Vidal keeps northern Saskatchewan seat

Conservative MP Gary Vidal thanked voters and said he’ll represent everyone in the riding. Liberal Buckley Belanger conceded saying he'll continue his advocacy for northerners.

Conservative incumbent Gary Vidal thanked voters after being re-elected MP for the northern Saskatchewan riding of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River on Monday.

“We’re very pleased. We’re really, really happy with the numbers and excited to be given the opportunity to continue to serve the people of northern Saskatchewan,” Vidal told the Prince Albert Daily Herald after the riding was called on election night.

“I will work for and advocate for all of the people of my riding regardless of whether they voted for me or not. That’s what I believe is a principled stand and I will continue to do that work.”

Voting in La Ronge took place at the Kikinahk Friendship Centre. (Michael Bramadat-Willcock/Daily Herald)

Vidal won a strong majority taking around 48 per cent of the vote. Liberal candidate Buckley Belanger came in second place at 27 per cent. New Democrat Harmonie King came in third at 18 per cent. 

Dezirae Reddekopp of the People’s Party won five per cent. Stephen King, who ran as an Independent, and Nasser Dean Chalifoux of the Green Party won one per cent each.

Vidal promised to continue to advocate for an increase in the northern living allowance — a tax benefit meant to offset high costs of living in the north. 

He said he ran his campaign on the principle of cooperation to get more accomplished for northerners. 

“At the end of the day Canadians expect us to work together and solve the issues for the people of our ridings — the people we represent,” Vidal said. “So, I think that’s the clear expectation.”

That’s also his message to re-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who will have to continue to work with other parties in a minority government. 

“We said that Canadians didn’t want an election in the first place and this might just prove that absolutely true. So we’ll take the results,” Vidal said. 

“Canadians are always right and we’ll work within the democracy that they give us.”

Buckley Belanger congratulated Vidal on his win and vowed to continue his advocacy for northerners. (Photo courtesy Policy North)

Liberal candidate Buckley Belanger said that while disappointed in the results, he’s not going to give up on his work to improve conditions in northern Saskatchewan.

“The political gamble we had for the best interests of our people in the northern riding was well worth it. I’d do it again in a heartbeat,”  Belanger said.

“I commend Gary on a great campaign. I called Mr. Vidal and I couldn’t get hold of him but I left a message and congratulated him — wishing him the very best.” 

Belanger said he’d like to see a more positive relationship between Western Canada and Ottawa. He said that’s part of why he left his position as NDP MLA for Athabasca to run for MP with the Liberals.

“I like Justin Trudeau and I’m proud to run under his banner. I was glad to run under the Liberal banner,” Belanger said. “The politics of division need to stop.”

The veteran politician said he’ll take some time off and then continue to advocate for the causes he’s always cared about.

“I’m still highly committed to trying to get the University of Northern Saskatchewan going and also dealing with the dialysis services out of the north, and to continue fighting for things like highways and housing,” Belanger said. 

“I will continue fighting and struggling and building a brand-new north. That’s my dream and I will continue working at that. Hopefully the Liberals will continue to listen to us.”

New Democrat candidate Harmonie King declined to comment by press time because her campaign manager said she had to wait until NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh had concluded his post-election speech. 

Vidal said he’ll continue to do what he was elected to do in 2019. That’s to represent everyone in the riding fairly and equally.

“You can expect the same thing you saw from me over the last couple of years,” Vidal said. 

“I think the people were always supportive of somebody who was going to stand up for them, regardless of politics and regardless of party. I think people were happy that somebody was willing to represent them. I think that’s the takeaway.”

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