As It Happens

'We're on a historic journey,' says Calgary Centre Liberal MP-elect Kent Hehr

Red dawn: Liberal MP-elect Kent Hehr says his victory in Calgary Centre 'reflects the progressive nature' of Calgary and Alberta.
Kent Hehr greets the crowd at his victory party. (Carolyn Dunn/CBC)

Last night, the Liberals did the unthinkable. For the first time since 1968, the party won seats in the Conservative stronghold of Calgary.

MP-elect Darshan Kang took the Calgary Skyview riding, beating out Conservative incumbent Devinder Shory by a considerable margin. And former Alberta MLA Kent Hehr won a nail-biter in Calgary Centre, defeating Conservative star Joan Crockatt.

In total, four Liberals were elected in the Conservatives' Alberta heartland. The breakthrough win is an indication of the magnitude of last night's Liberal tide. But the party hopes the victories will also serve as a beachhead for future elections.

"We're on a historic journey," Hehr tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

"[Trudeau] performed very well on a national stage and had public policy in our platform that I think represented Calgary Centre to a tee. Well, my goodness, we won and I'm very excited by the challenges that lie ahead."

Hehr thinks the Liberal breakthrough is long overdue and that labelling Alberta as strictly Conservative is an outdated generalization.

"I think the Conservative Alberta is a bit of a misnomer. We've always been a very progressive place."

Hehr points to the popularity of Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi and the success of NDP Premier Rachel Notley as evidence of an ongoing change in the political culture of Alberta towards a more progressive identity.
Hehr hopes the aftermath of the election will lead to an increased appetite amongst Albertans for more progressive centrist politics.

"It's been my sense for a while that Mr. Harper's party is the Reform Party, which was further to the right," Hehr argues. "I think there was a real schism as to which way that party wanted to go, at least provincially."

Nunavut's Hunter Tootoo poses for a red selfie with supporters gathered in Iqaluit on Oct. 19. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)
The red tide also flowed north of Alberta. Earlier today, As It Happens host Carol Off spoke with Hunter Tootoo, the newly-elected Liberal MP for Nunavut, who pulled off an upset by unseating federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq.

Hunter Tootoo was elected as the MP for Nunavut last night, unseating Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq. Mr. Tootoo is one of ten indigenous MPs elected last night.


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