Two weeks having passed since the federal election, Harold Albrecht has had time to reflect on his nearly 14 years as the MP for Kitchener-Conestoga.
In a reversal of fortune from the 2015 election, Albrecht lost to Liberal candidate Tim Louis by just 305 votes on October 21. The results marked the end of an era that saw the him win four elections dating back to his edging out of former Liberal MP Lynn Myers in January 2006.
Today, he and his team are working to clean out his campaign and constituency offices in both Kitchener and Ottawa, as well as to take down all lawn signs throughout the riding. For now, he won’t be making any immediate long-term plans about his future.
“I’m disappointed that I can’t continue to serve because I absolutely loved what I was doing,” said 70-year-old Albrecht. “But I’m not in despair: I know something else will come along, and there will be other opportunities where I can continue to serve.”
After winning his first election by 1,370 votes, Albrecht was re-elected three more times: in 2008, he beat out Liberal candidate Orlando Da Silva by more than 11,000 votes. The 2011 election saw Albrecht garner more than 50 per cent of the vote over New Democratic candidate Lorne Bruce. He won once again in 2015, defeating Louis by just 251 votes.
“I’m very humbled by the support that I had for those years – being elected four times and coming again very close this time,” said Albrecht. “Even though I lost, I lost by a very tiny margin.”
Many elements of this years’ election parallel that of 2015. Both Albrecht and Louis alternated the top spot in Kitchener-Conestoga for hours on election night, after a human error caused a long delay in the final results. It wasn’t until the next morning that Louis was finally declared the winner.
After taking the time to reflect, the significant change this time around was the incorporation of the People’s Party of Canada candidate Koltyn Wallar, said Albrecht.
“If you look at the numbers carefully, the big difference this time was the PPC – 790 votes went to the PPC,” said Albrecht. “I’m fairly confident that most of those came from the Conservative party, so that was the biggest factor.
“In terms of our numbers, ours didn’t change that much; Tim’s numbers didn’t change that much, but when you take out the 790 from what I think many of them would have been cast on the Conservative side.”
It was among the closest races in the country – Albrecht garnered 19,833 (39.07%), while Louis won with 20,106 (39.61%) of the vote. NDP candidate Riani De Wet finished third with 5,152 (10.15%) and Green party candidate Stephanie Goertz got 4,889 (9.63%).
“There are things, yes, that we could have done differently. But the what-ifs in life, if you start bogging down on those, you’ll never get anywhere. So you just move ahead with your best plan,” said Albrecht.
“There were a number of factors that could have gone either way. From that point of view, I can go out with a good feeling about what I’ve tried to do for the riding.”
During his tenure, Albrecht and his team served thousands of constituents with a wide variety of issues ranging from refugees settlements, Canada Revenue Agency, employment insurance, passports and the like, he notes.
In addition to helping those coming into the office with concerns, the team also hosted plenty of outreach events throughout the riding. These events included passport clinics, blood donor clinics, and shredding events, which helped people get rid of any personal ID that could fall into the wrong hands.
On a national level, Albrecht said he was proud of the work he committed to mental health issues and suicide prevention. He served as co-chair of a cross-party committee that published a report “Not to Be Forgotten” in 2011, which dealt with the need for improved palliative care in Canada, better suicide prevention initiatives, and prevention of elder abuse.
“We did a lot of work on that and I think moved that yardstick forward considerably,” said Albrecht. “We still have a long, long way to go … especially in palliative care. We’re so far short of where we should be.”
Other issues important to Albrecht include standing up for small- to medium-sized businesses, the agricultural community, and proper safeguards for the vulnerable.
Although he may not be the MP anymore, those in Kitchener-Conestoga can expect to see Albrecht around the community. The riding has been his home for his entire life – he grew up in Waterloo Region and attended Waterloo Oxford District Secondary School in Wilmot.
“I won’t get to every event like I did, but I still intend to be in the community. I’m not going to fade into the woodwork, “ said Albrecht.
“I am looking forward to the next chapter, I don’t know what all it will hold. My faith is my foundation, I have confidence that God will hold open a door. Or else he’ll just want me to sit down and be quiet. One of the two,” he said with a laugh.
While he is avoiding making any concrete commitments, Albrecht said he is looking forward to spending a lot more time with his family, including his three kids, nine grandkids, and his wife Darlene.
On the other hand, he won’t miss the weekly drives from Kitchener to Ottawa, and then back to Kitchener again that was required of him as an MP.