Hoback in, Jolibois out as Conservative Party sweeps Saskatchewan

Re-elected Conservative MP Randy Hoback speaks to supporters after being declared the winner in the electoral district of Prince Albert. (Jason Kerr/Daily Herald)

On a night that ended one of the most vicious election campaigns in Canadian history, re-elected Conservative MP Randy Hoback started his with a thank you.

Not just to his supporters, a list that includes numerous family members and friends who packed Montana’s restaurant to watch the campaign results come in, but also to the four people who ran against him.

“Whenever anybody puts their name forward it’s a big commitment and I want to acknowledge Estelle (Hjertaas), Harmony (Johnson-Harder), Kelly (Day) and Brian (Littlepine),” Hoback told reporters. “They put their name forward. They put it out there. They ran a high-class campaign … and I want to thank them for putting their names forward. They made our country better by doing it.”

While Hoback was gracious with his remarks, things may get a little less cordial in the future. Hoback returns to Ottawa as a member of a party that won (as of press time) 34.5 per cent of the popular vote nation-wide, but only 122 seats. The Liberals, meanwhile, took only 33 per cent of the popular vote and 156 seats.

A big part of that popular vote share comes from the prairies, where Conservative candidates won victories by huge margins while taking all 14 seats in Saskatchewan. On a normal election night, Hoback’s 17,909 vote margin of victory would have been one of the largest in the province. On this night, it didn’t even crack the top five.

Hoback said it’s too early to speculate what’s going to happen in a minority parliament, but he believes all Conservative candidates need to be ready for a fight.

“The NDP shoring up the Liberals, that could be even more devastating for our economy here in Western Canada,” he said. “We’ll have to see what we’re going to have to do to protect our interests here in Western Canada, and Conservative interests right across (the country). I think we’re going to have to take the gloves off and maybe do a little more brass-knuckle fighting to make sure our interests are represented in Ottawa.”

While scandals and dirt-digging dominated the national conservation, Hoback said he thought it was economic interest driving voter dissatisfaction. Photos of Justin Trudeau dressed in blackface may have made headlines, but in Saskatchewan, Hoback said voters her talked to were more concerned about oil, natural gas, pipelines and agricultural export markets.

“We’re not getting our resources to market. We see our Ag markets being shut down because of bad foreign policy. The reality’s that we’re being ignored,” he said.

As of press time, Hoback had 67.8 per cent of the vote, with 170 of 175 polls reporting. The NDP’s Harmony Johnson-Harder finished second with 17.6 per cent, while Liberal Estelle Hjertaas placed third with 10.2 per cent. The Green Party, PPC and Veterans Coalition Party of Canada all finished with less than three per cent of the vote.

Prince Albert saw a voter turnout of 65.6 per cent, not including electors who registered on election day, as of press time.

While the Conservatives did have plenty of successes on election night, not everyone was ready to celebrate. Hoback tried to look on the positive side during a brief speech to supporters, many of which had mixed feelings about the national results, which saw the Liberals win a number of tight races, and completely dominate areas like the GTA.

Hoback said the Conservatives have to make sure their policies benefit all Canadians. However, he thinks it might take a few years for other parts of the country to see that appeal and stop voting Liberal.

“I think what’s going to happen after two or three years from now, and a lot of people from across Canada are going to wake up and say, ‘look at how much money they’ve spent and look at what they’ve done and how they’ve harmed our reputation abroad.’ That alone will be enough justification to get rid of them,” he said.

Vidal takes northern Saskatchewan

Vote splitting made the difference in what has historically been one of the closest ridings in Saskatchewan Monday night.

Conservative candidate Gary Vidal earned 10,816 votes as of press time, or about 41.7 per cent of the populate vote, to unseat incumbent NDP MP Georgina Jolibois in the Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River riding.

Jolibios earned just over 7,500 votes, while Liberal candidate Tammy Cook-Searson finished with about 6,900. Together, the two left-leaning Indigenous women combined for more votes than Vidal. They collectively took home 55.5 per cent of the vote in Saskatchewan’s northern-most riding;.

With the victory, Vidal wins the riding back for the Conservatives after Georgina Jolibois and the NDP won it by a slim margin in 2015.

That year, Jolibois beat Liberal candidate Lawrence Joseph by a mere 71 votes. That margin increased to 82 after a judicial recount.

It had previously been held by Rob Clarke, and before him, Jeremy Harrison.

The Liberals held the riding for a short time in 2006 when Gary Merasty won a by-election.

Vidal contested the riding against two other well-known area politicians. Liberal candidate Tammy Cook-Searson is the well-known and respected Chief of Lac La Ronge Indian Band, while Jollibois was both the incumbent and a former mayor of La Loche.

Following the close race for second, fourth-place candidate Sarah Kraynick earned just under two per cent of votes, finishing with about 500. People’s Party of Canada candidate Jerome Perrault received 205 votes as of press time, which adds up to less than one per cent.

–with files from Peter Lozinski