The November 26 by-election in Calgary-Centre will be the fourth federal by-election held in Alberta in the past twenty-six years. In that time, only one of the by-elections saw the election of a candidate not from the incumbent political party. All three by-elections were won by candidates representing conservative parties.

Walter Van De Walle

Walter Van De Walle

Pembina By-election
(September 29, 1986)
Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament Peter Elzinga jumped into provincial politics and was elected as an MLA that year, vacating the riding he had represented since 1974. Longtime Sturgeon County councillor and reeve Walter Van De Walle faced a high-profile main competitor, New Democrat Ivor Dent, in a closely fought by-election. Mr. Dent had served as Mayor of Edmonton from 1968 to 1974.

When the votes were counted, Mr. Van De Walle defeated Mr. Dent by a narrow margin of 274 votes. Although Mr. Dent did not win the by-election, the strong showing for the NDP foreshadowed that party’s first federal electoral win in Alberta two year’s later when Ross Harvey was elected in Edmonton-East.

Deborah Grey Beaver River MP

Deborah Grey

Beaver River By-election
(March 13, 1989)
Tory MP John Dahmer died five days after he was elected in the November 21, 1988 election, triggering a by-election in this safe Tory riding. Reform Party candidate Deborah Grey¬†earned a distant 4th place finish in the 1988 general election and carried the young protest party’s banner in the by-election only months later.

Riding a wave of western Canadian discontent with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney‘s PCs, Ms. Grey surprised the nation when she defeated PC candidate Dave Broda by 18%, becoming the first Reform Party MP. (Mr. Broda would later serve as the PC MLA for Redwater from 1997 to 2004). Ms. Grey was re-elected with 58% of the vote in the 1993 election along with 51 other Reform Party candidates.

Stephen Harper

Stephen Harper

Calgary-Southwest By-election
(May 13, 2002)
While he served as the Reform Party MP for Calgary-West from 1993 to 1997, Stephen Harper was not a sitting MP when he replaced Stockwell Day as leader of the Canadian Alliance in 2002. With a by-election expected in the riding vacated by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, Mr. Harper managed to convince a reluctant Ezra Levant to step aside as his party’s already nominated candidate.

Mr. Harper was elected with 71% of the vote, more than 10,000 votes ahead of United Church Minister Bill Phipps, his NDP challenger. The Liberal Party declined to run a candidate in order to not oppose the new party leader’s entry into the House of Commons.