The contest in Edmonton-Strathcona between Linda Duncan of the NDP and Ryan Hastman of the Conservative Party was considered a riding to watch by many because it was the only riding in Alberta not held by the Conservatives. Duncan won the riding in the 2008 campaign defeating Rahim Jaffer by a slim 463 vote margin and it had been no secret that the CPC wanted it back and that the NDP would stop at nothing to hold it.
The end results: Turnout: 48,763 out of 71,050 electors. 68.6%
NDP Duncan 26,134 53.6%
CPC Hastman 19,755 40.5%
LPC Sinclair 1,363 2.8%
GPC Fehr 1,127 2.3%
So what happened in Edmonton Strathcona?
The best summation that I can make is that the election was won by the Linda Duncan NDP campaign and that it was not 'lost' by the Ryan Hastman team. I know how that may sound like I am trying to blow smoke somewhere but it really is the best explanation of the reality in the Edm Strathcona race.
Full disclosure: On a few occasions during the 2011 election I actively campaigned (mostly door knocking) for Ryan Hastman in Edmonton Strathcona.
The NDP pulled out all of the stops in an attempt to hold the riding which they called "Battleground Alberta" in a national fund-raising campaign.They had volunteers from all over descended to do the ground work (there were rumours of paid door knocking crews but with the numbers of volunteers the NDP had at their disposal from provincial assets I have my doubts), and even Jack Layton came to town on two separate occasions to rally the troops and local dipper voters. They were funded, had the man power, were well prepared, and ran a smart and effective campaign.
On the CPC side similiar can also be said. They were well funded, had the man power, were well prepared, and ran a smart and effective campaign but they faced an uphill battle from the beginning as well as some obstacles and challenges that the Duncan campaign did not. Challenges such as the power of incumbency and demographics not seen in other Edmonton area ridings.
Getting rid of a sitting MP is not generally a easy task as people tend to re elect people they know and are 'familiar' with, and when that MP is believed to be doing a decent job it is even more difficult to accomplish. I heard it myself at the doors from people who would be considered to be conservative supporters that they thought that she was doing a decent job on the local level as their MP, they had issues with her and the positions she and the NDP took in Ottawa, but not her work at the constituency level. This is sort of a double whammy because one of the biggest reasons why voters turned to Duncan in the first place was because Jaffer was considered by many to be an absent MP. I don't want to go into the demographics too much other than the say that the riding contains the 'hipster' areas of Whyte Avenue and old Strathcona as well as the Campus of the University of Alberta. To say the riding is unique for Edmonton or even Alberta would not be an understatement.
It was an uphill battle to begin with and to make matters worse the Hastman campaign not only had to fight a formidable NDP campaign, incumbency and the unique demographics, they would have to face intangibles which nobody could plan for; namely the almost complete collapse of the Liberal vote and the unexpected surge of the NDP nationally. In 2006 the Liberal candidate received over 9,000 votes under the Paul Martin banner, in 2008 they received over 4000 while under Dion, (which many assumed would be the low point for the Libs and that under Iggy they would at least hold that vote if not increase it), but that was a very wrong assumption as their candidate received only 1,363 votes in total. As for the surge; I am not sure how many more votes were actually gained from it in the riding on the whole, I don't believe it was that many but one thing I am sure about is that it fired up their staff and volunteers and it galvanized the already existing vote/support in the only NDP riding in Alberta.
In the end Linda Duncan and her team deserve full credit for the victory that they worked so hard to obtain and Ryan can take heart in knowing that he and his team ran one hell of a campaign* against almost impossible odds.
* If there is one positive in this it is that Ryan has proven himself to be capable candidate and a tireless formidable campaigner. Having won a close nomination race in June 17th 2009 he had knocked on 9,000 doors before the one year anniversary of that nomination passed and when the writ was dropped hit the ground running, not stopping until it was over. He performed well in the campaign and even though it was not rewarded with a win at the ballot box, his determination, work ethic, and energy didn't go unnoticed; causing even the NDP to put extra money and resources into the riding into an effort to beat Hastman and hold the riding. I would say that is an accomplishment in itself.