UCP candidates win in Alberta byelections

Devin Dreeshen was elected with roughly 80 per cent of the vote in the riding of Innisfail-Sylvan Lake while Laila Goodridge captured nearly 66 per cent of the vote in Fort McMurray-Conklin.

Devin Dreeshen (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake) and Laila Goodridge (Fort McMurray-Conklin) elected by wide margins

UCP candidates Devin Dreeshen (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake) and Laila Goodridge (Fort McMurray-Conklin) were elected in two byelections held Thursday. (Facebook)

United Conservative Party candidates won by wide margins in two Alberta byelections on Thursday.

Devin Dreeshen was elected with roughly 80 per cent of the vote in the riding of Innisfail-Sylvan Lake while Laila Goodridge captured nearly 66 per cent of the vote in Fort McMurray-Conklin. 

The results have not yet been made official by Elections Alberta. 

NDP candidate Nicole Mooney finished a distant second in the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake riding, finishing with just over nine per cent of the vote.

In Fort McMurray-Conklin, the NDP's Jane Stroud was a stronger second, finishing with nearly 30 per cent of the vote. 

The byelections were triggered by the resignations of UCP MLA Don MacIntyre in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake and former Wildrose leader and UCP MLA Brian Jean in Fort McMurray-Conklin.

Jean stepped down from his seat in March after losing the United Conservative Party leadership race to Jason Kenney.

MacIntyre resigned in February after he was charged with sexual offences against a girl under the age of 16. That case is expected to be resolved in early 2019 without going to trial.

The results will not change the balance of power in the legislature since Premier Rachel Notley's NDP holds 54 of the 87 seats.

The winning candidate will have to run again in less than a year when the spring 2019 general election is called.

Dreeshen, the son of local Conservative MP Earl Dreeshen, said he heard the same three things repeatedly when he was door-knocking in central Alberta: Concerns about the economy, the carbon tax and rural crime.

Dreeshen campaigned for U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016, Vice News has reported. 

He said his work south of the border was more about generating contacts than supporting Trump.

"I've spent many, many years working on provincial campaigns, federal campaigns and international campaigns," he said.

"I was an election observer in Ukraine for the Ukraine presidential election, and the parliamentary election and then I went down to the U.S. during their primary race and also their general election ... I participated in the whole American process when I was down there. It wasn't picking a particular candidate, it was to see how the American system worked."

Kenney addressed the issue on Thursday.

"I think it's actually, probably helpful for Alberta to have an MLA who has contacts in the American administration," he said. "My hunch is Devin can get more people on the phone more quickly in this White House than our premier can."

Both winning candidates campaigned on a platform that was critical of NDP policies and on the need to bolster Alberta's economy.

The Alberta Party and Alberta Liberals also ran candidates in both constituencies.

Premier Notley congratulated the winners and the losing candidates.

"Congratulations to all candidates who put their names forward and to the new MLAs @LailaGoodridge and @DevinDVote," she wrote in a post on Twitter.

"I'm very proud of the #abndp campaigns run by both @NicoleMooneyNDP and @JaneStroudNDP and their teams."

With files from Anis Heydari, Elissa Carpenter, Michelle Bellefontaine, The Canadian Press.