The past six months were filled with change for Gary Vidal, culminating in a decisive election win in the northern Saskatchewan riding of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River.
It started in April when he stepped down as mayor of Meadow Lake — the city in which he was born and raised. Over the next few months, he launched his federal campaign and sold his accounting business.
As he dismantled election signs at his campaign headquarters Tuesday, he told Global News about the different lifestyles and expectations that come with life on Parliament Hill.
“There’s going to be a lot of learning and figuring out along the way,” Vidal said.
Years earlier, he was approached about a political opportunity at the provincial level, but Vidal turned it down.
“I would’ve never considered this journey when my kids were younger and I was more involved in their lives,” Vidal said.
His four children are now adults, and he feels the time is right to transition into federal politics.
With the campaign underway, he and his wife of 33 years, Lori Vidal, celebrated the birth of their first grandchild. Vidal said seeing his grandson Nathaniel for the first time reinforced his feeling that he must work for future generations.
After 40 days of campaigning in Canada’s third-largest riding, Vidal said he doesn’t know exactly what his next few days look like.
“Honestly, I have no idea. I’m waiting for someone to tell me what we do next,” he said.
With nearly 42 per cent of the almost 26,000 ballots cast, Vidal defeated NDP incumbent Georgina Jolibois. The New Democrat finished with just under 29 per cent of the vote. Liberal Tammy Cook-Searson garnered roughly 27 per cent.
Cook-Searson plans to return to her role as chief of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, and “probably” run for re-election four months from now.
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With roughly 4,300 fewer ballots cast than in 2015, Cook-Searson suspects lower turnout was a deciding factor in 2019.
“People have to get out and vote. That’s what really makes a difference in any election,” Cook-Searson said at her election night headquarters.
Modeste McKenzie is the Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River riding association president for the NDP. He was cautiously optimistic early Monday evening because initially, the candidates appeared to be in a dead heat.
McKenzie called the riding “very strong NDP country” in part because of its population being roughly 70 per cent Indigenous.
In eight general elections since 2004, Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River has been won twice by the NDP, three times by the Liberals and three times by the Conservatives.