A crowd of more than 2,000 showed up to see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Medicine Hat on October 13, 2016 (photo by @braedencaley on Twitter)

Liberal underdog versus Conservative favourite in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner by-election

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Stan Sakamoto

Today is election day in the federal riding of Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner. Polls are open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

What was expected to be a sleepy by-election campaign in this long-time Conservative-held riding in southeast Alberta turned out to be surprisingly exciting. More than 2,000 Albertans showed up to see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a rally for local Liberal Party candidate Stan Sakamoto, marking the first time a sitting prime minister has visited Medicine Hat since 1993.

Mr. Sakamoto is a well-known local businessman and appears to be fairly popular in the city.

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Glen Motz

Conservative Party candidate Glen Motz is a retired police officer and also appears to be a fairly well-liked figure in the community. The Conservatives won this riding with 68.8 percent of the vote in October 2015 and Mr. Motz is expected to win. Interim party leader Rona Ambrose was in the riding last week and was met by a crowd of 500 local Conservatives.

Mr. Trudeau has said “I know that this is one we can win, but the odds of Mr. Sakamoto winning the by-election still feel like a long-shot. I expect that Conservatives know this, but the strong turnout to Mr. Trudeau’s rally in this southern Alberta city has likely spooked the Conservative establishment.

Not a headline I ever would have expected to read from a newspaper in Medicine Hat.

Not a headline I ever would have expected to read from a newspaper in Medicine Hat.

A Liberal win in this by-election would send shockwaves through the Conservative Party, but a strong second place would be a success for the Liberals, who last earned more than 20 percent of the vote in this riding in the 1993 election.

Meanwhile, despite being officially connected, neither the federal or provincial New Democratic parties appear to have put much public effort or resources into supporting candidate Bev Waege during this by-election campaign. As Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hebert noted today, “this byelection has illustrated the dysfunctional nature of the relationship between the federal NDP opposition and Alberta’s New Democrat government.”

This is a race between a Liberal underdog and a Conservative favourite.

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