By Lethbridge Herald on May 6, 2015.
Years of campaigning in Lethbridge West — and visits from a dynamic party leader — paid off Tuesday for Shannon Phillips. A second-time candidate for the New Democratic Party, Phillips took an early lead en route to a plurality of more than 7,000 votes (59 per cent support of the votes) over Progressive Conservative incumbent and former cabinet minster Greg Weadick. Wildrose candidate Ron Bain ran third with 3,017 votes, while Liberal standardbearer Sheila Pyne tallied 639.
An ecstatic throng cheered Phillips as she arrived at the Galt Museum’s view gallery, with many younger faces among a crowd of longtime party faithful. Television networks began declaring her party elected with a majority government little more than half an hour after polls closed.
After meeting thousands of voters at the doorstep, Phillips said she wasn’t surprised at the result.
“You never take voter support for granted,” she said. But polls, here and across the province, showed growing support for the party as the campaign moved ahead.
“We were on the uptick, while the other parties were trending down,” she said. “We knew it was going to be good.”
By mid-campaign, Phillips said, she was confident that Lethbridge East candidate Maria Fitzpatrick was also doing well.
“Maria was running an excellent campaign.”
While the newly elected government will focus on health care, seniors’ care and other elements of its campaign, Phillips said it’s not clear how soon it will be ready to call a new session of the legislature.
And before that, the premier-elect must put together a cabinet, she added.
Whether Lethbridge is represented in the cabinet, Phillips said, “is up to the leader.”
Then Phillips joined the jubilant crowed to hear the televised victory speech from Notley, who spent time campaigning with her in Lethbridge before and after the election was called.
Earlier, Weadick came by to congratulate Phillips and chat with voters. He was not immediately available for comment on the election results.
Last time, Weadick won 36.6 per cent of the vote, with 5,390 votes to Phillips’ 4,275. She’s been doorknocking and speaking on key issues ever since.
For Phillips, an economic policy analyst, the Prentice budget was just one of the issues in play. The PC government announced plans to cut more than $1 billion out of the health care and education budgets, she warned. They also planned a $60 million cut in seniors’ drug coverage, she said, along with service reductions in seniors’ home care. She slammed the Tory government for capping the number of long-term care beds in Alberta, despite the growing population, leaving nearly 1,200 Alberta seniors with no suitable place to stay in their final years.
By contrast, she promised an NDP government would develop 2,000 long-term care beds over the next four years, along with 600,000 square feet of active hospital space.
Earlier, responding to citizens’ concerns about plans for exploratory oil wells near
westside homes and schools, she revealed “secret documents” in support of the public campaign against government approval, calling for the government to create a coherent policy on urban drilling.
For his part, Weadick campaigned as a former alderman and community leader who offered “a strong voice in Edmonton,” a government member with years of experience and knowledge.
He backed Prentice’s moves to create “new revenue” and economic diversification as ways to break Alberta’s reliance on the energy sector’s notorious boom-and-bust cycle.
Shannon Phillips, NDP – 11,284
Greg Weadick, PC – 3,984
Ron Bain, Wildrose – 3,017
Sheila Pyne, Liberal – 639
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