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NDP ready to mount serious challenge to Tories in Red Deer

As the NDP popularity surge sweeps across the nation voters in this staunchly conservative riding of Red Deer are pausing to give Jack Layton's party a second look, says NDP candidate Stuart Somerville.
Stuart Somerville
Stuart Somerville

"I think people are really interested, interested in seeing a real challenge to the Conservatives," said Somerville, who lives and works as a school teacher outside the riding but is well informed on the area as a former resident.

"They (riding residents) see they are not being serviced well, and that they are not being matched up by the promises the Conservatives have made."

Somerville is up against popular Tory incumbent Earl Dreeshen who handily won the riding in the 2008 election with 33,226 votes. Somerville came in second with 5,040 votes.

While Somerville is realistic enough to admit his chances of winning, even with the NDP's unprecedented surge, are slim he is convinced he can make a significant breakthrough for the party, one that will establish the NDP as a solid contender in the Red Deer riding for future elections.

"I think he (Dreeshen) is a good man, a nice man. But I don't think he ever thought we would make a breakthrough. This (election) is another step towards it," he said, adding diehard Conservatives in the riding are concerned with the NDP's upswing in popularity.

"I have heard a number of people saying they are seriously considering changing their votes, and that they are looking at the NDP as a serious option.

"I really think we are seeing it. Mr. Dreeshen is taking notice. I think all Conservatives are not pleased with what they are seeing," added Somerville. "We speak to the values that many Central Albertans hold."

As of Tuesday (April 26) Somerville has yet to visit Innisfail during the campaign but hope to have time by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, Dreeshen said while he is not taking Somerville for granted in the campaign he has not heard "a lot of talk" with Red Deer constituents about the NDP's surge in the polls.

He said his team has and will continue to do what it planned from the start, to get out and talk and meet with as many citizens as possible.

"Both the Liberal and NDP candidates are from outside the riding but I'm sure they both know what is happening here or else they would not have put their names out," said Dreeshen, adding he will continue to meet with citizens until the end of the campaign and not worry about the NDP or any of the other candidates. "I shy away from political punditry."