By Trevor Busch
Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Gary Bikman has lost the right to represent the Progressive Conservative Party in an upcoming provincial election following a nomination defeat over the weekend.
Bikman was trumped on Saturday by M.D. of Taber Reeve Brian Brewin, who managed to secure enough votes from party faithful to edge out the first-term MLA, who recently crossed the floor to the PCs in late 2014.
“I really believe in democracy, and I think I’ve done a good job on both sides of the floor,” said Bikman on Monday. “Having been on the other side in opposition, it’s been very interesting to now be part of the solution, and to look at some of the simplistic solutions that were headlined when we were on the other side, and see how inadequate and incomplete they are. But the fact that we had to rely on that probably says more about the media than it does about us.”
Saturday’s vote marks the second time in recent memory that a sitting PC MLA has been defeated in a nomination battle in the Cardston-Taber-Warner riding. Prior to the 2012 provincial election, PC nomination candidate Pat Shimbashi turfed incumbent PC MLA Broyce Jacobs, but was ultimately unsuccessful in securing a position as the riding’s representative in the following election, going down to defeat to then-Wildrose candidate Gary Bikman.
Displaying no bitterness about his nomination loss, Bikman instead heaped praise on his opponent’s character.
“I like Brian Brewin. I can tell you truthfully that if I wasn’t running, I’d have been voting for him,” said Bikman. “I wish Brian all the best, he’s a great guy and a great candidate. He’s a solid guy — a man of integrity, hard-working — he will be a good candidate and a great MLA. Brian had a great ground game in Taber and Milk River. I won in the other towns, but not as significant numbers as he was able to muster in his home base. He’s a good guy, and I’m confident he’ll do a good job.”
Bikman, along with nine other Wildrose MLAs, crossed the floor to the ruling PCs in a controversial move in late 2014. Over the past weekend, former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith who was part of the surprise exodus from Wildrose party ranks, was also defeated in her own nomination battle in the Highwood riding.
“I’m not totally surprised. I sensed, quite clearly, that there were still people upset with our crossing, and it created an interesting dynamic in the communities, and it manifested more so in Cardston, Magrath, Raymond and Stirling. People haven’t really been able to get past that sense of betrayal.”
According to Shimbashi, who currently serves as Cardston-Taber-Warner PC constituency organization president, roughly 1,200 votes were cast in the riding, making overall voter turn-out higher than Highwood’s much-touted nomination vote (also taking place over the weekend) which saw former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith suffer defeat at the hands of a relative unknown in Okotoks councillor Carrie Fisher.
“Brian and I have had a good relationship for the three years that I’ve been in play, through his role as reeve of the M.D. of Taber,” said Bikman. “He and I have worked together to advance the cause of the M.D. on drainage issues and other things that have been important to our constituents.”
Bikman will continue to serve as Cardston-Taber-Warner’s MLA until a provincial election is called. Much speculation is currently centered on the prospect of an early election call for spring, however the PC’s current mandate — achieved under the now-maligned tenure of Alison Redford — still extends into 2016.
Bikman thanked constituents for permitting him to serve them over his more than three years in office.
“I’d like to thank them for the opportunity that I have had to serve them, and that I’ve always worked hard to serve them the best way that I know how. I’ll continue to work as best I can until the election takes place. Life goes on, as far as continuing my services and my life. When all is said and done, with 40 grandkids and one more on the way — that’s a full time job. I’m happy that I served, and have no regrets about the things that we did. I always tried to act in the best interests of our constituency and our province — I put the party third.”