Rickford claims new mandate as Kenora MP

Newly re-elected Kenora MP Greg Rickford shares a hug with a campaign supporter as his win was confirmed, Monday night at his Dryden campaign office. Photo by Chris Marchand

Conservative Party candidate and incumbent Member of Parliament Greg Rickford was the clear favourite among Kenora Riding voters in the 2011 Federal Election, May 2.

Rickford captured a convincing 46.9 per cent of votes (11,566) in the five-way race, making gains of nearly seven per cent in an election marked by astonishing losses for the federal Liberals and a long sought majority government for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Support for Liberal challenger and former Kenora MP Roger Valley slipped by 10 percentage points, a story that played out coast-to-coast as centre-left voters jumped a sinking Liberal ship to throw their support behind the New Democrats.

NDP candidate Tania Cameron posted impressive gains over 2008 with a 28.2 per cent share of the 24,685 votes cast in the Kenora Riding.

Green Party candidate Mike Schwindt picked up 637 votes, while Independent candidate Kelvin Chicago-Boucher received 146 votes.

Voter turnout numbers showed 60.3 per cent of registered voters checking in at the polls.

Greg Rickford spent the evening at his Dryden campaign office surrounded by supporters, elated by news of Conservative majority.

Rickford says concern for well-being of the economy has been the overriding issue in the campaign and the focus of the Conservative platform. He says infrastructure development efforts that began with stimulus funding through Canada’s Action Plan will continue to evolve.

“We can focus on turning that into growth,” said Rickford. “In Dryden we’ll start looking at tenants for the business and industrial parks, the mining industry in Red Lake can start to spread out in the commercial development site we funded. Some of our First Nation communities as well have foundational pieces that bode well for their integration into an economic model that includes the entire region.”

Relief over his party’s majority government was apparent in the Conservative candidate.

“We’ve had four elections in seven years,” he said. “You give up a lot as a person, not just in the campaign, but in the run-up. We have wonderful volunteers, but it’s hard on people. I just think the national political machine was going to hit a fatigue factor if we didn’t have a stop-gap. It’s going to give the electorate a break from having us on their doorstep.”

The mood was significantly more subdued at Liberal Roger Valley’s King St. campaign office.

“It wasn’t unexpected with what we could see going on in the polls,” said Valley. “We always face a stiff challenge from Mr. Rickford, but the orange tide was sweeping this way and we knew we were going to be in trouble with that.”

Knocked from 77 to 34 seats in the House of Commons with party leader Michael Ignatieff unseated in his own riding, Valley says a massive shift in the centre-left vote is a clear message to his party.

“The voters wanted to go somewhere and we couldn’t engage them,” said Valley. “I’m proud to work with Michael Ignatieff and I’m proud of our platform, but we could not deliver that platform to the Canadian people — that was very clear. They (voters) wanted to coalesce around somebody and they saw that person in Jack Layton. It was an historic night for the NDP and I congratulate all of them.”

Chris Marchand

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