BANFF-KANANASKIS – Both the UCP’s Miranda Rosin and NDP’s Sarah Elmeligi claimed victory in the Banff-Kananaksis riding shortly before midnight on May 29 election day, with Elmeligi edging out Rosin in the nail-biter election race by fewer than 200 votes.
With all 21 polls reporting, in addition to all advance votes being counted, Elections Alberta’s unofficial results had Elmeligi securing 11,487 votes to Rosin’s 11,288 of the 23,273 votes cast in the hotly-contested riding, which has traditionally split between left and right ideals, with Banff and Canmore largely voting NDP and Bragg Creek and Springbank leaning towards UCP.
Just before midnight, a beaming Sarah Elmeligi danced her way into the Canmore Miners’ Union Hall as a band played to a dwindling crowd, where she gave her victory speech in front of a small remaining group of supporters.
Elmeligi thanked her campaign team and her supporters and volunteers, and graciously congratulated her fellow candidates in the hard-fought battle in the Banff-Kananaksis riding, which from the get-go was a riding that was deemed could go either way.
“I know that tonight we didn’t necessarily get the overall provincial outcome that we were hoping for, and that’s OK because that is what democracy is, but I want you to know that I am the MLA for Banff-Kananaskis,” she said.
“Thank you first of all to all of you for being here and thank you so much for all the voters across the Banff-Kananaskis riding who put their trust in me to lead our riding for the next four years – it’s an honour.”
Asked about her reaction to Rosin also giving a victory speech moments earlier in Bragg Creek, Elmeligi said she had to go with the information she was given, which is “I have won.”
“It has been a very difficult few hours and the count has been really slow trickling in and there’s been moments of confusion, which is why we didn’t get here until close to midnight,” she said.
“It is my understanding the results show that I have won the riding, and like I said in my speech, I am very grateful to all the candidates who put their name on the ballot. That’s really important for democracy.”
Just moments earlier at about 11:45 p.m., Rosin had wrapped up her victory speech at the Powderhorn Saloon in Bragg Creek.
She told the crowd the large amount of work her team had put into the election campaign into what at the time looked like a clear victory.
“The truth is, we went around this riding five or six times. We’ve hit every undecided door five or six times,” she said. “We had social media campaigns, digital campaigns, print campaigns. We did door knocks, phone calls, text messages – every one – we have pulled out every single punch in this campaign to work hard and ensure that we earned every single vote in Banff-Kananaskis tonight, and collectively, this election victory was not mine. It was very much our team’s. I can say it was so hard-fought, but so honestly fought, and tonight it looks like we’ve been victorious.”
Shortly after Rosin gave her speech and in the middle of an interview with the Outlook, her campaign manager Amber Ruddy pulled her away as votes shifted in favour of Elmeligi.
The room turned quiet as people looked at their phones, showing Elmeligi quickly catching up and then surpassing Rosin in vote count.
Rosin walked around, hugging and addressing a few people in the room, and without making a public address to those left at the saloon in the later hours of the evening, quickly walked out with her partner, who told media on her behalf that she would not be taking any further questions at that point.
For much of the night, Rosin had a solid lead in the polls – leading by more than 2,500 at certain times – but the advanced polls from Banff and Canmore specifically closed the gap. First the votes from Canmore closed Elmeligi’s distance to Rosin to about 600, with the advanced polls from Banff putting Elmeligi slightly ahead.
More than half of the 23,273 people who voted – 12,011 or 51.6 per cent – did so in an advance poll. The Green Party's Regan Boychuk secured 342 votes, while Kyle Jubb with the Solidarity Movement of Alberta garnered 156 votes.
While all polls have the unofficial results, under Alberta’s Election Act an official count needs to be finished 10 days after the provincial election.
If the difference in votes between the two closest candidates is fewer than 100, the returning officer will complete a full official count.
However, if it’s more than 101, the returning officer will verify official results by checking the accuracy of the statement of vote; deciding on any questions that come out of an objection; looking at all rejected ballots to determine the validity and reviewing records and inspect ballots so the returning officer can certify the results.
A candidate or an official agent can appeal a decision of the chief electoral officer or the returning officer for a recount within eight days of the official count being made.
Elmeligi, who has been a resident of the riding for 15 years and has worked for Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and was a park facility planner with Alberta Parks in K-Country, said she was humbled and grateful for the opportunity.
She said it will be her job to represent the diverse communities of the 15,939 square kilometres riding, which includes Lake Louise, Banff, Canmore, MD of Bighorn and stretches to the Municipal District of Foothills, Kananaskis, Rocky View County, Stoney Nakoda First Nation and the Tsuu T’ina First Nation.
“Everybody who lives in this riding is one my constituents and that’s not a responsibility that I take lightly,” she said.
Elmeligi said she’s also ready to hit the ground running.
“I am known in some circles for being pretty tough. I’ve been a conservationist in Alberta for a long time, and if you think I’m not ready to stand up in the legislature and champion this riding, you don't know me,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter to me who the premier is and what the party in power is, I will champion the needs of this riding.”
Throughout the election campaign, housing and affordability concerns dominated the Banff-Kananaskis riding, but so to did ambulance coverage, healthcare, education, Indigenous relations, conservation and tourism.
In declaring victory as the newly elected MLA, Elmeligi said she would focus on health care, affordability and housing as starting points.
“Health-care is a provincial priority and that came up at the doors pretty much every time I was up door-knocking – health care, health care, health care,” she said.
“Affordability is also a very big issue here, especially in the western part of the riding of Canmore and Banff, and so looking at affordability and housing and how we can advance projects in that regard.”
A big focus for Elmeligi will be addressing Truth and Reconciliation in a meaningful way for Indigenous communities in the riding.
In addition, she wants to work with the eastern part of the riding – which is traditionally a blue stronghold – on issues important there, such as recreation and land use planning.
“We had a great NDP showing in the eastern part of the riding, but I am not going to pretend like I don't have work to do,” she said.
“There’s a lot of people in Bragg Creek, Springbank, Millarville and Priddis who maybe don’t resonate with our party, but I really look forward to trying to work together to create better solutions.”
Votes slowly came in after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Throughout the night, Elections Alberta repeatedly stated all machines were working fine until about 10:20 p.m. when Elections Alberta admitted numerous machines weren’t working properly and votes would need to be counted by hand.
There are 30,852 registered voters for the riding, comprising a small portion of the 2,840,813 registered voters in Alberta. However, 23,273 people voted in the riding comprising a turnout of 75.43 per cent.
Danielle Smith was elected as premier, with the UCP capturing 926,102 votes or 52.6 per cent. The NDP received 775,942 votes and 44 per cent of the vote. The UCP was able to get a majority government with 49 seats and the NDP collected the remaining 38.
Unofficial riding results per polling station