UPDATE: Ron Orr re-elected in Lacombe-Ponoka

Incumbent gets second term to represent voters in Edmonton

After unofficial results proclaimed the United Conservatives’ Jason Kenney the next premier of Alberta, voters in Lacombe-Ponoka awarded UCP incumbent MLA Ron Orr a second term.

The unofficial announcement came quite soon after polls closed at 8 p.m., with some media outlets proclaiming Kenney’s majority government in just over 30 minutes.

“I am really excited and I am looking forward to have the opportunity to ability to influence some government policy moving forward. I think Albertans are really excited with the way the votes came out and to see change in Alberta,” Orr said.

After giving a speech regarding the growth of the “Conservative movement” since the last election and posing for a photo with his family, it was announced that Orr will continue to represent Lacombe-Ponoka — something he says he is taking seriously.

“I think the important thing moving forward is to truly respect the trust Albertans have given us and to work really hard to deliver good government. It is one thing to win an election, it is another thing to be a good government and that is where I want to go,” he said.

Orr, who won with 68.1 per cent of the vote, said the UCP was given a strong mandate for the party and Premier Kenney to work with.

“We definitely have a good majority and we will be able to fill the mandate and the campaign we put forward to Albertans,” he said, adding part of what the election has shown is the division within Alberta.

“I think what we have seen here is a clear demonstration of the polarity that has happened in Albertan politics,” Orr said. “There is nothing in the middle. You are either strongly on one side or the other. That’s not all bad to have people with strong opinions, but it clearly demonstrates that politics is more polar in Alberta.

“Quite frankly, that is happening in other parts of the western world as well.”

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Orr said that the NDP focus on UCP candidates differed from the policy approach he and his party took. He believes that focus will lead to a stronger Albertan economy.

“Clearly Alberta has been through downturns in oil before — that is not new,” he said. “What was new this time is that in edition to the price downturn, we had significant different policy that we have never had before. That drove a lot of investment and jobs out.

“Policy has a huge influence on people’s lives and when we change those policies, I think we will see a new day dawn in Alberta.”

Closer to home, Orr said he will begin working right away issues within Lacombe-Ponoka.

“The oil and gas industry and manufacturing industries are important, agriculture is very important to us as a riding as well as other kinds of industries,” he said. “I am going to partner together with other new UCP MLAs in central Alberta to represent central Alberta issues, particularly seniors care. We need to change the way seniors care is being handled and increase the facilities.

“We need to talk about the central Alberta delivery of healthcare because it has been inequitable and we will absolutely work together as a central Alberta caucus.”

The main rival in the riding was the NDP’s Doug Hart, who was disappointed with the result, but not overly shocked.

“I was mildly surprised by the results. The Conservatives went to great lengths to gather everyone together and I didn’t think that their ‘big tent’ wouldn’t share the same ideals,” said Hart, who captured just 3,491 votes.

“I’m not convinced that they have a clear plan for the next four years. All of the parties had the economy and pipelines as priorities, but the UCP are hoping for $100 per barrel oil that I feel is simply unrealistic.”

Hart felt that the Rachel Notley led NDP deserved another mandate.

“I think the NDP did a wonderful job given the economy they took over and having to face several economic challenges. The UCP and other blamed the NDP, but oil price tanked eight months before the 2015 snap election was called because Jim Prentice saw the writting on the wall,” he said.

As for the coming months and years, Hart isn’t too optimistic that Albertans will be spared the sharp edge of the sword, being likened to Ralph Klein 2.0.

“In 2014, royalty revenue was over $9 billion and by 2016 that dropped to $3 billion. With a four per cent planned cut in corporate taxes and Alberta already having the smallest business tax rate in the country, that makes for a $9 billion hole with the inclination of the UCP to balance the budget quickly,” he said.

“What this will mean for regular Albertans, I believe, is a reduction to public services that will include bigger class sizes in schools, cuts to hospitals and longer waits for health care.”

Alberta Party candidate Myles Chykerda, came in third with 10.4 per cent of the vote, to Hart’s 15 per cent for Lacombe-Ponoka.

“I’m of coursen disappointed with the overall results of the province,” said Chykerda.

In his own riding, as a bit of an unknown party in a very conservative riding, results were fairly expected, but he’d hoped the party would do better provincially, he says.

Chykerda had hoped Greg Clark would keep his seat, and him losing it was “gut-wrenching,” he said.

Clark is the former leader of the Alberta Party, and was the party’s sole MLA after the 2015 election.

Chykerda about doubled the amounts of votes the Alberta Party received in Lacombe-Ponoka this election and he said, “That’s something to be proud of.”

In the next few days, Chykerda will be working on removing his signs, and then after a few days off, go back to working on his dissertation on archaeology.

As for the future of Alberta, Chykerda has concerns.

“I’m hoping for the best but I’m really not sure what to expect,” he said. “I’m concerned about Jason Kenney’s overall messaging, promising lots of change, really fast with no consultation.”

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UCP candidate Ron Orr presents his opening statement with the other candidates looking on during the Ponoka Chamber sponsored forum on Mar. 28. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

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