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Staying the course as Tories get majority

What was supposed to be an evening of celebration after the landslide re-election of Conservative incumbent Harold Albrecht in Kitchener-Conestoga was muted by the news that his wife, Betty, had been rushed to hospital Monday night.

The family’s worst fears were realized on Wednesday. A brief statement was released that evening saying that Albrecht’s wife of 39 years had passed away at Hamilton General Hospital as a result of a spontaneous intracranial hemorrhage. She was 59.

“The family appreciates all the prayers and good wishes that have been extended, but at this time needs some quiet time to heal in privacy,” the letter read. The funeral will be held at Community Christian Reformed Church in Kitchener on Sunday at 2 p.m.

TRAGEDY OVERRIDES VICTORY Gavin Albrecht, son of Conservative incumbent Harold Albrecht, announces to the crowd on Monday night that his father would not be attending the evening’s election rally after his mother, Betty, collapsed in their home earlier that evening. She died in a Hamilton hospital Wednesday.

On election night, Albrecht’s son, Gavin, made the announcement of his mothers collapse to the hundreds of supporters, friends and family gathered at the Edelweiss Tavern in the south of Kitchener shortly after the final results were tallied.

The announcement instantly calmed a jubilant crowd that had spent the last hour cheering and clapping as the election results poured in from across the country.

“I want to thank each one of you. It will be an honour for dad to serve all of you and all the citizens of Kitchener-Conestoga again, and to serve our great country, Canada,” Gavin read from his father’s prepared speech after informing the crowd Albrecht likely wouldn’t make it to the rally.

The Albrechts were watching the early returns at their home before Betty complained of a headache and collapsed as she rose from the table, Gavin explained.

“I was over at Harold and Betty’s when she collapsed, and I called the ambulance. There was no thought in Harold’s mind about the election (at that time),” said a visibly upset David Drewe, Albrecht’s spokesperson, on Monday night.

It will likely be difficult for Albrecht, 61, to look ahead to his third re-election, a landslide victory in which he won 28,874 votes, 54 per cent of the total.

This is a riding he has held since 2006 when he defeated Liberal incumbent Lynn Myers.

Monday night saw Lorne Bruce of the NDP come second with 11,653 votes (21.82 per cent), mirroring the final results nation-wide which saw the Conservative party capture a majority government with 39.62 per cent of the vote and 167 seats in Parliament, while the NDP was named the official opposition for the first time in party history by taking 30.62 per cent of the vote and 102 seats. The party made most of its gains in Quebec, where it won 58 ridings – mostly at the expense of the Bloc Quebecois.

“The team of people I had with me, quite frankly, are ecstatic,” said Lorne Bruce of his second-place finish, adding that he was happy with, but not surprised by, the NDP results both in the region and across the entire nation.

“Within the first week I was getting such positive feedback going door-to-door. I went back to my team a week in and said ‘get ready; things are going to ramp up quickly.’”

Bruce, who was running in his first federal election, also didn’t rule out a return to politics in the future.

“I’m still living in the moment, but it’s funny, once you get a taste of it, it’s hard to look back. Every experience was so positive. We’ll see.”

As for Bob Rosehart, the Liberal candidate campaigned on the message that Canadians were tired of the Conservative arrogance in Ottawa, and disrespect for the democratic process.

By the time the bulk of the three dozen or so supporters showed up at Bob Rosehart’s Kitchener campaign office Monday night, however, it was already apparent the Liberals were in for a rough night.

Shortly after the polls closed at 9:30 p.m., news reports showed Liberal losses in the Maritimes, a trend that would continue as the results moved west. Everyone watching the returns come in was caught off guard by the size of the NDP surge, particularly in Quebec.

“I’m surprised the NDP did so well,” said Rosehart early on in the evening. Less than an hour after the polls closed, it was clear that the NDP wave wasn’t going to crest in Kitchener-Conestoga, but it was big enough to push the Liberals into third place and trailed the NDP by just under 100 votes by the time the last vote was counted – 11,653 for the NDP and 11,583 for the Liberals.

CHANGING TIMES Liberal candidate Bob Rosehart thanks his supporters Monday night after conceding defeat at his campaign headquaters in Kitchener.

“Harold’s got a lot of support in the riding – he’s done well in winning the seat tonight,” said Rosehart of the Conservative win.

“I think we ran a good, simple campaign. I don’t think we would do anything differently. There was something going on nationally, and we knew the moon would have to be in the right alignment if we were going to win.”

Rosehart said the Conservative’s negative attack ads were effective against Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, helping to explain the results.

The Liberals lost 43 seats by the end of the night, including Ignatieff’s riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore. Ignatieff subsequently announced he would resign pending the selection of an interim leader.

Having won a majority, the Conservatives now have a chance to show their true colours, Rosehart said, adding he hopes they serve all Canadians with integrity.

As for the Liberals, the party will have to take some time to refocus and rebuild, he suggested.
“We have to figure out what the Liberal party wants to be.”

It was also a historic night for the Green Party in Canada as party-leader Elizabeth May secured the party’s first seat in Parliament, guaranteeing the former fringe-group at least a partial voice in Ottawa for the next four years by winning 3.9 per cent of the vote across the country.

Locally, candidate Albert Ashley achieved slightly higher results by taking just over four per cent of the vote and 2,184 votes overall in Kitchener-Conestoga.

“We’re disappointed in our local results, but obviously we’re quite happy that Elizabeth May got her seat, and we’re very happy for that and for the party,” Ashley said the morning following the election, adding that the one seat will serve as a stepping-stone for the continued growth of the Green Party movement, much like the 50 years of building that has gone into making the NDP the official opposition.

Ashley said that he hopes the Conservative party will use their majority government to open up dialogue with the other three parties a little more, and to help increase cooperation in Parliament.

Nevertheless, he did express some concern over Canada’s future under a Conservative majority, and said that he was “in shock” when the final results came in announcing a Tory victory.

“There’s not a lot in the Conservative platform that helps out the middle class, so I’m afraid going forward what will happen.

“What happened (Monday) night didn’t seem to represent what I was hearing on the street, and that’s why I’m just in a state of shock with what’s happened. Compared to what I heard everybody saying, and even at the debates, people seemed to be angry at what the Conservatives had done.

“We did the best we could, and the people have spoken.”

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