The heart of Calgary turned Conservative blue Monday as newcomer Greg McLean unseated lone Liberal incumbent Kent Hehr in a firm victory in Calgary Centre.
“I was the name on the ballot, and at the end of the day, it’s my voters who didn’t send me back to Ottawa. So it’s a combination of things and ultimately, if you look at the work we did, I thought we had a chance to win it, but it wasn’t in the cards tonight,” Hehr said.
Hehr’s team confirmed to Postmedia that he conceded at about 9 p.m. and had called McLean to offer congratulations.
“We knocked doors, we stuffed envelopes, we went out there with a positive message each and every day. I am so proud of every one of you,” Hehr told a crowd of about 200 supporters at the Palace Theatre before speaking about his opponent.
“Greg is a classy guy. He always treated me with dignity and respect and I know he is going to do an excellent job for the people of Calgary Centre.”
Kent Hehr greets supporters at the Palace in Calgary on Monday, October 21, 2019. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia Darren Makowichuk / DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia
McLean has spent his career working in finance, according to the Conservative party website, and spent six years advising two cabinet ministers on a federal level in three separate portfolios.
McLean, an investment portfolio manager and previous adviser to two cabinet ministers in former prime minister Brian Mulroney’s government, celebrated his victory at the downtown Wurst restaurant with supporters.
“I’ve gotten to share my life with people, far and wide, hear their hopes, their cares, their concerns, and it has truly been an honour to work alongside them,” Hehr said.
“I’m elated for my team that we pulled this off. There was a lot of nervousness coming into this because we were up against a political machine,” said McLean. “We didn’t know what tonight would hold.”
He thanked Hehr for his service, but said his rival hasn’t voted in the interests of Calgary and he wants to change that moving forward.
While McLean was victorious, he has a tough battle ahead against a re-elected Liberal government, they said.
“It is going to be difficult being in opposition when you see so much going wrong in Ottawa, identify what needs to be done but that doesn’t resonate with the rest of the country,” said McLean.
Pundits had predicted Calgary Centre would be the only competitive local constituency come election day.
That proved false, with unofficial results placing McLean thousands of votes ahead of Hehr, despite the Liberal candidate being a prolific campaigner.
The inner-city riding stretches from Eau Claire in the north to Glenmore Trail in the south and includes the communities of Beltline, Mission and Elbow Park.
Hehr was the first federal Liberal to win the seat in Calgary Centre in 50 years. He took office alongside fellow Liberal Darshan Kang in Calgary Skyview. The pair were the first Liberal MPs elected in the city since 1968.
A series of controversies swirled during Hehr’s term in office, including accusations of sexual harassment and making insensitive remarks to a group of thalidomide survivors.
He served as the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence in Trudeau’s first cabinet and later Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities after a cabinet shuffle in late 2017.
The Conservatives have captured back both Calgary seats they had lost to the Liberals in 2015, including ousting former Liberal minister Kent Hehr, and turned the city entirely blue, CBC News projects.
Hehr's team confirmed to CBC News around 9 p.m. that Hehr had conceded and called Conservative Greg McLean to congratulate him on his victory.
"Greg is a classy guy, he always treated me with dignity and respect and I know he's going to do an excellent job for Calgary Centre," Hehr said in a concession speech around 9:45 p.m.
As of 11:30 p.m., McLean had captured 56 per cent of the vote to Hehr's 27 per cent, with 222 of 228 polls reporting.
A few minutes later, McLean took to the stage at his campaign headquarters to cheers of "Greg, Greg," which changed to cheers of "Ruth, Ruth" as his wife joined him.
McLean has spent 20 years working in finance, and is the director of a private oil-and-gas technology company. In the late '80s and early '90s, he worked for Conservative cabinet ministers on files like the privatization of portions of Via Rail and CN Rail, and the transfer of airports to local airport authorities. He and his wife have four sons.
"When I started this, I did not foresee this outcome. It's going to be difficult being in opposition when you see so much going wrong in Ottawa," he said, adding that the rest of Canada needs to understand Alberta's needs.
Hehr, who was once minister of veterans affairs and later took on the sports and persons with disabilities portfolio, had stepped down from the Liberal cabinet after allegations of sexual harassment.
On Monday night, Hehr thanked his team, wife Deanna Holt and mother Judy Hehr for their support in what he said can be a tough and mean-spirited line of work.
That included the inner city riding of Calgary-Centre, which went from red to blue as Kent Hehr lost his seat to Conservative Greg Mclean.
"I've had 12 years in this business and I've gotten to share my life with people," he said.
"A couple hours ago this campaign came to an end. But I know the work for a better city, a better province, a better country…. I will keep working at it, I know you all in this room will keep working at it, and, my goodness, my heart is so full."
"We now have a new MP and my ask is that we treat him the way we wish Kent had been treated," she said.
Alex Foster and his wife Kerry immigrated to Canada in January 2016 and have been Canadian citizens for four days.
The riding was one of two in Calgary that the Liberals pried away from the Tories in the 2015 election, marking the first time the party had picked up seats in the city since 1968.
The other was Calgary Skyview, where Darshan Kang won the seat as a Liberal in 2015. He resigned from the party two years later after sexual harassment allegations and didn't run again.
Despite a last-minute visit to Calgary Skyview by Justin Trudeau on Saturday night, Liberal Nirmala Naidoo lost out there to Conservative Jag Sahota, according to CBC News.
Sahota operates her own law practice in northeast Calgary, and volunteers with a number of organizations including the Calgary Immigrant Women's Association and the Elizabeth Fry Society.
"The issue is that the economy across the country is firing on all cylinders except in Alberta, which should be the engine of the country," said Nenshi.
While final vote counts likely won't be out for a few days, these are the candidates that have been elected in Calgary, according to CBC News projections:
The Liberals were shut out of Alberta as a whole, with Conservative candidates claiming victory in 33 of the 34 ridings. The only exception was Edmonton-Strathcona, which stayed in NDP hands.
In Calgary, as of 11:30 p.m., Conservatives had 69 per cent of the vote, Liberals had 15 per cent, NDP had 9 per cent, Greens 4 per cent, and the People's Party 2 per cent, with 2,932 of 2,999 polls (98 per cent) reporting.
Across Canada, Liberals had 33 per cent of the vote while Conservatives had 35 per cent, with 95 per cent of polls reporting.
While most voters cast their ballots Monday, many Albertans also voted early this year. One in five eligible voters in Alberta (578,219 people) cast their ballots in the advance polls between Oct. 11 and Oct. 14, a 59 per cent increase from 2015's federal election.
Rick Bennetts told CBC News after casting his ballot that he feels there was "too much negativity and no real solid platforms from anybody."
"There was a lot of mud-slinging and we didn't seem to get to the bottom of the matter. I felt that it was left to myself to get the information I needed to make an appropriate vote," Karen Meades said.
One Calgary Conservative who has lost their seat — albeit not in Calgary — is George Canyon. The Calgary resident, and long-time anthem singer for the NHL Flames, ran in his home riding of Central Nova in Nova Scotia. CBC News has projected Canyon will lose to Liberal incumbent Sean Fraser.
Throughout the 40-day campaign, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau have been in a tight race. Right up to election day, polls suggested it was likely neither party would capture the 170 seats needed to form a majority government.
"Know that you are an essential part of this great country. I've heard your frustration and I want to be there to support you. Let us all work hard to bring our country together," he said.
Scheer said he spoke with Trudeau to congratulate him, but said the results "put Justin Trudeau on notice."
Political scientist Anthony Sayers said he's cautiously optimistic the parties can work together on issues important to Albertans.
"I don't think a minority Liberal government is the worst possible outcome for Albertans. In fact … it's a period where all sorts of things are open for negotiation," Sayers said. "We have a government that purchased a pipeline. It needs to make that pipeline work."
As of 11:30 p.m., CBC News was projecting the Liberals elected in 156 seats, the Conservatives in 122, the Bloc in 32, the NDP in 24, the Greens in 3 and one Independent.
"A minority government is an opportunity for all our elected leaders to reach across the aisle and demonstrate just how powerful the 'AND' conversation can be. Let's give Canada more Canada," Chamber president and CEO Sandip Lalli said.
Another election, this one unofficial, took place across the country today — the student vote. More than 1.1 million elementary and secondary school students cast ballots in the mock vote, which is hosted by CIVIX, a non-partisan charity dedicated to strengthening democracy through citizenship education, and in partnership with Elections Canada.
In Alberta, 46 per cent of students voted Conservative, leading to a hypothetical 30 seats for the party. Just 13 per cent of students voted Liberal, with one seat for the party in Edmonton Mill Woods, while 21 per cent voted NDP, with two seats in Calgary Forest Lawn and Calgary Skyview.
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