More than two thousand Albertans showed up to see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tonight at a rally in the southern Alberta city of Medicine Hat. Mr. Trudeau was in town to support Liberal candidate Stan Sakamoto, a popular local businessman, in his bid to become the next Member of Parliament in the Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner riding in the October 24, 2016 by-election.
The riding is believed to be a very safe seat for the Conservative Party, whose candidate earned 68 percent of the vote in the 2015 election. Candidate Glen Motz is expected to win the election but the huge turnout at a Liberal Party rally should raise some eyebrows.
While a group of protesters, some carrying Alberta separatist banners, made an appearance at the rally, the large turnout certainly defies the Conservative and mainsteam media narrative about the hostility Albertans may feel toward Mr. Trudeau and his government.
Four Liberal MPs were elected in Alberta in the last election but before forming government, the Liberals had racked up an impressive record of increasing their party’s support in a series of Alberta by-elections, most notably in Calgary-Centre and Fort McMurray-Athabasca.
There is a possibility that many of those Hatters who turned out tonight are voting for Mr. Sakamoto, but many may have just been curious to see Mr. Trudeau in person and listen to what he had to say.
I was surprised to learn that this was the first time a sitting Prime Minister has visited the city since Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Kim Campbell stopped by Medicine Hat during the 1993 election campaign.
Even during his nine years as Prime Minister, Conservative Stephen Harper never made the quick trip south of Calgary to visit the The Gas City!
Here is the full list of candidates running in the by-election:
Rhino Party: Kanye Cooper
Libertarian Party: Sheldon Johnston [Twitter]
Conservative Party: Glen Motz [Facebook, Twitter]
Liberal Party: Stan Sakamoto [Facebook, Instagram, Twitter]
Christian Heritage: Rod Taylor
New Democratic Party: Beverly Ann Waege