Justin Trudeau’s Liberals had a lot to smile about Monday: they bested their NDP rivals in one key Toronto riding, beat back a Conservative challenge in another and even delivered a strong showing in the heart of oilsands country.
In Trinity-Spadina, long a New Democrat riding once held by Olivia Chow, widow of beloved former NDP leader Jack Layton, Liberal superstar Adam Vaughan defeated New Democrat hopeful Joe Cressy.
— Natalie Duddridge (@CityNatalie) July 1, 2014
As we succeed, and as we fail, always we begin again. Soon we will begin again. I just called to congratulate @TOAdamVaughan on his victory.
— Joe Cressy (@joe_cressy) July 1, 2014
Further east in Scarborough-Agincourt, Arnold Chan, a lawyer and former political aide at the Ontario legislature, managed to keep the riding in the Liberal fold, beating elementary school teacher and Conservative candidate Trevor Ellis.
Turnout was actually highest in Trinity-Spadina, at just over 30 per cent, and Scarborough-Agincourt, where it fell just shy of the same mark. Less than 19 per cent of eligible voters turned out in Macleod and only 15 per cent in Fort McMurray.
In Fort McMurray, the Liberals surged from a meagre 10 per cent of the vote in 2011 to more than 35 per cent — enough to put a scare into the Conservatives, if not defeat them.
David Yurdiga, former reeve and Athabasca county councillor, captured about 47 per cent of the vote to hold the seat for the governing party, besting Liberal Kyle Harrietha by roughly 12 percentage points. But the Tory share of the vote was still down significantly from the 72 per cent it won in 2011.
The surge in Liberal support in Fort McMurray suggests Trudeau is managing to turn around perceptions of his party in Alberta — a political wasteland for the Grits since Trudeau’s late father, Pierre, imposed the reviled national energy program more than three decades ago.
“Huge numbers of Liberals that we’d never before seen came out and sent a very, very clear message: that Albertans are tired of being taken for granted and are looking very closely at the 2015 election,” Trudeau told party faithful at Vaughan’s victory party.
Only in the southern Alberta riding of Macleod were the Liberals not a factor: former journalist John Barlow cruised to victory with about 69 per cent of the vote, well clear of Liberal rival Dustin Fuller.
Barlow wasted little time before declaring victory Monday.
“This is the culmination of eight months of hard work and it definitely feels worthwhile today. I thought this day would never come,” Barlow said in a victory speech that came just 30 minutes after the polls closed.
More than 100 supporters cheered loudly when he entered the Italian restaurant in High River accompanied by his wife Louise and children.
“What this really came down to was passion and how hard we worked. The message we had is Macleod is not going to be forgotten. We cannot take Macleod for granted.”
Barlow said he intends to locate his constituency office in High River, which has been decimated since massive floods last year turned the town’s streets into rivers of water.
“If there’s one issue that really bound Macleod together over the past year was that flood,” he said.
“We have a lot of work to do and I will be here from this day forward to make sure that work gets done.”
Scarborough-Agincourt had long been the personal fiefdom of Jim Karygiannis, a bare-knuckle political brawler who held the riding for the Grits for 25 years.
His decision to retire from federal politics to run municipally gave the Conservatives an opportunity to paint another suburban Toronto riding blue, appealing to the conservative, family values of the ethnically diverse population.
But despite papering the riding with flyers attacking Trudeau’s support for legalization of marijuana, Conservatives didn’t make much of a dent in Liberal support. Chan actually managed to increase the Liberal margin of victory.
With files from Joan Bryden, Bill Graveland in High River, Alta., and Alexandra Bosanac, Ethan Lou and Anne-Marie Vettorel in Toronto