Barnes takes Cypress-Medicine Hat

Tuesday, 24 April 2012 00:00 Gillian Slade


It was a bittersweet moment for the two frontrunners in the Cypress Medicine Hat race. Wildrose candidate Drew Barnes won but without the Wildrose majority government and PC incumbent Len Mitzel lost his seat even though his party won a large majority.
“It has finally sunk in that I’ve won,” said Barnes, who picked up 5,372 votes through 70 polls of 82 reporting, 1,600 more than Mitzel. Jon Mastel of the Liberals finished third and Manual Martinez of the NDP was fourth.
“I promised to give my best and I look forward to fulfilling that. I am excited about going to the Legislature to fulfill my campaign promises.”
He listened to the sound of his new title — MLA Drew Barnes — and smiled.
The disappointment Mitzel was feeling at not being personally re-elected was evident.
“I’ve lost my seat. The vote did surprise me. I did not expect to lose my seat,” said a sombre Mitzel. “It goes to show pollsters don’t necessarily know what they’re doing.”
The enthusiasm at the Barnes campaign party at Turner’s Restaurant on Monday night was tempered with disappointment at not having won the majority government the Wildrose had expected.
“I am totally surprised at the PC majority,” said a Barnes campaign volunteer, Marco Jansen. “I’m not sure what effect the recent ‘moral issues’ had on how people voted.”
Barnes supporter Glen Ebel said he had had a sneaky suspicion the PCs would win a majority.
“People don’t like change. It would have been a very big swing for the Wildrose to get a majority government,” said Ebel. “There were so many Wildrose candidates that are rookies. If they’d got a majority government without experience there was the possibility of them failing.”
When Wildrose leader Danielle Smith appeared on the television,there was a surge of excitement from Barnes’ supporters.
Smith’s assertion that she was not discouraged drew applause as did her comment that it was time for Wildrose to prove itself as the official opposition.
Any joy at the PCs winning a majority government was overshadowed by the personal loss for Mitzel. He reflected on his significant accomplishments since he was elected in 2004.
“I am proud I could represent my constituents and I have no regrets,” said Mitzel. “I thank my team and everyone who voted for me and in fact the people who did not vote for me too because I have got my life back.”
Long working hours, lots of travel and being away from home so much is something Mitzel says he will not miss. Reflecting on the campaign Mitzel says he was not aware of a tide turning that would have suggested the loss of his seat.
“Did people forget all that I did?” he asked.
Mitzel said it was too early to reflect on what he will do in future or whether he will run again.
Wally Regehr, the president of the local NDP Constituency Association, said the PCs didn’t handle land-use legislation controversies well. The Wildrose Party made a major issue out of it for years leading up to the election, and the Tories didn’t help themselves on other local issues.
“You can’t forget about the flood (in June 2010), from the PCs point of view I don’t know why they didn’t handle that better,” said Regher. “Saskatchewan did a simple thing, they immediately sent out $3,500 cheques and said let’s sort it out later. It was an act of good will. I don’t care what your political affiliation is, just good common sense says ‘help these people.'”
Jon Mastel Liberal candidate indicated he wasn’t surprised about the local results.
“They’ve made a change and hopefully it’s for the better,” said Mastel.