Sask. Party holds lead in Northcote after mail-in ballots counted

Alana Ross speaks at the Sask. Party nomination meeting at the Exhibition Centre on June 10, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Alana Ross will likely be the next MLA for Prince Albert Northcote.

Preliminary counts for mail-in ballots were posted for some electoral districts Wednesday. Prince Albert Northcote was one of them. The district was too close to call following election night, as the Saskatchewan Party held a 222 vote lead with 568 mail-in ballots still outstanding.

Wednesday, 325 of those ballots were counted. The Saskatchewan Party’s lead jumped to 224 votes over the NDP with only 243 ballots unaccounted for. There’s no guarantee that they will all be returned. Further, it’s extremely unlikely that 225 of the outstanding ballots will be cast for the NDP.

Barring something unprecedented, that all-but guarantees a Saskatchewan Party sweep of Prince Albert.

“It’s very exciting,” Ross said when reached by phone Wednesday.

“We’ve worked really hard and this is the outcome we wanted. Hopefully it holds.”

Ross’ victory returns Northcote to Saskatchewan Party control. the party held the electoral district from 2011-206 when Victoria Jurgens served as its MLA. The rest of the riding’s MLAs have been NDP.

Nicole Rancourt, who worked as a social worker before entering politics, won Prince Albert Northcote in 2016 by just 261 votes. Her loss to Ross, who works in the health care sector, comes at an even slimmer margin.

Rancourt congratulated Ross on her election win.

“I really do hope she will be able to fulfill her promises to constituents,” she said.

“I know that the announcement of the expansion of the Victoria Hospital came after I pressured the government to make an announcement as to what their plan was. I do hope that she will ensure that they stick with their plan and start that renovation as soon as possible.”

For her part, Ross thanked Rancourt for her four and a half years serving the community.

“I’d like to thank her for her work. I think both teams ran a really good campaign … of respect for one another locally, which I know we all appreciate.”

Ross said she’s looking forward to taking on this new role, and representing all of her constituents, regardless of who they voted for.

“It’s always important,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a close race or not. When you’re elected to a position like this, we’re public servants and were in these positions to represent the public.”

The result means that all four Prince Albert area electoral districts elected Saskatchewan Party MLAs this year. Incumbents Delbert Kirsch, Nadine Wilson and Joe Hargrave won in the districts of Batoche, Saskatchewan Rivers and Prince Albert Carlton, respectively.

That’s a blow to the NDP, who held their provincial convention in the city. Leader Ryan Meili visited Prince Albert on several occasions, stating that the city’s seats were key to the party’s goal of forming government.

Rancourt to return to social work

While Rancourt said it was “very disappointing” to see the election results, she added that she was proud of the work her campaign team did, and of the work of her constituency office during her time as an MLA.

“It was an honour to represent Prince Albert Northcote for the last four and a half years,” she said.

“I’ve got so many memories of the things that I’ve had an opportunity to do.”

A highlight, Rancourt said, was working as part of the human services committee to develop an application for organ donors that has since rolled out province-wide.

“That’s just one small step towards increasing organ donation in our province,” she said.

“I’m really proud of the work I’ve done as an MLA. It was a really good and fulfilling experience.”

As for what’s next, Rancourt said she intends to return to the frontlines as a mental health social worker in the community.

“That’s definitely a passion of mine. I’m excited to get back to front-line work,” she said.

Rancourt added that her time as MLA introduced her to several community groups that work to improve Prince Albert. She hopes to get involved in one or more of those roles to continue working to make Prince Albert a better place.

“I’m going to take some time here to think about what I want to do,” she said. “I will continue to be active in the community in different roles. There are lots of different opportunities.”