Right-wing Sun News tries to rescue Conservative fortunes in Calgary-Centre.

Justin Trudeau Harvey Locke

Justin Trudeau and Harvey Locke

Just when it seems like Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt was losing ground and a tight three-way contest in the Calgary-Centre by-election, right-wing cable channel Sun News swooped in with news that will stir up the anti-Liberal sentiments among Conservative voters in the riding. Boasting that it has discovered a “breaking exclusive,” the channel roasted Mr. Trudeau for comments made during an interview in late 2010:

“Canada isn’t doing well right now because it’s Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda. It doesn’t work.”

There is no one who can get angry conservatives worked up in this province like a Trudeau.

Chris Turner Calgary-Centre Green By-election

Chris Turner

Mr. Trudeau is on a leadership tour through British Columbia and Alberta this week, having campaigned with Liberal by-election candidate Harvey Locke in Calgary-Centre and rallying a crowd of more than 400 party faithful in downtown Edmonton.

Following Liberal MP David McGuinty‘s comments earlier this week, the release of Sun News’ “breaking exclusive” of Mr. Trudeau’s two year-old anti-Alberta comments is miraculously well-timed for the Conservatives. It feels as if the Conservative campaign in Calgary-Centre got exactly what it was asking for.

Polling since August has shown Mr. Locke in second place and Green Chris Turner gaining momentum in Calgary-Centre.

Over the course of the campaign, Ms. Crockatt’s has opted to avoid numerous public all-candidate forums in favour of canvassing doors. Interestingly, the campaign found time in its busy schedule yesterday to stop by Sun News studios in Calgary to denounce Mr. Guinty’s comments on a talk show hosted by vicious right-winger Ezra Levant.

Ms. Crockatt’s sudden appearance on the right-wing talk show has everything to do with her campaign’s slip in the polls, which is seen by many to be a result of her campaign’s connections to the right-wing Wildrose Party.

Joan Crockatt Conservative Calgary-Centre By-Election

Joan Crockatt

It should be noted that the connections between Sun News, the federal Conservative Party, and the Wildrose Party are deep.

Sun News has been nothing short of a cheerleader for both the opposition Wildrose Party in Alberta and Conservatives in Ottawa. Even staff appear to be interchangeable. Candice Malcolm, the current Director of Research for Sun News is the former executive assistant to Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and spokesperson for Conservative politician Jason Kenney.

The strong connections between the federal Conservatives and the Wildrose Party is suspected to have driven away many moderate conservatives, who support Alison Redford‘s governing Progressive Conservatives and see the by-election campaign as too closely associated with the hard right-wing provincial party (including campaign manager, William McBeath, is also on staff with the Wildrose Party). These connections are believe to have contributed to near evaporation of the 40% margin of victory that former MP Lee Richardson earned in the 2011 election.

Threehundredeight.com analyst Eric Grenier has looked beyond the politics and has analyzed the numbers, and his a recent post, he suggests that more disenchanted Conservative voters are shifting to the Greens, rather than the Liberals.

This movement of Tories to the Greens in Calgary-Centre seems to be supported by Donal O’Beirne, the former president of the Conservative association in Calgary-North East, who has endorsed Mr. Turner, and the launch of a new Facebook Group, “Progressive Conservatives 4 Turner“, which sprung up this week.

One senior provincial Tory suggested to me this week that the Wildrose Party now “controls almost the entire federal Conservative Party in Alberta,” suggesting that the split between the provincial and federal Tory parties will be very difficult to mend.

If the Conservatives are not able to win the riding on the November 26 vote, or even if the results are close, the by-election should be a warning to the Ottawa Tories that their support of the Wildrose Party could cause moderate Albertans to park their votes elsewhere.

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A new poll was released by Return on Insight today. The poll shows Mr. Crockatt with 37% to 32% for Mr. Locke and 17% for Mr. Turner.

While I am naturally skeptical of all polls, I am immediately skeptical of this poll due to ROI owner Bruce Cameron‘s close connections to the Liberal campaign in Calgary-Centre (watch this video from October 21, 2012, where Mr. Locke talks about the work Mr. Cameron is doing for his campaign).

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