PHOTOS: Trudeaumania 1.0, the real thing, in 1968. Below: Trudeaumania 2.0, not nearly as effective, in Medicine Hat, Alberta, on Oct. 13, 2016. Below: Conservative by-election winner Glen Motz, Rudyard Kipling, poet of empire and saviour of the Hat part of the Hat, and unsuccessful Liberal challenger Stan Sakamoto.

Well, it’s obviously going to take more than a dose of Trudeaumania 2.0 to get the good burghers of Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner to vote for someone who’s not a Conservative.

Just to put an end to the suspense, all the polls hadn’t yet reported as this story was put to bed, but it was pretty obvious the Conservative Party candidate has rolled to victory that can only be described as comfortable in yesterday’s by-election in the geographically large rural-urban riding in Alberta’s deep south.

Last time I looked at Elections Canada’s by-election website, anyway, Conservative Glen Motz (Glen who? — Ed.) was leading with something like 70 per cent of the vote, so I think we can pretty safely declare the retired policeman the winner and forget about hearing anything interesting from Medicine Hat for another 48 years or so.

As for the Liberal candidate in whom the chattering classes had invested so much, well, chatter … businessman Stan Sakamoto … he was trailing with about a quarter of the vote.

The last time a Liberal was elected in the Hat, see, was 1968 – and that was Bud Olson, who was really a veteran Social Credit MP, elected to the House of Commons four times under that strange currency-reform movement’s banner, with a time out during the Diefenbaker sweep of 1958. When Social Credit fell apart, he got in one more time on a wave of Trudeaumania Classic, which was the real deal.

Hatters, as they’re known, had had enough of the elder Mr. Trudeau by 1972, and Mr. Olsen was defeated in the election of that year, notwithstanding having spent a spell in the federal cabinet as minister of agriculture. He was later rewarded for his service to the Liberals by being made Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, a job he held from 1996 to 2000.

It tells a story about the mood in that particular riding nowadays that of the other four parties with candidates in yesterday’s by-election – the Christian Heritage Party, the Dippers, Libertarians and Rhinoceroses – it was the Christian Heritage candidate who captured by far the most of the afterthought vote.

None of this should come as a surprise to political observers who pay attention to Prairie politics – the Hat nowadays is the kind of place voters would distrust a Canadian Donald Trump for being too liberal.

Why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got excited enough by the potential in the Hat of all places to bother jetting out there, even for a day – attracting a crowd of 2,500, mostly curiosity seekers, obviously – is a mystery. If there’s a kernel of a hard political truth in this, it’s that places like Medicine Hat are unlikely ever to vote for Liberals or New Democrats, and both parties waste time and fritter away political capital paying attention to them.

By the same token, while we can hardly deny Canada’s cornered Conservatives the right to celebrate their victory, a Conservative by-election in Canada’s political Jurassic Park hardly portends a change of heart among Canadians in other parts of the country, or even other parts of Alberta.

About the only time before 1968 that the Hat hit the big time was in 1907, when Rudyard Kipling, England’s Nobel Prize-winning poet of empire and prophet of imperialism, that era’s answer to Bob Dylan, toured the place and its gas fields, observing that it had “all Hell for a basement, and the only trap door appears to be Medicine Hat.”

Three years later he did a noble service to mankind by persuading the town’s leading citizens not to change the name of place to Leopoldville or Gasburg.

The by-election was called after the previous MP, Conservative Jim Hillyer, elected in 2011, was found dead in his Ottawa office on March 23. An autopsy pointed to heart disease.

This post also appears on

Join the Conversation


    1. do you really see any significant difference and changes in your life, when liberals or conservatives reaches their target and heading the country?

  1. “If there’s a kernel of a hard political truth in this, it’s that places like Medicine Hat are unlikely ever to vote for Liberals or New Democrats, and both parties waste time and fritter away political capital paying attention to them.”

    That must be why NDP MLA and current speaker of the Alberta Legislature Bob Wanner was elected there.

    The issue isn’t that Medicine Hat is overwhelmingly conservative, it’s that the riding was gerrymandered during the Harper years to include vast swaths of rural ranchland. Also there was a voter turnout just below 45%, but sure, let’s just say this confirms that Medicine Hat is and always will be conservative.

    With all this talk about how Medicine Hat, you’d think Cardston and Warner don’t even exist. I think there actually has been something of a shift to the left in the city, but what would i know, i just live here. Maybe it’s not a big enough shift to make any difference when they’re voting in the same election as thousands of ranchers, but it’s real, if you’d take a look at Bob Wanner and the municipal politics here

    Just check how the riding boundaries changed from 2011 to 2015, and maybe come down to the city if you want to tell people about it instead of basing your assertions on statistics that include many people besides hatters.

    Here’s a helpful look at the new boundaries, though Global doesn’t go so far as to call it gerrymandering:

    ANYWAY: I’ve really got to disagree that left wing parties should just give up on this riding, or any riding that’s historically leaned conservative! When there’s such low voter engagement here, I really think there is room for them to compete if they’d just bother to try. Instead of telling local leftists to just give up I’d rather encourage them to try to get the vote out more and agitate for electoral reform and a fair redrawing of the riding boundaries.

  2. So let me get this right, we will hear nothing interesting out of Medicine Hat for another 48 years. This is Alberta’s political Jurassic Park? Really? You come across a bit arrogant. I will remind you that in the 2015 in Alberta’s election Medicine Hat elected a NDP mla. I would think that would soften your reaction a bit. One thing is for sure the federal NDP is dead in that riding they barely got more votes than the rhinoceros party, now that is worth mentioning. Have a good day 🙂

  3. There is no need to be so dismissive of people for making a choice you disagree with. It is not respectful of democracy and only encourages the race to the bottom we see in US politics.

  4. I really think the NDP needs to take this as a wake up call. Their showing in this by election was truly bad. It isn’t a good plan to simply dismiss the results as the Jurassic Park area is short-sighted especially when there have been better NDP results in the past. This is a sign of how badly the NDP has failed to live up to its promises and how much their supporters – and there are NDP supporters in Medicine Hat – feel let down.

    This should be a wake up call for the NDP to start thinking about what they really got elected for.

  5. The results are in so now Medicine Hat voters can return to be taken for granted by one party and perhaps ignored by the other – the natural order is restored. It might not be a nice sentiment, but is what tends to happen when a place votes for one party with resounding majorities for several decades. It tends to fall of the political radar map.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a bit of gerrymandering to help keep the seat safe for the Conservatives – there were some other Alberta ridings that also got more rural in the last election. Who knows, perhaps Mr. Trudeau enjoyed his visit and friendly welcome so he may come back again some time, but it is unlikely to be a frequent stop for him.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.