Carol Hughes now part of NDP Official Opposition to majority Conservatives

MANITOULIN—The unofficial results for the 2011 federal election in the Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing (AMK) riding gave NDP incumbent Carol Hughes a clear win on Monday’s federal General Election.

Of the 58,030 eligible voters in AMK, 18,747 (51.7 percent of the vote) picked Ms. Hughes and the New Democrats while the second place finish went to Ray Sturgeon’s Conservatives with 10,943 votes (30.2 percent of the vote).

The Liberal party, led by Francois Cloutier received 5,375 (14.8 percent of the AMK vote) votes ahead of the Green Party candidate Lorraine Rekmans who pulled in 1,212 votes (3.3 percent).

The Conservative party made a considerable gain in this election over their showing in 2008, moving from a third-place finish three years ago with just 5,899 votes or 17.6 percent of the vote to nearly double their vote share.

When the Expositor caught up with Carol Hughes on Monday night, the member of parliament was clearly elated with the results, both locally and nationally.

“This is just a great way to celebrate the NDP’s 50th anniversary, ” she said. “Across the country we see change happening and I’m happy with the doubling of seats for the party.”

Ms. Hughes’ personal majority over her closest rival rose to 7,804 votes compared to her first victory in 2008 when her majority was 4,344 votes.

Ms. Hughes said that she felt she got her message across to the people of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing and that “the people recognize all the hard work I have done.”

“I can’t thank the people of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing enough for their support along the way,” she said, making special note of her volunteers, staff, those who made donations to her campaign and the First Nations people for their support.

Ms. Hughes allowed that after a short rest she would begin an overview of her campaign and “put things in perspective.”

Her first order of business? “To get to work here and in Ottawa.”

Referring to the 2008 numbers, Conservative candidate Ray Sturgeon said, “We have come a long way from the 17 percent we had in the last election and we did an incredible job in a very short period of time.”

“It would have been nice to win,” he continued, “but I congratulate Carol; she is a determined candidate.”

Mr. Sturgeon said that if the party would have had more time to cover a greater amount of communities within the riding, he feels Conservative numbers would have been higher.

“Our team did a super job but I am disappointed for the citizens of AMK because it is always better for any riding to have a seat at the decision table. We will just have to try again next time,” he said.

Liberal candidate Francois Cloutier said he was a little disappointed with the results, but expressed national pride in “living in a democracy where the voice of the people was heard.”

Mr. Cloutier felt no remorse with the way his personal campaign was run saying, “I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I’m grateful to all my volunteers and extremely proud of what they have accomplished.”

He extended his congratulations to Ms. Hughes and commented, “she ran a great campaign.”

When The Expositor asked what Mr. Cloutier felt had gone wrong with the national Liberal campaign he said, “we obviously haven’t done our job well enough and we need to look in the mirror to really reflect on what the people of Canada want and how we can serve them better in the future.”

Ms. Rekmans said the election had been a difficult one considering the fact that Elizabeth May, her party’s national leader, was not represented in the house of commons and the party was “not able to get our message out in the national media to our detriment.”

The candidate was “completely surprised by the numbers coming in showing a Conservative majority, despite the fact that Stephen Harper was held in contempt of parliament.”

“I have heard from voters who wanted to vote Green that they were afraid to do so and felt forced to vote strategically and not for their party of choice,” she lamented. “This is not a hockey game, it is democracy.”

“I am saddened that we are going into a Conservative majority but I’m certainly pleased that Elizabeth May (Green Party leader) won her seat and we will have representation in the house.”

In AMK, voter turnout was almost precisely at the two-thirds mark with 36,277 people showing up at the polls out of a possible 58,030 electors.

This is a noticeable improvement in voter turnout in comparison to 2008 when, in AMK, only 33,691 voters turned out on election day out of 59,595 eligible voters.

In percentage terms, the gain this year is a substantial one, rising to 62.5 percent from just 56.5 percent three years ago. (In fact, the gain is an even more impressive considering that the number of enumerated voters in AMK actually dropped by 1,565.)