Wildrose take Calgary-Foothills byelection over NDP in tight race

The Wildrose Party has defeated the governing NDP's candidate in a close race in the Calgary-Foothills byelection.

Prasad Panda made his acceptance speech as the last poll results rolled in

Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean stands with Prasad Panda, the unofficial winner in tonight's byelection in Calgary-Foothills. (Allison Dempster/CBC)

The Wildrose Party has defeated the governing NDP's candidate in a close race in the Calgary-Foothills byelection.

"I'm so happy that the voters of Calgary-Foothills put their faith in me and the Wildrose," said Prasad Panda in his victory speech.

"People are really worried about jobs and the economy. Both the opposition and the government should be paying attention to that and bring back the economy on track. That is what we should be doing." 

It's the third time he has run under the Wildrose banner in the city, being defeated twice in the riding of Calgary-Northern Hills.

"It's a sweet victory," said Panda.

'At least we were contenders'

Unofficial results have Panda leading with roughly 38 per cent of the vote, ahead of NDP candidate Bob Hawkesworth with about 26 per cent. PC candidate Blair Houston trails in third with 22 per cent.

Voter turnout was roughly 39 per cent.

"Let's put everything in perspective," said Hawkesworth. "At least we were contenders."

Candidates for the Calgary-Foothills byelection. From left: Liberal Ali Bin Zahid; Wildrose Prasad Panda; PC Blair Houston; Green Party Janet Keeping; NDP Bob Hawkesworth and Alberta Party Mark Taylor. Independent candidate Antoni Grochowski is not pictured. ( Party/CBC)
He says the party will have to work harder to achieve their goals.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci said in a statement the party knew it would be an uphill battle "given the history of the riding and the economic challenges we face because of the collapse in oil prices."

The riding has belonged to the PC party since 1971.

5 parties in Calgary

The Wildrose has only been elected in Calgary three times before in the party's history: in a 2009 byelection and two seats in the 2012 vote.

There are now five parties holding Calgary's 25 seats: 

  • NDP: 14 seats.
  • PC: seven seats.
  • Alberta Party: one seat belonging to leader Greg Clark.
  • Liberal: one seat belonging to leader David Swann.
  • WRP: one seat now belonging to Prasad Panda.
  • Independent: one seat belonging to Deborah Drever, who was kicked out of the NDP caucus after the election.

Until their big win in May, the NDP had not won a seat in Calgary since 1989. With less than 22 per cent of tonight's vote, the PCs have much to consider for future races.

The real question now is whether there will be more calls for parties to unite. Former high-profile members of both the PCs and Wildrose has suggested in the past the two parties should consider it.

Vote held to replace Prentice

The provincial vote was called after former premier Jim Prentice resigned shortly after his party lost the spring election.

It was the third time residents in the riding had to cast a ballot in the last year. 

Voters had picked Prentice to be their MLA in a byelection in October 2014. 

They went back to the polls on May 5 for the provincial election, and Thursday they were asked to vote again.

See a recap of the night's event as tweeted by CBC reporters here.