Nina Grewal rides Conservative wave to Ottawa
As soon as the first poll results were flashed on the TV screen, it was clear the race between incumbent Conservative MP Nina Grewal and Liberal challenger Brenda Locke was going to be a tight one.
After a seesaw battle all night, at times with only 600 or 700 votes separating the two candidates, Grewal won the riding of Fleetwood-Port Kells by a slim margin.
Grewal received 14,577 votes and Locke trailed with 13,762.
In an interview with the Now after her victory, Grewal acknowledged the squeaker.
"I'm really humbled and honoured. The constituents of Fleetwood-Port Kells put their trust in me," Grewal said at her celebration party at the Days Inn. "I'm feeling great. I was confident right from the beginning that we would win this race."
Grewal wasn't feeling quite so confident earlier in the evening when she showed up at her campaign headquarters to support her volunteers and campaign team. She offered cautious comments about her personal chances of victory, although she was still musing about a possible Tory majority.
She was at a loss to explain the close race between her and Locke.
"I don't know. I have no idea," said Grewal who showed up at her campaign headquarters without her husband, Gurmant Grewal, who was embroiled in a bizarre taping controversy last summer.
She denied the scandal cost her votes.
"I have done lots and lots of door knocking and nobody came up with that taping thing," she said.
Gurmant Grewal, a three-term Reform and Conservative MP, was at the celebration party but Nina entered the room to cheering supporters on her own.
Grewal stepped aside for this election, claiming he wanted to spare his party further controversy. Although he was pleased by the election results, he admitted he was disappointed at not being part of the victory as his party finally tastes power. He believes he would have played "a significant role" in government.
With spare time on his hands, Grewal said he might be writing a book, possibly a tell-all about the taping scandal and other machinations in Ottawa.
Nina Grewal finessed a question about a possible cabinet post.
"Let's see. Let's hope for the best. I can't say much, it depends on Mr. Harper," she said.
Grewal acknowledged that Canadians' expectations have been raised with the Conservative victory, especially in the West, which has felt alienated over the years by centrist Ontario-Quebec governments. She rejected a suggestion her team lacks experience and insists they are up to the job of governing the country.
"We have all the experience. We are offering hope, vision for the country and we are a good alternative to the Liberals and we will give that hope and vision," she said.
Locke admitted it's tough to lose when you're so close.
She said her campaign team put up a good fight and warned Grewal she'll be back for a re-match in the next election.
"I'm definitely in it for next time," Locke said at her campaign headquarters, where supporters included Gulzar Cheema, who failed to win the riding in the 2004 election.
"I'll be working on delivering Fleetwood-Port Kells and I'll watching every step that Nina Grewal makes and she better do a better job or she'll have me and a whole bunch of other people to answer to.
"She's not getting another chance."
Locke said she'll use the time until the next election to build a stronger base of support.
Grewal supporters were jubilant when Conservative leader Stephen Harper was projected to become the next prime minister early in the evening while Grewal was still fighting for her seat.
"Excited - a western prime minister and a young man," said 82-year-old Jenny Leach who came to campaign headquarters to wait for the results with her husband Fred Leech, 83.
"He's a western prime minister for a change. That's what counts," said her hubby.
"It will mean we'll get an even break for a change."
NDP contender Barry Bell captured 10,961 votes. Independent candidate Jack Cook received 3,202 votes and Green party candidate Duncan McDonald garnered 1,059 votes.