While he won’t be sitting on the government side of the House of Commons, Banff-Airdrie Member of Parliament Blake Richards will be returning to Ottawa for another term as the riding’s federal government representative.
The Conservative Party of Canada MP, who is also the party's whip, soared to a fifth consecutive election victory on Sept. 20, securing 41,105 votes – or 57 per cent – in Banff-Airdrie.
“I've always saw myself as a voice for the people of the riding, whether I've been in government or opposition. I always feel there's a way you can be effective and getting called out for those viewpoints,” Richards said the morning after the election. “You just take a different approach, and I'll continue to take the approach I have.
“I believe we can still get results for our area. I believe that I can still be an effective voice for our constituents and always continue to work to do that.”
Richards added the priorities he heard from residents during the 36-day campaign were the country's recovery from COVID-19, affordability issues, and mental health impacts resulting from the pandemic. He added a focus of elected officials across the country will be helping businesses and individuals economically recover.
“We’ve got some work to do to help those industries to recover. We’ve got work to do to get people back to work,” he said.
Canadians re-elected a Liberal minority government on Sept. 20, with the party securing one riding more that in 2019. According to the unofficial results from Elections Canada, the Liberals were elected in 158 ridings – one more than the prior election, but 12 short of the 170 seats necessary to form a majority government. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will therefore continue as Prime Minister.
The Conservative Party will once again be the Official Opposition, with the party securing 119 seats, according to Elections Canada – two fewer than the Tories held after the 2019 election.
“Although Canadians have once again chosen the Liberals as their government, I can assure you that Canada’s Conservatives will continue to fight relentlessly in Parliament and stand up for all Canadians,” Richards said.
The Bloc Quebecois followed the Conservatives with 34 seats, while the NDP secured 25 ridings – one more than in 2019 – and the Green Party won two seats.
The People’s Party of Canada (PPC) did not secure any seats, though the right-wing, Libertarian-focused party did see triple the number of votes they did in 2019. According to the unofficial results, the PPC received about five per cent of the popular vote – twice that of the Green Party.
As for how other parties fared in the popular vote, the Conservative Party led with 34 per cent, the Liberals had about 32 per cent, the NDP had just below 18 per cent, and the Bloc had roughly eight per cent.
In Alberta, Conservative Party candidates won all but four of the province's 34 ridings. The NDP secured two seats in Edmonton, while the Liberals snatched a seat in both Calgary and Edmonton.
Banff-Airdrie is considered a Conservative stronghold, and has featured a Conservative MP since 2000. In 2019, Richards received 71 per cent of the vote and his previous lowest prior to this year was when he garnered 63 per cent in 2015. The highest percentage he got was just below 75 per cent in 2011, when the riding was known as Wild Rose.
This election, Banff-Airdrie was the most contested riding in Alberta, with nine candidates registered, including six party representatives and three independents.
Richards’ closest competitor in the local race was the NDP’s Sarah Zagoda. A resident of Airdrie, Zagoda said she was pleased with her final tally of 11,673 votes, or 16 per cent of the total.
“Actually, it shows that Airdrie – well our area, Banff-Airdrie – people want more progressive change here,” she said. “You know, the NDP Party has a lot of great things to offer. I went to all the forums, did my best with a small budget in three weeks.
“I'm really happy with the results, given what we had.”
In third place was David Gamble, the Liberals' representative. He received 8,766 votes, or 12.1 per cent. After the election, he highlighted how the Liberals did better than anticipated locally.
“I think it’s great we got some seats in Alberta,” he said. “I think that was an area we could have some improvement. I think it shows it’s important we have a strong provincial Liberal Party. You see the results from the NDP here, picking up another seat…and I think it’s clear a provincial party has a huge impact on the federal party.”
Nadine Wellwood, running under the PPC banner, collected 5,548 votes, or about 7.7. per cent of the votes in Banff-Airdrie. Independent candidate Derek Sloan amassed 1,831 votes, or roughly 2.5 per cent of the popular vote.
Rounding out the Banff-Airdrie race was Tariq Elnaga from the western-autonomy-focused Maverick Party, who received 1.9 per cent of the vote, Green Party candidate Aidan Blum with 1.8 per cent, independent Caroline O’Driscoll with 0.6 per cent and independent Ron Voss with 0.1 per cent.
Richards said it is unclear when he will return to Ottawa, but added it is likely to be in the coming weeks, as the priorities of economic recovery are vital for the region.
According to Elections Canada, just under 16 million eligible Canadians voted in the 2021 election, for a voter turnout of 58.44 per cent. Banff-Airdrie saw a voter turnout of about 65 per cent.
—With files from Greg Colgan/Rocky Mountain Outlook