John Barlow wins Macleod byelection

Politics: Liberal candidate Dustin Fuller a distant second

By: By Wheel Staff

  |  Posted: Tuesday, Jul 01, 2014 08:38 am

Conservative candidate John Barlow celebrates his win in the Macleod byelection with family and friends in High River. Barlow defeated Liberal candidate Dustin Fuller by a wide margin.
Conservative candidate John Barlow celebrates his win in the Macleod byelection with family and friends in High River. Barlow defeated Liberal candidate Dustin Fuller by a wide margin.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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Macleod’s newest MP has gone from questioning politicians to having a seat in question period in Ottawa.

John Barlow, the former editor and associate publisher of the Okotoks Western Wheel, was unofficially declared the winner of the Macleod riding byelection at approximately 8 p.m., 30 minutes after the polls closed on Monday.

Barlow replaces Ted Menzies who retired in November of 2013 to become president and CEO of CropLife Canada.

With only three polling stations left to report by the morning of July 1, Barlow received 12,394 votes, or 68.8 per cent. Liberal candidate Dustin Fuller of Okotoks was a distant second with 3,062, or 17 per cent. Green party candidate Larry Ashmore was in third with 1,042 votes, NDP candidate Aileen Burke was fourth with 766 votes and Christian Heritage Party candidate David Reimer was in fifth with 763 votes.

Voter turnout was way down in Macleod as only 18,027 of 92,007 registered voters cast a ballot. In the 2012 federal election, 51,792 people cast a ballot.

Barlow said his confidence never wavered during the campaign, despite visits to Macleod by Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair of the NDP.

“That was never a concern,” Barlow said. “We focused on our campaign and our game plan... I wasn’t worried about what everybody else was doing.”

He said the Macleod voters sent a message “that they are confident in the prime minister and the Conservative government. Secondly, they were confident in the team and the candidate. I have grown up in the area... I have lived through the issues they have lived through.”

The 42-year-old Barlow moved to High River in the mid-1990s and was a reporter with the High River Times before taking up a position at the Western Wheel in the late 1990s. Barlow moved to Okotoks in 2004.

As a resident of the area, Barlow said his priority will be ensuring federal funding continues to flow towards flood victims and mitigation work in the future.

“We know there is a lot of work to be done in High River, Black Diamond, Bragg Creek,” Barlow said. “Ninety per cent of flood recovery money was federal. Just having the reassurance that someone is there (in Ottawa) fighting for them.”

He said he plans to have his office in High River in order to “have his feet on the ground to make sure the things we need to get done in this community get done.”

His term will be short-lived. A federal election is scheduled to be called by October of 2015.

“We focused on this and we will focus on the next election when that comes,” Barlow said.

It was Barlow’s second attempt at politics. He was beaten as the Progressive Conservative candidate for the Highwood seat in the 2012 provincial election by Wildrose leader Danielle Smith. Barlow said the loss was a learning experience that helped him prepare for the Macleod byelection.

Liberal candidate Dustin Fuller was upbeat that his party improved its share of the popular vote to around 17 per cent – its best result since 1988 – and he remained in a fighting spirit after greeting supporters after the election at The Owl’s Nest in Okotoks.

Fuller said he called Barlow to congratulate him on the victory, but he also challenged the MP-elect to prove himself before a general election.

“Barlow has about a year to prove he can do politics differently than his predecessors,” Fuller told the cheering Liberals.

Fuller said he knocked on more than 30,000 doors in the vast Macleod riding, claiming in many cases “it’s the first time anyone (had) seen a Liberal come to the door.”

He also suggested that perhaps the only way to topple a Conservative in southern Alberta is to hit the campaign trail earlier.

Fuller, 28, was somewhat coy about whether he’ll run in a federal election. However, he also admitted that his grandfather, John Ferris, infected him with the political bug when he was eight years old and it may be difficult to let go.

“This is absolutely not my last kick at the can, if you will.”

The Liberals handily won two byelections in the Toronto area and finished a strong second in the Fort McMurray-Athabasca riding behind the Conservative party, capturing 35 per cent of the popular vote.

NDP candidate Aileen Burke said she was disappointed with the party’s results. The 4.2 per cent finish was well down from its 10.3 per cent, second-place performance in the 2012 election.

“We knew it was a long shot riding, but we put in the effort that we could,” she said. “I was aiming to at least keep what we had in the last election and it doesn’t look like we are going to get that so it's definitely disappointing.”

Burke is unsure if she will run in the next election, but said it would require a more dedicated campaign next time around. She was also let down by the poor voter turn out.

“It's before the long weekend, you couldn't have asked for a worse time for voter turnout,” she said. “So, you can blame that on Harper.”

Green candidate Larry Ashmore said he was also less than impressed about the election date falling on the eve of Canada Day.

“It was strangely parked in the middle of a holiday and I’m pretty cynical about that, a lot of voters were,” he said. “They had lots of opportunity to put this in a more appropriate date.”

Ashmore was pleased with his results, especially because his party chose to save its funds for the next election. This was Ashmore’s fifth time running under the Green party banner, but he said they will be seeking a younger candidate for the next election to help facilitate youth engagement.


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