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The Globe and Mail

Tories stand their ground on the Prairies

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper gestures while talking with children after casting his ballot at a polling station in a school in Calgary, Alberta May 2, 2011.


The splash of orange across the country was reduced to just a few dots in the Prairie provinces.

Little changed here Monday night, where Conservatives held the lion's share of seats.

The Tories took 51 of 56 seats across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, up two from the party's 2008 total. To do so, the Conservatives fended off stiff challenges in just a handful of ridings, mostly by the NDP.

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In Alberta, Edmonton-Strathcona remained the lone seat that wasn't held by Stephen Harper's Conservatives. New Democrat Linda Duncan defeated Conservative candidate Ryan Hastman, and was greeted in a downtown Edmonton hotel with chants of "Linda, Linda!"

"You're all invited to Stornoway," she said, referring to the home of the leader of the Official Opposition, which will now be occupied by NDP leader Jack Layton. "Who would have thought it, eh?"

Ms. Duncan became a brand in the province in 2008, when she upset incumbent Conservative Rahim Jaffer by fewer than 500 votes. On Monday, she won by over 5,000.

However, her seat was just one of three the NDP had hoped to win in Edmonton. But candidates Ray Martin and Lewis Cardinal suffered resounding defeats.

"I'm very disappointed that I don't have an Alberta caucus," she acknowledged. "I'm totally worried about a Harper majority government. Social Canadians are worried about a Harper majority government. So that's what was elected and now we'll see what he's really going to bring us."

"It just wasn't time yet to have the orange crush in Alberta," she added.

Her victory is still a blow to the Harper Conservatives, which poured support into the riding to try and knock off Ms. Duncan.

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A vocal critic of unfettered oil sands development in a like-minded party, Ms. Duncan's presence in the House of Commons will thwart any effort by the Conservatives to play down environmental criticisms of the major economic asset.

"We'll make sure Alberta has a strong voice in the NDP caucus," she said.

The Conservatives held on to Edmonton-Centre, a former Liberal stronghold where incumbent Tory Laurie Hawn had an early lead over two strong challengers. And Edmonton-East, incumbent Conservative Peter Goldring was easily leading his NDP challenger, formal provincial NDP leader Ray Martin.

In Saskatchewan's most contested battle, Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, Conservative Kelly Block beat New Democrat Nettie Wiebe by 774 votes. Ms. Block won by just 262 votes in 2008 and Ms. Wiebe had hoped for a different result.

All other Saskatchewan seats were won by the incumbent, including Liberal Ralph Goodale, the lone non-Tory in that province.

In Manitoba, the Conservative Party maintained its dominance, with just a few close battles waged between the major parties in Winnipeg.

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Going into Monday's election, the Conservatives held nine of the 14 provincial ridings and picked up two seats.

In Winnipeg South Centre, Conservative candidate Joyce Bateman, a former Liberal, unseated Liberal MP Anita Neville by 696 votes.

And in Elmwood-Transcona, NDP incumbent Jim Maloway lost by 284 votes to Conservative challenger Lawrence Toet.

Three opposition MPs were elected in Manitoba: New Democrats Pat Martin and Niki Ashton, and Liberal Kevin Lamoureux.

Vic Toews, who served as Minister of Public Safety in the most recent parliament, held onto his seat in Provencher, as did Steven Fletcher in Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia. New Democrat Niki Ashton easily maintained her hold on the large northern riding of Churchill. She and Pat Martin are the only New Democrats from the province.

NDP candidate Rebecca Blaikie, whose father, Bill, was a long-time NDP MP, failed to unseat Liberal Kevin Lamoureux in Winnipeg North, a riding he won in a by-election last year. She trailed the incumbent by less than 200 votes.

"People appreciate hard work," said Mr. Lamoureux.

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