Voters in Calgary-Centre will mark their ballots tomorrow in what has become a unexpected hotly contested by-election in the centre of Alberta’s largest city.
The race should have been a cake-walk for the Conservatives, who have held the riding in its many forms for more than forty-years, but it was not to be. Soon after the by-election was called four weeks ago, polls found that the Conservative Party’s 40% margin of victory from the 2011 election was quickly evaporating.
Of the three polls released over the course of the campaign, two found a three-way race with Conservative Joan Crockatt only slightly ahead of the Liberal Party’s Harvey Locke and fast-paced Green Party candidate Chris Turner, who had moved from a distant third over the summer to a contender in November.
All polls have shown Ms. Crockatt in the lead, so it is difficult to say whether any opposition candidate really has a opportunity to defeat her.
Ms. Crockatt’s campaign has proven to be less than spectacular. Despite missing numerous public forums and arousing the ire of popular Mayor Naheed Nenshi, the Conservatives will hope that the power of incumbency, government, and a strategy focused on door-knocking will pay off.
If she is elected tomorrow, I would not be surprised to see Ms. Crockatt quickly elevated to the front and centre of the Conservative caucus in Ottawa. It will not be long before she becomes one of the more prominent combative and partisan voices in the House of Commons.
A seasoned environmental lobbyist and lawyer, I have little doubt that Mr. Locke would be a strong voice on behalf of Calgary-Centre the House of Commons. Sensing an opportunity in this by-election, legions of federal Liberals have dropped into the riding. Since the by-election was called, I suspect more federal Liberal MPs have visited the riding since the party held their leadership convention at the Saddledome in 1990. The election of Mr. Locke would give the federal Liberals a toe-hold in Calgary, a city where they have not elected an MP since 1968.
Urban sustainability advocate Mr. Turner represents a generational change in federal politics. He is an ideas-guy whose political past and future is not tied to traditional partisan politics. Mr. Turner talks less about traditional politics and more about sustainability of communities, cities, and about what creates quality of life on the street-level. These are all critical issues that should be discussed in our national capital, but rarely are.
Despite a brief foray into the world of negative advertising, Mr. Turner’s campaign has arguably been the most exciting and unconventional of the by-election.
Dan Meades, the little-talked-about NDP candidate, has done incredible work in Calgary-Centre through his work as director of Vibrant Communities Calgary. While initially coming out strong over the summer, the NDP hampered their chances by not choosing a candidate until days after the by-election had been called. Mr. Meades should have been a contender.
As was the case in the 2010 mayoral election and the 2012 provincial election, voters in Calgary have becoming increasingly unpredictable. As with most by-elections, voters have an opportunity to both focus on the individual candidates and send the governing party a message without changing which party holds power in Ottawa. This race is about Calgary-Centre, and tomorrow we will discover whether Calgary voters will continue their streak of unpredictability.
With the vote happening tomorrow, this should be one of my final posts focusing on the Calgary-Centre by-election. While it has been incredibly refreshing to take a break from writing about the theatrics of Question Period or the scandal-du-jour in the provincial capital, I look forward to returning my focus to the more substantial issues dominating Alberta’s political scene.