33 blue and 1 orange: Heather McPherson holds Edmonton Strathcona for NDP
'I think we need to have a diversity of voices'
Edmonton Strathcona maintained its orange hue on election night, the only Alberta riding to buck the wave of Conservative blue.
Heather McPherson became the NDP MP-elect for the central Edmonton riding, taking the reins from Linda Duncan, who had held the seat since 2008. Duncan announced last year that she would not seek re-election.
Her victory kept the Conservatives from sweeping all 34 Alberta ridings.
"Holding this seat was really important to us," McPherson said after her win was announced.
"It was really important that Alberta, all Albertans, have one progressive candidate representing them in Ottawa and I'm so delighted I'm that candidate."
It was really important that Alberta, all Albertans, have one progressive candidate representing them in Ottawa.- Heather McPherson
At dissolution of Parliament, four Alberta ridings were held by MPs who were not Conservatives — Duncan in Edmonton Strathcona, plus Liberals Amarjeet Sohi, Randy Boissonnault and Kent Hehr. The three Liberals went down to defeat Monday night.
The almost unanimous tilt to the right is not healthy, McPherson said.
"It's a bit of a problem, to be honest. I think we need to have a diversity of voices. It's a mistake not to have people fighting for Albertans at all of the tables."
Role amplified in minority government
With a minority Liberal government in Ottawa, the Alberta MP assumes an almost disproportionately important role in federal politics, said MacEwan University political science professor Chaldeans Mensah.
"She's part of a team that [could] hold the balance of power and her single vote could be very decisive," he said.
"It will make her a much sought-after MP in making this government work."
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At the same time, the rookie MP will have to strike a delicate balance between the official anti-pipeline stance of her party and the pro-pipeline sentiments of her Alberta constituents — including provincial NDP Leader Rachel Notley.
"It's tough … she needs to go to Ottawa and carry that message that the pipeline development file is one that many NDP supporters and workers here support," Mensah said.
That's not an easy task when NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has voiced firm opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline.
During the campaign, McPherson said she would support getting energy projects built while meeting all necessary consultation processes.
"The NDP has always been the party that supports the working class, we will always make sure that we don't leave the workers behind," she said Monday night.
"One of the things we've learned is, if we don't balance protecting the climate and protect Alberta workers, you don't get buy-in."
McPherson, the former executive director of the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation, took 47 per cent of the vote with 180 of 198 polls reporting.
Her closest rival, Conservative Sam Lilly, earned 38 per cent of the vote. Liberal Eleanor Olszewski earned 11 per cent.
McPherson may have got a small boost when Green Party candidate Michael Kalmanovitch last week told told his supporters to shift their votes to the NDP because he didn't think he had a chance of winning. The Green Party promptly removed him as a candidate and party member.