It was an exciting race for the history books!
Conservative Joan Crockatt has narrowly defeated her opponents to win the federal by-election in Calgary-Centre. At 10:30pm with 241 of 263 polls reporting, Ms. Crockatt’s 9,479 (37%) votes placed her comfortably ahead of Liberal Harvey Locke‘s 8,181 (32%) and Green Chris Turner‘s 6,455 (25%).
Mr. Crockatt’s less than inspirational campaign and internal division within conservative ranks gave both the Greens and Liberals the belief that they might have a once in a generation opportunity to break the Tory Party’s forty-year hold on the city. A number of polls showing a close race, which turned out to be fairly accurate, also boosted the spirits of the two opposition parties.
The Conservatives did win this by-election, but Ms. Crockatt’s narrow margin of victory is noteworthy. In the 2011 election, former Conservative MP Lee Richardson was re-elected with more than 20,000 votes ahead of the second place Liberal challenger.
Both the Liberals and the Greens should be proud of their results tonight.
The Liberals mounted a strong traditional campaign and focused their national spotlight on the riding, including visits from a dozen Liberal MPs. Some Liberal Party supporters will blame vote-splitting for their defeat in the by-election, but comments from Ottawa MP David McGuinty and leadership candidate Justin Trudeau derailed their message during the final week of the campaign.
Mr. Turner’s campaign mounted the strongest challenge that the Green Party ever has in Alberta. The urban sustainability advocate’s unconventionally and energetic campaign attracted legions of supporters and volunteers, many whom had never been involved in federal politics before.
This by-election provides some interesting lessons for the moderate and progressive opposition parties looking to defeat the Tories in the next general election. First, not all parties opposed to the Conservatives stand for identical ideas or policies. Second, no opposition party is entitled to opposition votes. Votes must be earned. And third, not all opposition parties are equally appealing to Conservative voters looking for an alternative. As has been pointed out by some political pundits, the Green Party attracted large swaths of disenchanted Conservative voters in Calgary-Centre.
The Conservatives are still the dominant political force in Calgary, but this by-election sends a message that they can no longer take the entire city for granted. Signalled by the election of Naheed Nenshi as Mayor in 2010, a new base of moderate and progressive voters in the city’s urban core are not afraid of flexing their electoral muscle and are not reluctant to look at other options on the federal level.