For the first time in its history, the Electoral District of Athabasca will have a Saskatchewan Party representative at the provincial legislature.
Sask. Party candidate and retired RCMP officer Jim Lemaigre defeated NDP candidate Georgina Jolibois by 246 votes. Lemaigne finished with 51.4 per cent of the vote, compared to 40.4 per cent for Jolibois.
“We were quite excited,” Lemaigre said when asked about the win. “It’s been quite a journey on the campaign trail, and then to be rewarded by the constituents of Athabasca it was exciting. I was quite happy.”
Independent candidate Darwin Roy finished a distant third with seven per cent of the vote, while Clint Arnason of the Buffalo Party received less than one per cent.
There are more than 30 outstanding mail-in ballots still to be counted. That total is not high enough to change the outcome.
Lemaigre is the first member of any right leaning party to will an election in the riding. Former MLA Buckley Belanger won the last seven provincial elections and one by-election before resigning to run federally. Prior to that, the area was represented by Liberal, NDP, Independent or Co-operative Commonwealth candidates.
Lemaigre said many voters told him they wanted a voice in government and not an opposition MLA, a factor he credited for the victory.
“One elder put it quite eloquently. He said, ‘we’ve been on the outside of government for so long. With this opportunity, why would we put ourselves back there?’ That seems to be the common language that I’ve heard,” Lemaigre said.
“People were ready and saw this opportunity, because in a by-election we normally know who is in government. I think the people in Athabasca spoke last night and they’re ready for this change.”
When asked about his plans for his first term in office, Lemaigre said the Saskatchewan Party was already doing good work, and he planned to continue supporting it.
Premier Scott Moe congratulated Lemaigre on his win, and vowed the newly elected MLA would be a strong voice for the region.
“(The Saskatchewan Party) government has always had MLAs representing every part of the province, except for the far north,” Moe wrote on social media Tuesday evening. “That changed tonight. Saskatchewan Party MLAs now represent every part of SK, from border to border to border.”