary, Alberta, October 18, 2015. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Looking at the electoral map of Western Canada it’s hard not to hear the words of another prime minister: “Well, welcome to the 1980s,” Pierre Trudeau declared after the 1980 election. Geographic divisions were clear then, and they still are today.

It’s hard to imagine a world in which the prairie west doesn’t vote along historical patterns; there, the right’s vote share has been climbing in every election since 1988. And 2015 was no different. The new Liberal government, however, notched a major symbolic win in Stephen Harper’s home turf. In Calgary, where many still harbour resentment over Pierre Trudeau’s much-reviled National Energy Program, former Liberal MLA Darshan Kang captured Calgary–Skyview. It was the party’s first win since 1968; and, as of midnight Pacific time, the Liberals remained locked in a tight battle in Calgary Confederation.

In bellwether cities like Winnipeg and Vancouver, the Liberals did very well. In Manitoba’s capital, where the party was reduced to a single seat in 2011, the Liberals clinched seven of eight seats, knocking off the NDP’s Pat Martin, who has held Winnipeg Centre since 1997. In St. James, they toppled popular incumbent Steven Fletcher, who has held the riding since 2004.

In B.C., where the Liberals were reduced to just two seats in 2011, the party was able to clinch major wins, particularly in the suburban Lower Mainland. The Liberals also brought in a host of new stars in diehard Tory territory, including former West Vancouver mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones. After taking out two-term incumbent John Weston last night, Goldsmith-Jones received a bouquet of red flowers from artist and local resident Douglas Coupland. Former Rhodes scholar and businessman Jonathan Wilkinson also beat out Conservative backbencher Andrew Saxton in West Vancouver.

The Tories will be closely analyzing these results, trying to determine whether they mark a rollback on the Conservatives’ ethnic efforts dashed by divisive anti-Muslim strategies.

In Fleetwood–Port Kells, public relations veteran Ken Hardie knocked off Nina Grewal, who has held the riding for a decade; and Sukh Dhaliwal took Surrey–Newton from the NDP. The Liberals are even leading in Coquitlam–Port Coquitlam, a riding carved out of Minister James’s Moore former seat.

It was also a big and historic night on First Nations communities. A number of First Nations, including Onigaming, Moose Factory, Kashechewan, Siksika and Lake St. Martin actually ran out of ballots. And the rising First Nations stars like Jody Wilson-Raybould, a We Wai Kai former prosecutor and Regional Chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, and Robert-Falcon Ouellette, a Cree university administrator, both stormed to victory in decisive victories in Vancouver and Winnipeg.

In Nunavut, Hunter Tootoo knocked off federal Environment Minister Conservative Leona Aglukkaq, capping off a Liberal sweep of the country’s three northernmost ridings.

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