Ed Fast’s opponents were better organized during the 2011 election campaign, so his Conservative machine cranked up its efforts and delivered the most votes he has ever received in Abbotsford.
In elections past, the local Liberal and NDP constituency associations had been still looking for a candidate to run after the writ was dropped. This time both had their candidates in place and campaigning. The NDP’s David Murray said he was knocking on doors in Abbotsford for a year and a half, talking to people about their concerns. His party put up three times the number of lawn signs during the campaign.
The Conservative response snuffed any chance of a breakthrough.
“Our team worked harder than it ever has before,” said Fast. He said it was a challenge to have Murray, at an all-candidates meeting, talking about an orange wave sweeping through Abbotsford.
“Boy, does that motivate our team.”
One volunteer said a good example of the increased dedication was that on election night they were still working the phones, trying to get the vote out, until 6:50 p.m. – 10 minutes before the polls closed.
The result was Fast bringing in 64.8 per cent of the vote – up from 63 per cent in each of the 2008 and 2006 elections.
Fast acknowledged Murray’s gains – he improved NDP fortunes from 13 per cent to a second-best 20 per cent in the Abbotsford riding. But he suggested it may have also been the result of a strong national campaign by NDP leader Jack Layton, the new leader of the official opposition.
“A rising tide lifts all ships,” said Fast.
He called Monday’s events “The most memorable election that I can recall.”
“Canadians have finally entrusted us with a majority government. I see a bright future for Canada, and for Abbotsford.”
Fast expects to be called back to Ottawa in a matter of weeks, so the Conservative majority can pass a budget. He will also learn his job responsibilities.
He acknowledged that the Stave Lake water project is a high priority locally, and whether it is funded through a P3 model or by traditional methods, he will be behind the project.
“I’m going to work very hard to get some federal assistance,” he said. “I’m looking forward to serving the community for another four years.”
The voter turnout in Abbotsford was 49,806, which was 59.2 per cent of the 84,131 registered electors. This was slightly below the national voter turnout of 61 per cent.
Murray was elated by the party’s national results, rising from 36 seats to 102, but told the News that the Liberal collapse allowed the Conservatives to still get a majority.
He said the NDP has gained a foothold on the Abbotsford riding.
“We weren’t happy with the results we got last time,” he said, with 6,443 votes compared to 10,089 this year.
He said they found stiff opposition locally.
“It’s been a great campaign – four amazing candidates, and every event we had to bring our A game.”
Attack ads cost Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff greatly in this election, said Abbotsford Liberal candidate Madeleine Hardin.
She said the smear campaign focused on the fact that he had left the country, as if he returned only when it was expedient for him. He has 11 honorary and earned PHDs that he received while abroad, but that made him the target of an “anti-intellectual backlash,” she said.
“If Gretzky came back from America, we wouldn’t say he’s not Canadian,” she said.
“I’ve met him (Ignatieff), and he’s personable, warm and extraordinary,” added Hardin. “And that didn’t come across.”
She said the national results shocked the entire Liberal party.
“I don’t think anyone expected this.
“Canadians have voted, and they’ll get the government they voted for, and we’ll see what that’s like,” said Hardin.
Locally, she compared her first campaign to emergency root canal surgery: “Short, painful and a bit of a surprise.”
Running was a learning experience that Hardin will not waste: “I’ve committed to doing it again. We’ll see what the next four years brings.”
She said many of the Liberal party’s “old guard” are not going to return, and the Grits will be going through a period of renewal.
“We will be back.”
Daniel Bryce said he was disappointed with his Green Party’s national performance, which was just four per cent of the popular vote, down from six per cent in each of the prior two elections.
However, the Greens did manage to win their first riding, as their leader took Saanich-Gulf Islands.
“I can’t be any more happy having Elizabeth May get a seat. That’s great for our party,” said the Abbotsford Green candidate.
The local campaign was also a good experience for Bryce, who plans to stand as the local candidate in four years. The 29-year-old rookie politician received accolades for his performance from numerous sources, including MP Ed Fast, and that was gratifying for Bryce.
“The way I’m treating politics, the electorate and other politicians is all how I want to be – positive,” he said. “Being a positive force in the community is way more important than winning seats.”