Tag Archives: Chris Turner

What’s at stake in the four Oct. 27 by-elections?

With less than two days left in Alberta’s mini-election, voters will head to the polls on the morning of October 27, 2014 to cast their ballots in by-elections being held in Calgary-Elbow, Calgary-Foothills, Calgary-West and Edmonton-Whitemud. As these mid-term elections approach, what is at stake for Alberta’s political parties?

Progressive Conservatives

In a normal general election, the PC Party would easily elect candidates in all four of these constituencies, as they did in the 2012 election. In three of the by-elections, the PC Party benefits from having three high-profile candidates – Premier Jim Prentice in Calgary-Foothills and appointed Health Minister Stephen Mandel in Edmonton-Whitemud and Education Minister Gordon Dirks in Calgary-Elbow.

Not wanting to expose themselves to criticism, the PC candidates have faced criticism for skipping all-candidates forums in their constituencies. But despite shying away from debating their opponents, the PC Party has not shied away from using the leavers of government power to keep their candidates front and centre in the news during the by-election campaigns.

My general impression is that many Albertans want to give Mr. Prentice a chance as Premier, despite their disapproval of his recent predecessor, Alison Redford. PC victories in all four by-elections would not come as a surprise, but a loss in one or more would be a warning sign to the PC Party. A personal loss for Mr. Prentice or one of his cabinet ministers would be a significant blow to the 43-year long governing PC Party.

Wildrose Party

From the beginning of the by-election campaign, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith has been managing expectations and downplaying her party’s chances of winning in these strong-PC voting constituencies. But that does not mean the Wildrose should be underestimated, because they are in it to win.

The official opposition party has released a series of television and radios ads during the by-elections praising their leader and attacking Mr. Prentice as being “the same” as Ms. Redford.

The Wildrose has focused on areas where the Tories are perceived as being weak – trust and fiscal responsibility – and hope that the memory of Ms. Redford has not faded in the minds of Albertans.

As the official opposition, the Wildrose needs to win at least one of the four by-elections to show it still has the strength to compete with the Tories in the next election.

The Wildrose likely has its best shot in Calgary-West, where public school trustee Sheila Taylor is running against PC candidate Mike Ellis, a Calgary police officer. The Wildrose are running former police officer Kathy Macdonald against Mr. Prentice in Calgary-Foothills and John Fletcher in Calgary-Elbow, where Ms. Redford is the former MLA.

Despite historical PC strength in the four constituencies, four losses by the Wildrose could force Ms. Smith to have to defend her leadership going into the party’s annual meeting later this year.

Also running for the Wildrose is Tim Grover in Edmonton-Whitemud.

New Democratic Party

Alberta NDP Ad Edmonton-Whitemud Dr. Bob Turner by-election
An NDP pamphlet used in the Edmonton-Whitemud by-election.

Not really a contender in the three Calgary by-elections, the Alberta NDP has focused their resources in Edmonton-Whitemud where Dr. Bob Turner has run an aggressive campaign against Health Minister Mandel, attacking him for his lack of knowledge of the health care system. Dr. Turner, or “Dr. Bob” as he is affectionately known as by NDP supporters, has punched above his party’s weight in this by-election by dominating media coverage of the Whitemud by-election.

While the NDP have risen in the polls in Edmonton, Whitemud is not a traditional NDP voting area. The NDP earned 9% in Whitemud in the last election and last placed second in the riding in the 1986 election.

A win in Whitemud would be a spectacular victory for the NDP, but a strong second or third place showing is more likely. If the NDP places ahead of the former official opposition Liberals, it will strengthen the party’s argument that the Rachel Notley-led party is now the official progressive opposition to the PCs and Wildrose in Edmonton.

Also running for the NDP are Stephanie McLean in Calgary-Elbow, Jennifer Burgess in Calgary-Foothills, and Brian Malkinson in Calgary-West.

Alberta Party

Greg Clark Alberta Party Calgary-Elbow
A Greg Clark self with his supporters on the campaign trail in Calgary-Elbow.

With no seats in the Assembly, the stakes are low for the Alberta Party. With leader Greg Clark as their candidate, Calgary-Elbow has been a fertile sandbox for the Alberta Party to focus on and try out new strategies.

Focusing on hot-button locals issues like local school closures and flood mitigation, Mr. Clark’s campaign appears to have spooked the PC Party, who are hoping Mr. Dirks’ candidacy will mitigate any lingering embarrassment voters feel from Ms. Redford’s time as the local MLA.

Mr. Clark has earned the endorsements of popular Mayor Naheed Nenshi‘s chief of staff Chima Nkemdirim, former Green Party candidate Chris Turner, former city councillor Gael Macleod and former mayoral candidate Wayne Stewart.

A win for Mr. Clark would be a huge victory for the Alberta Party and add a twist to the dominant PC-Wildrose narratives that has dominated Alberta politics since before the last election.

Mr. Clark is the son of Gilbert Clark, a Liberal candidate who came within 900 votes of defeating rookie PC candidate Ralph Klein in 1989.

Also running for the Alberta Party are William Munsey in Edmonton-Whitemud, Michelle Glavine in Calgary-Foothills, Troy Millington in Calgary-West.

Liberal Party

Susan Wright Calgary Elbow by-election
Liberal Susan Wright and her campaign supporters.

Despite having solid candidates in Calgary-Elbow (Susan Wright) and Edmonton-Whitemud (Donna Wilson), expectations are not high for the Liberal Party in these four by-elections.

The Liberals have raised questions about Mr. Mandel’s connections to tobacco industry lobbyists and focused on health care issues in the Edmonton-Whitemud by-election. But it is difficult to tell if the party has gained much traction in these by-elections.

Unlike its popular federal cousins, the provincial Liberal Party has become a sort of political sideshow, continuing to suffer a slow decline since losing official opposition status in the last election.

These by-elections will determine whether Dr. Raj Sherman’s Liberals are still a relevant force in Alberta politics.

Also running for he Liberals are David Khan in Calgary-West and Robert Prcic in Calgary-Foothills.

Green Party

The Green Party of Alberta has put forward candidates in two of the four by-elections. Polly Knowlton Cockett in Calgary-Foothills and  Rene Malenfant in Edmonton-Whitemud. The Green Party holds no seats in the Assembly and, while they have good intentions, it is unlikely that they will be competitive in the Oct. 27, 2014 votes.

Where to vote?

Eligible voters living in these four constituencies can vote in the by-election on Oct. 27, 2014 between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Visit the Elections Alberta website to find your voting station.

New Map: Calgary-Centre by-election results.

Poll-by-poll results from the November 26, 2012 by-election in Calgary-Centre (click image for larger map).
Poll-by-poll results from the November 26, 2012 by-election in Calgary-Centre (click image for larger map). Thanks to Alan Hall for the map.

Elections Canada recently released the official poll-by-poll results of the November 26, 2012 federal by-election in Calgary-Centre. The hotly contested by-election was narrowly won by Conservative Joan Crockatt, who fended off strong challenges from Liberal Harvey Locke and Green Chris Turner.

While the Conservatives were able to win in this long-held riding, this was the first time in recent memory that candidates from non-conservative federal parties came even close to winning an election in Calgary.

Here are the official results as released by Elections Canada:

Joan Crockatt, CON – 10,191 (36.9%)
Harvey Locke, LIB – 9,033 (32.7%)
Chris Turner, GRN – 7,090 (25.7%)
Dan Meades, NDP – 1,064 (3.8%)
Antoni Grochowski, IND – 141 (0.5%)
Tony Prashad, LBTRN – 92 (0.4%)

Progressives need a crash course in basic electoral math, writes MLA.

Kent Hehr MLA Calgary-Buffalo
Kent Hehr

By Kent Hehr

Like many progressives, I watched the Calgary Centre by-election with great interest. Although I was hopeful that one of three outstanding candidates who represented the center/center-left side of the spectrum would win, Joan Crockett’s victory for the federal Conservatives was not surprising. Like Bill Clinton said at the Democratic National Convention describing how to balance budgets, “it’s math”.

Progressive candidates representing the Liberals, NDP, and Greens garnered 60% of the total cast vote. As a result of that 60% being split among three parties in our first past the post system, the provincial Wildrose supporter (Ms. Crockett) carried the day. The result was predictable in that vote splitting amongst the progressives ensured a conservative victory. It’s math!

While this result was predictable, was it necessary? I’m not too sure. Having followed the race and personally knowing and holding a great deal of respect for the three progressive candidates, it is my view that other than the political banner they ran under, there was little to no difference in their core beliefs. Put Harvey Locke, Chris Turner and Dan Meades in a room together and you’d see the value system that compelled them to run in this by-election is the same: they are fiscally responsible, socially progressive individuals with a deep concern for environmental sustainability. Having attended one of the debates, it appeared to me they were all singing from the same song sheet. Although they represented different political brands, it was a distinction without a difference.

As a provincial politician committed to many of the same progressive principles as the three above-noted candidates, what did I learn from this? Well, I think I’ve learned basic math. The center/center-left in this province will not form government until we are in one big tent party. At this moment in time, and objectively looking at the provincial platforms of the progressive parties, we are for all intents and purposes also a distinction without a difference.

In the last election the NDP, Liberals, Greens and Alberta Party agreed on policy 95% of the time. We should all be together in one big tent; there is less difference between all of our political parties than there is between the different wings of the PC government.

What keeps us apart is rugged tribalism that leads to infighting between us and keeps our guns pointed squarely at each other instead of focusing our fire on the right-wing in this province. We tend to identify with our brands and not necessarily the values that we share. Let me be the first to say, I’m putting down my gun, and am open to all conversations with no preconditions. We need to figure out how we can come together in a big tent party. Otherwise, we are wasting our time. It’s math.

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Kent Hehr is the MLA for Calgary-Buffalo, Deputy Leader of Alberta Liberal Caucus and critic for Education and Energy. He was elected to the Legislature in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012. Before entering politics, he practiced law with Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP in Calgary. You can follow him on Twitter at @kenthehr.

Joan Crockatt wins close race in Calgary-Centre.

Three-Calgary-Centre-1
Joan Crockatt, Harvey Locke, Chris Turner

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.

Will Calgarians surprise the nation in tomorrow’s by-election vote?

Map of the Calgary-Centre federal riding.
Map of the Calgary-Centre federal riding.

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.

Joan Crockatt Diane Ablonczy Jonathan Denis
MP Diane Ablonczy, candidate Joan Crockatt, and Justice Minister Jonathan Denis (photo from Ms. Crockatt’s Facebook Page).

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.

Harvey Locke Paul Martin Calgary-Centre Liberal
Former Prime Minister Paul Martin and Harvey Locke (photo from Mr. Locke’s Facebook Page)

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.

If elected, Mr. Locke could add a level of pan-Canadian maturity to the Liberal opposition in Ottawa, an attribute which, as evidenced by comments from David McGuinty and Justin Trudeau, is lacking.

Elizabeth May Chris Turner Calgary-Centre
Chris Turner (standing on a soapbox) and Elizabeth May.

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 Megan Leslie NDP Calgary-Centre
Dan Meades with Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie (Photo from Mr. Meades’ Twitter Feed).

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.

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).

Liberals cringe and Conservatives jeer at David McGuinty’s anti-Alberta rant.

David-McGuinty-Alberta
MP David McGuinty (right), sent by the Liberal Party to a tour the Canadian Arctic in order to avoid making any further controversial statements that may hurt their chances of winning the Calgary-Centre by-election.

Comments made yesterday by Ontario Liberal Member of Parliament David McGuinty undoubtably triggered a collective “W^@* THE F#*%” moment in Calgary-Centre Liberal candidate Harvey Locke‘s by-election campaign headquarters.

David McGuinty Ontario Liberal MP
David McGuinty

The Liberal campaign in Calgary-Centre is riding high from a visit by superstar leadership candidate Justin Trudeau and two recent polls showing them in the statistical dead-heat of a three-way race between Conservative Joan Crockatt and Green Chris Turner.

In a heated debate on the floor of the House of Commons, Mr. McGuinty, who announced yesterday that he would not run for the Liberal Party leadership, ranted against Conservative MPs, who he described as “very, very small-p provincial individuals who are jealously guarding one industrial sector, picking the fossil fuel business and the oilsands business specifically, as one that they’re going to fight to the death for.

Mr. McGuity followed up by telling the Conservatives to “go back to Alberta and run either for municipal council in a city that’s deeply affected by the oilsands business or go run for the Alberta legislature.

Almost immediately after the comments were made, right-wing SunTV jumped into attack mode, giving Conservative MPs an instant soapbox to stand on and denounce the Liberal politician.

Joan Crockatt Conservative Calgary-Centre By-Election
Joan Crockatt

Ms. Crockatt, who has done her best to avoid engaging with the media since the by-election campaign began, wasted no time issuing a statement on her Facebook Page denouncing the Ontario politician. With one week before the by-election ends, Conservatives in Calgary-Centre are hoping to use Mr. McGuinty’s rant to divert attention away from criticism and internal dissent caused by its poorly orchestrated local campaign.

There is no doubt the comments made by Mr. McGuinty’s comments were  politically ill-informed and just plain “dumb”, but they seem to be par for the course what in what has become a disgustingly hyper-partisan political Ottawa dominated by a Prime Minister Stephen Harper,‘s Conservative majority in both houses of parliament.

It is important to remember that controversial comments are not limited to the benches of the third-place Liberal Party. Let us not forget Conservative Science Minister Gary Goodyear, who told reporters that he did not believe in evolution, or Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who once said that anyone who opposed the Conservative government’s invasive internet privacy legislation was siding with pedophiles.

And we cannot forget the time when Calgary-West Conservative MP Rob Anders used an official Government of Canada media conference to endorse right-wing politician Ted Morton‘s bid for Alberta’s Progressive Conservative leadership.

Rob Anders Calgary
Rob Anders

Mr. McGuinty’s heated comments against Alberta’s federal representatives (excluding Edmonton-Strathcona New Democrat MP Linda Duncan, I assume) remind me of the anti-Quebec rhetoric espoused by the western-based Reform Party from the late 1980s and 1990s, which has continues to dog the Conservative Party in Quebec.

In terms of simple electoral math, Mr. McGuinty’s gaffe has done his party no favours, especially with the opportunity presented to them in the Calgary-Centre by-election.

By my count, since the by-election was called, at least nine of the thirty-five Liberal MPs in Ottawa have visited the riding, including Mr. Trudeau and interim leader Bob Rae. The Liberal Party sees an opportunity in Calgary-Centre, but they should stop themselves from turning their attention away from Alberta if the votes are not in their favour on November 26.

With Alberta’s population expected to grow by at least 2 million over the next 30 years, the importance of the western province on Canada’s electoral map will only increase along with its already growing economic importance. Any federal political party aiming to build a truly national coalition that will succeed in the future will need to reach out to, rather than alienate, voters in Alberta.

With one week left, a second poll shows three-way race in Calgary-Centre.

Calgary-Centre By-Election candidates Joan Crockatt, Harvey Locke, and Chris Turner.
Calgary-Centre By-Election candidates Joan Crockatt, Harvey Locke, and Chris Turner.

With one week left until voting day, a new survey released by Forum Research continues to show a three-way race in the Calgary-Centre by-election between Conservative Joan Crockatt, Liberal Harvey Locke, and Green Chris Turner.

As reported by the Globe & Mailthe survey of randomly selected Calgary-Centre voters released on November 17 showed Ms. Crockatt with 35% to 30% for Mr. Locke and 25% for Mr. Turner. New Democrat Dan Meades was in fourth place with 8%.

Another survey from Forum Research released last week showed Ms. Crockatt with 32% to 30% for Mr. Locke and 23% for Mr. Turner. New Democrat Dan Meades was in fourth place with 12%. Margins of error for these types of surveys typically range around five percentage points.

As I wrote last week, it appears that within a matter of months, the 40% margin of victory earned by former Conservative MP Lee Richardson in the 2011 federal election and 23% margin for the Conservatives found in a September survey of Calgary-Centre voters may have completely evaporated.

It is always important to approach surveys, like this interactive voice response (IVR) survey, with a healthy dose of skepticism. Survey results are a snapshot of the opinions of a surveyed group of individuals at a given moment in time. This said, surveys like this one can be an important indicator of trends.

The drop in Conservative Party support has led political watchers to wonder if this by-election could result in the election of the first non-Conservative Member of Parliament in Calgary since 1968. The potential for an upset has certainly bolstered the resolve of Ms. Crockatt’s two main opponents, Mr. Locke and Mr. Turner.

Chris Turner Green Turning Point Calgary Centre
More than 500 tickets were sold for Chris Turner’s “Turning Point” rally on Saturday night (photo from Turner 4 YYC Facebook Page)

Ms. Crockatt earned mixed reviews after participating in her first all-candidates forum at the East Village Neighbourhood Association on Saturday afternoon. This was expected to be the only time the Conservative candidate will publicly engage with her opponents at an organized forum.

There was some disappointment that Ms. Crockatt chose to not participate in a forum focusing on civic issues and hosted by popular Mayor Naheed Nenshi on Sunday afternoon. Mayor Nenshi penned a column in Friday’s Calgary Herald highlighting the important role the federal government can play in municipalities.

On Saturday night, Mr. Turner’s campaign hosted what might have been the biggest actual political party of this by-election. More than 500 tickets were sold to the “Turning Point” event at Scarboro United Church. The event included a performance from Jay Ingram and the Scrutineers and speeches from Green Party leader Elizabeth May and environmentalist David Suzuki. Mr. Turner also received the endorsement of local author Fred Stenson, who ran as a Liberal candidate in the recent provincial election.

Harvey Locke Joyce Murray Grant Mitchell
Harvey Locke, MP Joyce Murray, and Senator Grant Mitchell (Photo from Harvey Locke’s Facebook Page).

Steady in second place according to two recent polls, Mr. Locke is getting some pan-Canadian support from Liberal politicians. By my count, nine of the thirty-five Liberal Members of Parliament have visited the riding, including Bob Rae, Justin Trudeau, Ralph Goodale and Senators Terry Mercer and Grant Mitchell, and leadership candidate Martha Hall Findlay. Vancouver-Quadra MP Joyce Murray made her second visit to Calgary-Centre this weekend and Mr. Trudeau is expected to return to the riding this week before attending a rally in Edmonton. Liberal MLAs Kent Hehr, Darshan Kang, and Raj Sherman have also campaigned with Mr. Locke.

A fun fact and perhaps the closest comparison we have to this federal by-election in Calgary-Centre are by-elections that have taken place on the provincial level. In the four provincial by-elections held since 1992, opposition candidates were elected in three. In 1992, Calgary-Buffalo was held by Liberal Gary Dickson after the death of two-term Liberal MLA Sheldon Chumir. In 1995, the Progressive Conservative Shiraz Shariff narrowly held on to the Calgary-McCall constituency following the death of the former PC MLA.

The two most recent provincial by-elections saw opposition candidates elected in constituencies formerly held by the governing PCs. Liberal Craig Cheffins narrowly defeated the PC candidate to win a 2007 by-election in Calgary-Elbow, the constituency formerly represented by Premier Ralph Klein (Alison Redford would narrowly defeat Mr. Cheffins in the 2008 general election). In 2009, former Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman won a hotly contested three-way race in Calgary-Glenmore, defeating high-profile Tory Alderman Diane Colley-Urquhart and Liberal Avalon Roberts.

What does this mean for Calgary-Centre? At least when it comes to provincial by-elections, Calgarians have a track-record of sending the government a message.

Five thoughts about the Calgary-Centre by-election.

1) Conservative Party candidate Joan Crockatt has been criticized for missing at least three public all-candidates debates since the by-election was called. In an appeal for the Conservative candidate’s attendance, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi sent out the following tweet to his 75,790 followers on Twitter:

Mayor Naheed Nenshi's tweet Joan Crockatt
Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s tweet.

Ms. Crockatt’s lack of participation at these public events appears to be a deliberate strategy by the Conservative campaign to avoid any public situation that would put their candidate in a weak position.

Update: The Conservative campaign has announced that Ms. Crockatt’s will attend a public forum at East Village Neighbourhood Association at the Golden Age Club (610 – 8 Avenue SE) on Saturday, November 17 at 1:00 p.m.

2) By refusing to participate in these events, Ms. Crockatt managed to spend most of the campaign avoiding any sort of public interaction with her competitors. Her absence from the public events has contributed to the feeling that the Conservative campaign in Calgary-Centre has yet to give voters a compelling reason to support Ms. Crockatt on November 26.

The result of this by-election will not change who forms government in Ottawa. Unlike a general election where party leaders are typically at the centre of attention, a by-election inherently focuses more on individual candidates. The lack of narrative from the Conservative campaign and a recent poll showing an emerging three-way race has helped bolster the hopes of Ms. Crockatt’s two main competitors, Green Chris Turner and Liberal Harvey Locke.

Surprising many political watchers, Mr. Turner’s campaign has rocketed from distant competitor to a competitive third place. His energetic team, which includes veterans of Mayor Nenshi’s campaign, have created an online and real buzz using social media and unconventional campaign tactics. Mr. Locke’s campaign has kept a steady pace in second place, drawing on traditional Liberal support and the newly acquired support of disenchanted Red Tories.

The lack of narrative from the Conservative campaign is surprising, especially when considering that campaign manager William McBeath was involved in shaping the Wildrose Party surge before the last provincial election campaign. Perhaps the Conservatives believe that their “fly-under-the-radar” strategy will still work. Maybe it will?

3) A prolific Tweeter and outspoken political pundit before the by-election was called, Ms. Crockatt’s normally very active Twitter feed has transformed into an unengaging photo reel for the Conseravtive campaign. From almost the moment the Writ was dropped, the Conservatives appear to have abandoned any opportunities to leverage their candidate’s already established online presence, essentially ceding the social media campaign to her competitors.

4) Despite talking about taking the highroad on the campaign trail, the recent Forum Research survey has turned Mr. Locke on the offensive against Mr. Turner. Speaking to the Calgary Herald, Mr. Locke called Mr. Turner a “twerp in response to a Green Party mailer that questioned the Liberal candidate’s connections to Calgary-Centre. Mr. Locke moved back to Calgary in August after he was nominated as the Liberal candidate (he previously lived in Banff).

Both environmentalists, the two men appear to represent a generational shift in that movement. Mr. Locke, a lawyer and conservationist, is the former president of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. An award-winning author, Mr. Turner’s brand of environmentalism focuses on urban sustainability.

5) Despite the  results of this week’s Forum Research survey, the Calgarians have a deep-rooted tradition of electing Conservative Members of Parliament. Could this by-election signal a political shift in the Conservative Party’s fortress?

The “Nenshi factor” is undeniable in this area of Calgary, which voted overwhelmingly for the Mayor in the 2010 municipal election. While history would suggest the election of a federal Conservative should be a forgone conclusion, as it could well end up being, there seems to be little doubt that central Calgary has become a more diverse and unpredictable political environment.

IT’S A RACE! New poll shows emerging three-way race in Calgary-Centre by-election.

Calgary-Centre By-Election candidates Joan Crockatt, Harvey Locke, and Chris Turner.
Calgary-Centre By-Election candidates Joan Crockatt, Harvey Locke, and Chris Turner.

A new survey conducted by Forum Research shows a three-way race in the Calgary-Centre by-election between Conservative Joan Crockatt, Liberal Harvey Locke, and Green Chris Turner.

As reported by the Globe & Mail, the November survey of 376 randomly selected residents in Calgary-Centre showed Ms. Crockatt with 32% to 30% for Mr. Locke and 23% for Mr. Turner. New Democrat Dan Meades was in fourth place with 12%.

The survey is considered to be accurate by plus or minus five percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

If this new survey is to be believed, then the November 26 vote could be much more exciting than most political watchers, including myself, had previously predicted.

A similar survey conducted by Forum Research in October found Ms. Crockatt with 48% to 28% for Mr. Locke, 11% for Mr. Turner, and 8% for Mr. Meades. Another survey from Forum Research conducted in August found the Conservatives with 44% to 21% for the Liberals, 14% for the NDP, and 12% for the Greens.

It appears that within a matter of months, the 40% margin of victory earned by former Conservative MP Lee Richardson in the 2011 federal election and 23% margin for the Conservatives found in the September survey may have completely evaporated.

It is always important to approach surveys, like this interactive voice response (IVR) survey, with a healthy dose of skepticism. Survey results are a snapshot of the opinions of a surveyed group of individuals at a given moment in time. This said, surveys like this one can be an important indicator of trends.

A close race could increase the importance of the 1CalgaryCentre campaign if progressive voters see an opportunity to coalesce behind one of the main opposition candidates. Although 1CalgaryCentre was initially ignored and ridiculed by the campaigns, it has played a central role in the debate around vote-splitting in the riding. On November 22, the group will hold its “selection vote” which allows voters in Calgary-Centre to register and select their choice from the progressive candidates running in the by-election.

Harvey Locke Bob Rae Liberal Calgary-Centre (photo from Mr. Locke's Facebook Page)
Harvey Locke and Bob Rae.

As this contest enters its final two weeks, Ms. Crockatt’s two main opponents have taken aim at their mutual opponent and each other.

Ms. Crockatt’s tacit support of the Wildrose Party in the spring provincial election appears to have driven a number of moderate Tories away from her campaign in the downtown Calgary riding. Her campaign manager, William McBeath, is the Wildrose Party’s Political Operations and Communications Director.

Mr. Turner’s campaign has criticized Mr. Locke for not living in the riding (he lives in Banff) and Mr. Locke’s campaign has accused Mr. Turner of splitting the anti-conservative vote in the riding. All campaigns have made use of social media, Mr. Locke’s campaign recently launched a Tumblr for Calgarians to show their support for his campaign.

While Ms. Crockatt’s and Mr. Locke’s campaigns have mainly focused on the tried and true strategy of doorknocking, Mr. Turner has incorporated some tactical and guerrilla style techniques into his campaign, which has helped create an air of excitement around the Green Party candidate (Mr. Turner has been seen delivering flash speeches on Calgary transit buses and holding numerous intimate coffee and wine and cheese parties).

Chris Turner Linda Johnson Green Party Calgary-Centre
Calgary-Glenmore PC MLA Linda Johnson (left) stopped by Chris Turner’s (right) campaign office to visit her daughter (centre), who is volunteering on the Green campaign (Photo by @rottonchild on Instagram).

Meanwhile, all parties have benefited from high-profile visits. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney met with groups of seniors in the riding with Ms Crockatt today. Conservative MPs Michelle Rempel and Blake Richards joined Mr. Crockatt on the campaign trail last week

Outgoing Liberal leader Bob Rae campaigned with Mr. Locke today and leadership candidate Justin Trudeau is making a second appearance in Calgary-Centre on November 19. Former Ontario MP Martha Hall Findlay is expected to used Calgary as her launch pad into the Liberal leadership campaign.

Mr. Turner has benefited from the support of key organizers from Mayor Naheed Nenshi‘s 2010 election campaign. On November 17, Green Party leader Elizabeth May and famous environmentalist David Suzuki will be attending a “Turning Point” rally at Scarboro United Church in support of Mr. Turner’s candidacy. Mr. Turner was event pictured in a photo online with Calgary-Glenmore PC MLA Linda Johnson, whose daughter is volunteering with the Green Party campaign.

Meanwhile, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair made an appearance at a packed rally tonight to support Mr. Meades campaign in Calgary-Centre. Mr. Meades, the director of Vibrant Communities Calgary, was also joined on the campaign trail by Edmonton-Calder MLA David Eggen last week.