Orange Surge

Edmonton NDP supporters celebrate, while the Liberals fail to take any seats in the city
Angela Brunschot

At the Crown Plaza Hotel on Bellamy Hill, the concierge at the front tells a young couple looking for the NDP election night party to “follow the cheering” down the hall.

In the main room on the bottom floor, supporters are stuffed in 100 deep in front of the television screens on the just the right hand side of the room.

The crowd is a diverse mix of suits and jeans, ponytails, brush cuts and grey hairs. Women with small babies sit in the back and chat with each other. A toddler runs through the lobby.

A jubilant Linda Duncan, re-elected as MP for Edmonton-Strathcona, takes to the stage in a roar of deafening cheers.

“You are all invited to Stornoway!” she says. “All of you together did this.”

For the first time in history, the NDP are now the official Opposition. The gains the NDP made in Eastern Canada are certainly evident in Edmonton, as the crowd erupts in shouts with each seat that turns orange. In all, the NDP won 102 seats, according to election night results. The Liberals were crushed, and the Conservatives have their majority.

For James and Dylan Cuvilier, the NDP surge is an amazing first brush with politics. This is the first time James, 20, has voted. Dylan says the NDP were the only option for the two brothers.

“I’m not rich, and I’m not going to be rich soon,” the 24-year-old Dylan says. “I want to make sure that if I get sick there will be hospitals.”

Caught up in the excitement, Dylan even declares interest in running for the NDP in the next election, after outgoing candidate Ray Martin calls on the next generation of candidates to take his place.

But the night isn’t all exuberance. Ed Boraas watches from the back of the room, his arms crossed over his chest. He’s certainly happy to be in the epicenter of NDP support in Edmonton, but he’s also a little angry. In his riding of Edmonton-Centre, the Democracy Project, a strategic voting website, supported the Liberal candidate Mary MacDonald as the progressive candidate to win. However, even as the results just started pouring in at 8:30 p.m., NDP candidate Lewis Cardinal was in second place, and indeed would go on to beat MacDonald.

“That really makes me upset,” he says, wondering how many left-leaning people were convinced to vote for the Liberals in the hopes of beating Laurie Hawn and the Conservatives. By the end of the night, Hawn had won with 47.9 per cent of the vote, or slightly less than Cardinal and MacDonald put together.

Edmonton, Blue Again

The evening was also disappointing for Ben Henderson, city councillor for Ward 8. With Edmonton returning every Conservative candidate, he’s concerned about funding for public transit.

“We need the feds to come to the table for the next leg of the LRT,” he says while attending the Liberal election night party at the Coast Hotel.

Right now, the city has enough money from the provincial and the federal governments to finish the NAIT line and plan some of the next stages, but in order to complete the Mill Woods and west lines, the city needs the federal government onside, he says. With all the Tories returned to Ottawa, it’s unlikely the Conservatives will see Edmonton as a city they need to be concerned about.

He points to the failed Expo bid as well as the abandoned National Portrait Gallery, saying he hopes he’s wrong, but he doesn’t see a lot of support for the city with a Conservative majority.

“It sure feels like as soon as they find out it’s Edmonton, they lose interest,” he says.

Liberal Loss

But the Liberal supporters themselves have much more to be melancholy about this evening.

Ryan Adam sits on the pavement outside the hotel on 105th Street and runs his fingers though dark brown hair, which at 11 p.m. on election night practically stands up on it’s own. His candidate, Mary MacDonald, ended the night in third place.

Adam worked in communications on President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, so he’s no political newbie. Tonight, however, he seems confused. Just a little over four hours ago he was out on Jasper Avenue reminding pedestrians to vote, full of energy and optimism. Citing the strong advanced voter turnout, especially in Edmonton-Centre, he says he was encouraged.

MacDonald says she just didn’t get the national bump she needed to win, saying she saw the results early in the night, as the Liberals were defeated in the East. “You started to see the national results and started to expect that,” she says.

She doesn’t regret campaigning as the progressive choice in Edmonton-Centre, and attempting to convince voters to support her as the candidate to beat the Conservatives, even though the NDP candidate beat her for second place.

As much as MacDonald’s supporters are saddened by her loss, the national party losing official Opposition status weights heavier.

“More than anything, that shocked us,” says Jill Swenson, a 28-year-old MacEwan student and a Liberal volunteer. “For this huge shift to occur, obviously it speaks to the orange surge.”



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