BOW VALLEY – With the release by Elections Canada of federal poll-by-poll results for the 2019 and 2021 elections, the riding of Banff-Airdrie could best be described as a tale of two places.
In Banff in 2019, Liberal candidate Gwyneth Midgley picked up 559 votes, while the NDP candidate Anne Wilson earned 621 votes. This contrasts with the eventual winner in the riding, Conservative MP Blake Richards, who had 613 votes.
That same election in Canmore, the result was a bit different but still a close race. Midgley had 1,119 votes, Wilson had 975, and Richards had 1,656. In the end, Richards had an overwhelming victory with 71 per cent of the vote in the riding. His 55,504 votes were far above second-place Midgley who had 8,425.
In 2021, the result was the same. Liberal candidate David Gamble and NDP candidate Sara Zagoda both had more votes than Richards in Banff. In Canmore, Richards once again won but the results remained close with Gamble and Zagoda both only a few hundred votes behind. Once again though, Richards won a large victory with 56.7 per cent of the vote in the riding.
In both cases, Richards had an overwhelming share of the votes in Airdrie and Cochrane, which negated any gain for the other parties in the Bow Valley.
“We know provincially Banff and area have sent NDP candidates to Edmonton, so it is not surprising to know that there is more support for different parties in those areas federally as well,” said Lori Williams, associate professor in the department of Economics Justice and Policy Studies at Mount Royal University. “The federal riding is larger, so the impact is quite limited, and we haven’t seen anything but Conservative go to Ottawa in recent history.”
The difference in the two areas of the riding can give voters the feeling that their vote won’t matter.
Richards received 41,105 votes in the riding, with 3,399 coming from Banff and Canmore polling stations. However, he was the top candidate in the two ridings, with the next two closest being Liberal Party candidate David Gamble at 2,634 and NDP candidate Sarah Zagoda with 2,633.
Of the 28 polling stations in Canmore, Richards won 15 of them and tied another with the NDP, who claimed eight of the voting stations and the Liberals had four. Richards received 2,557 votes in Canmore, while Gamble had 1,928 and Zagoda 1,748.
In Banff, there were 14 stations, with Zagoda winning nine compared to three going to Richards and two to Gamble. The vote totals, however, were slightly closer, Zagoda received 945 in Banff, Richards 842 and Gamble 766.
“In many cases, people make decisions about voting based on if they think that their vote can make a difference. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of course,” Williams said. “You sometimes see lower voter turnout when people think their vote won’t make a difference.”
In 2019, the voter turnout was 73.1 per cent in the riding, which dipped to 69.4 per cent in 2021. When one looks at the data for specific areas though, the voter turnout changes drastically. In Banff, for example, the voter turnout in 2019 was only 40.6 per cent. In 2021, the turnout was even worse in Banff at only 32 per cent. In Canmore, it was marginally better at 36 per cent.
“If they don’t think it is going to have an impact, or they feel undecided, or that no good candidate represents them, then for some people they don’t bother voting, unfortunately,” Williams said.
Other parties such as the Green Party did better in the Bow Valley, while doing much worse in the larger centres of Airdrie and Cochrane.
Aidan Blum, the Green Party candidate and the lone Bow Valley resident running in the election, received 1,330 votes in the riding. However, Banff and Canmore made up 622 of those.
“I would say that the Green Party and the NDP, based on the history, they might do better in terms of votes,” Williams said. “If it looks like there is a close race, a lot of non-Conservative voters tend to vote strategically and put their vote with the candidate and party that has the best chance at defeating the Conservative candidate.”
Two additional issues were part of the federal election vote. One was equalization, which asked Albertans if they believed it should be removed from the Canadian Constitution.
Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise were against asking the federal government to change equalization. However, the MD of Bighorn voters went 232 in favour of removing it and 202 against.
Banff and Lake Louise were 738 for and 1,039 against, while Canmore was 1,565 for and 2,798 against.
Finally, the question of if Alberta should have year-round daylight savings time would be brought in and changing clocks twice a year be eliminated.
Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise and the MD of Bighorn voters all voted against having year-round daylight savings. The numbers varied by municipality, with Canmore the most adamant against with 1,666 for and 3,032 against. In Banff/Lake Louise, 848 wanted to change but 1,160 were against and in the MD of Bighorn, it was 183 for change and 258 against.
With Conservatives such as Richards winning by large margins in their riding in Alberta, it also skews the results on a national level when it comes to the popular vote.
“The Conservative vote, they got a couple hundred thousand more votes than the Liberals in the last two elections, but wound up with fewer seats because they were winning by large margins in Alberta,” Williams said. “But they are not able to get over the threshold of getting the most votes in a number of other ridings.”
With the proposed changes to the ridings with Banff and Canmore splitting into different ridings, it is unlikely the feeling of alienation and wasted votes won’t change in the Bow Valley.
A proposed redistribution of the federal riding may see Canmore and Banff split, with Banff joining the Yellowhead riding with Drayton Valley, Edson, Mayerthorpe, Jasper and Hinton. If it is approved, Canmore would join a riding with Carstairs, Cochrane, Crossfield, Didsbury and Olds.
The Yellowhead riding would become the third largest in Alberta and the Canmore-Cochrane-Olds would be significantly smaller.
These boundary changes are non-partisan, mandated by the Supreme Court of Canada with a percentage discrepancy required between the largest and smallest constituencies in the country. An independent commission attempts to redraw boundaries based on growth of population in some constituencies, which has put the riding out of step with other constituencies.
A province has to have a certain number of seats and the difference between densest and least dense constituency can’t be too large.
“I often speak with people who wonder if their vote makes a difference, especially in a riding like Banff-Airdrie in a federal election,” Williams said. “It is easier to make that case in a provincial election or in a riding where the votes are closer like Edmonton-Strathcona, or in those inner-city municipal ridings in Calgary and Edmonton.”
BANFF-AIRDRIE RIDING RESULTS
- Blake Richards (Conservative Party): 41,105 votes and 57 per cent
- Sarah Zagoda (NDP): 11,673 votes and 16.2 per cent
- David Gamble (Liberal Party): 8,766 votes and 12.1 per cent
- Nadine Wellwood (PPC): 5,548 votes and 7.7 per cent
- Derek Sloan (Independent): 1,831 votes and 2.5 per cent
- Tariq Elnaga (Maverick Party): 1,395 votes and 1.9 per cent
- Aidan Blum (Green Party): 1,330 votes and 1.8 per cent
- Caroline O’Driscoll (Independent): 460 votes and 0.6 per cent
- Ron Voss (Independent): 64 votes and 0.1 per cent
BANFF RIDING RESULTS
- Sarah Zagoda (NDP): 945
- Blake Richards (Conservative Party): 842
- David Gamble (Liberal Party): 766
- Aidan Blum (Green Party): 142
- Nadine Wellwood (PPC): 102
- Derek Sloan (Independent): 24
- Caroline O'Driscoll (Independent): 12
- Tariq Elnaga (Maverick Party): 8
- Ron Voss (Independent): 1
CANMORE RIDING RESULTS
- Blake Richards (Conservative Party): 2,557
- David Gamble (Liberal Party): 1,928
- Sarah Zagoda (NDP): 1,748
- Aidan Blum (Green Party): 412
- Nadine Wellwood (PPC): 295
- Derek Sloan (Independent): 94
- Tariq Elnaga (Maverick Party): 62
- Caroline O'Driscoll (Independent): 57
- Ron Voss (Independent): 6
DAYLIGHT SAVINGS RESULTS
- Banff/Lake Louise: 2,093 votes – 848 for change and 1,160 against change, with 85 rejected ballots and 81 blank ballots
- Canmore: 4,838 votes – 1,666 for change and 3,032 against change, with 140 rejected ballots and 140 blank ballots
- MD of Bighorn: 449 votes – 183 for change and 258 against change, with 8 rejected ballots and 4 blank ballots
- Banff/Lake Louise: 2,093 votes – 738 for change and 1,039 against change, with 316 rejected ballots and 311 blank ballots
- Canmore: 4,838 votes – 1,565 for change and 2,798 against change, with 475 rejected ballots and 474 blank ballots
- MD of Bighorn: 449 votes – 232 for change and 202 against change, with 15 rejected ballots and 12 blank ballots