Conservatives clinch Calgary byelections: Stephanie Kusie and Bob Benzen elected
Calgary Heritage, Calgary Midnapore voters elect MPs to fill seats vacated by Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney
Voters in two federal Calgary ridings are keeping it Conservative — electing Bob Benzen and Stephanie Kusie as their new representatives in Ottawa.
Five federal byelections were held Monday in three provinces:
- Calgary Heritage
- Calgary Midnapore
Both Calgary Midnapore and Calgary Heritage have been considered Conservative strongholds since their creation.
Bob Benzen won the riding of Calgary Heritage with 71.5 per cent of the vote. The seat was vacated by former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, who left politics shortly after the 2015 federal election.
Benzen is a longtime Calgarian and small-business owner. According to his website, he is a loyal Conservative Party activist and donor who spearheaded the Decade of Excellence project to thank Harper for years of service.
At his victory rally Monday night, Benzen was introduced by the former prime minister's younger brother, Robert Harper.
"Many people have pointed out to me that I have really big shoes to fill," Benzen said, remarking the riding, as both Calgary Heritage and Calgary Southwest, was previously held by conservative heavyweights like Harper and former Reform Party leader Preston Manning.
Benzen told the crowd their victory sends a message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Calgary Heritage rejects the carbon tax, out-of-control spending and government mismanagement.
"What we want are jobs, economic growth and secure borders. And when I get to Ottawa, this is the message that I will deliver," he said.
Liberal candidate Scott Forsyth came in second in the byelection with 21.7 per cent of the vote. NDP candidate Khalis Ahmed came in third with 2.9 per cent.
In the 2015 election, Harper, the incumbent, won 64 per cent of the vote, while Liberal Brendan Miles took 26 per cent.
In Calgary Midnapore, Stephanie Kusie was elected to fill the seat previously held by former Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney, who resigned his seat to run for the Progressive Conservative leadership in Alberta, which he won.
"Tonight the voters in our riding chose to continue supporting the principles that have made Calgary Midnapore a bedrock of this nation," Kusie said to a cheering crowd.
Kusie is a former diplomat who ran in Ward 12 in the 2013 municipal election, losing out to Shane Keating. She then took over the role as executive director at Common Sense Calgary – described as a "citizen's advocacy group dedicated to lower taxation and responsible spending at city hall."
Kusie said her priorities in Ottawa will be to fight for lower taxes, defend the energy sector, promote responsible and accountable government and support seniors and small businesses.
"I think [the Conservative victory] sends a message that the Liberal Party's policies, [Prime Minister] Justin's [Trudeau] policies, are not working here in Calgary Midnapore," she said.
"This speaks of the wishes and the desires of the constituents in Calgary Midnapore — that they are simply not satisfied with the Liberal government and that they feel that they deserve better."
Kusie won the riding with a 77 per cent of the vote, according to Elections Canada, a higher margin than Kenney's 67 per cent of the vote in 2015.
Haley Brown, the Liberal candidate who also ran against Kenney in 2015, took 17 per cent of the vote — a drop from the 22 per cent she got in the last election. NDP candidate Holly Heffernan earned 2.5 per cent of votes.
Status quo, says political scientist
Despite both Bezen and Kusie's declarations their respective victories send a message to Trudeau's ruling party, Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, said the byelection results don't really say much about the state of politics in Canada at all.
"This is status quo," Bratt said. "Look at how much Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney won those ridings in 2015."
"It speaks more that Heritage and Midnapore are very blue ridings."
According to Elections Canada, voter turnout in both Calgary riding hovered around 33 per cent, which Bratt said reflects a lack of enthusiasm and buzz around the byelection.
"We're having five byelections simultaneously and normally, we view that as kind of a barometer on the government or almost like a mini election," he said.
"But the Liberals held onto their seats and the Conservatives held out to their seats and it wasn't even close."