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Alberta Politics

Calgary-Centre By-Election: Accusations and high-profile visits.

The by-election in Calgary-Centre is in full-swing with accusations and high-profile visits becoming a distinguishing characteristic of the campaign in advance of the November 26 vote.

1CalgaryCentre, the group bidding to unite progressive voters behind a single candidate, is becoming the source of much online frustration by both conservative and non-conservatives involved in this by-election.

On Twitter last weekend, Conservatives Pat Walsh and Cody Battershill, who are supporting Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt, accused the 1CalgaryCentre group of being backed by well-known Conservatives Stephen Carter and Rob Hawkes in an attempt to undermine Ms. Crockatt’s campaign.

Stephen Carter Calgary Conservative
Stephen Carter

Mr. Carter is best known for the roles he played in Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Premier Alison Redford‘s successful election campaigns. Mr. Hawkes is a prominent Calgary lawyer, son of former Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament Jim Hawkes, and ex-husband of Premier Redford. According to 1CalgaryCentre, the two men have not been involved with the group.

A partisan rift between many provincial and federal Conservatives was perpetuated when many federal Tory supporters, including Ms. Crockatt, were seen by provincial Tories as tacitly supporting the right-wing Wildrose Party in their bid to unseat the long-governing PC Party. A prolific tweeter and political commentator until her recent candidacy, Ms. Crockatt has avoided the online fray created by her supporters.

Meanwhile, supporters of Liberal Party candidate Harvey Locke are claiming that the 1CalgaryCentre group will inevitably endorse author and urban sustainability advocate Chris Turner, the Green Party candidate. While a recent poll suggests Mr. Locke is the leading opposition candidate, Mr. Turner’s campaign is generating more online buzz and excitement than any of the the candidates.

A recent IVR poll conducted by Forum Research showed Ms. Crockatt with a wide lead of 48% support in the riding. Mr. Locke had 28%, Mr. Turner had 11%, and New Democrat Dan Meades had 8% support.

Results of the Forum Research poll are based on the total sample of 343 voters had a margin of error of +/- 5% 19 times our of 10. As we all know, polls are a snapshot of voters opinion at a certain moment in time. There is still twenty days left until the by-election day.

Harvey Locke Darshan Kang Calgary-Centre
MLA Darshan Kang and Harvey Locke (photo from Mr. Locke’s Facebook Page).

Mr. Locke was joined on the campaign trail by Calgary-McCall Liberal MLA Darshan Kang last week and has been campaigning on the slogan “entrepreneurial progressive voice for Calgary-Centre.” Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau brought some star power to Mr. Locke’s campaign when he visited the riding last month and sources suggest that he may stop by again when he is in Alberta later this month (he will be holding a rally in Edmonton on November 20).

Elizabeth May Chris Turner Calgary-Centre
Chris Turner (standing on a soapbox) and Elizabeth May (photo from Mr. Turner’s Facebook Page).

Green Party leader and British Columbia MP Elizabeth May paid her second visit to support Mr. Turner’s campaign and attended a “soapbox” event in Central Memorial Park. On November 17, Ms, May and famous environmentalist David Suzuki will be attending a “Turning Point” rally supporting Mr. Turner’s candidacy at Scarboro United Church.

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

Calgary Conservative MP Diane Ablonczy and provincial Justice Minister Jonathan Denis hit the campaign trail with Ms. Crockatt last week. While a few Conservative politicians have stopped by the campaign in Calgary-Centre, political watchers are beginning to quietly speculate about Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s absence from the campaign in the downtown Calgary riding.

Davenport NDP MP Andrew Cash was in Calgary last weekend to help out Mr. Meades’ campaign. The official opposition Heritage critic, Mr. Cash attended a town hall forum on internet privacy and pub night jam session at the Marda Loop Community Association Hall.

Also running in the by-election are Progressive Canadian candidate Ben Christensen and Independent candidate Antoni Grochowski. A perennial election candidate, Mr. Grochowski ran unsuccessfully for Alderman in the 2010 municipal elections, as an Independent candidate in  in Calgary-Southeast during the 2011 federal election, and an EverGreen Party candidate in Calgary-Acadia during the 2012 provincial election.

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Alberta Politics

Winter is coming and so is the a by-election in Calgary-Centre.

Calgary-Centre by-election Liberals NDP
The Liberals and New Democrats enter the Calgary-Centre by-election contest.

Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt and Green candidate Chris Turner are no longer alone in Calgary-Centre, as the field of candidates is filling out. Time is also running out for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to set the date for the by-election.

Late last month, the Liberals nominated lawyer and conservationist Harvey Locke. Soon after his nomination Mr. Locke was boosted by a visit from Justin Trudeau, who launched his leadership campaign a day earlier in his Montreal riding of Papineau.

Winter is Coming Chris Turner
Calgary-Centre Green candidate Chris Turner is targeting the highly influential “Game of Thrones” voters.

Late to the game, the New Democrats are finally starting the process of nominating a candidate to run in the by-election. The three candidates seeking the yet-to-be scheduled nomination contest for the yet-to-be called by-election are recent provincial NDP candidate Brent Maklinson, social media consultant Scott Payne, and Matthew McMillan.

After a number of rumoured high-profile candidates declined to seek the nomination, the NDP focused much of their energy over the summer on organizing a functional riding association in Calgary-Centre. In 2011, a parachute candidate earned 14% of the vote for the NDP.

Meanwhile, the 1 Calgary Centre group is holding an “Unconference for post-partisan politics in Calgary.” On September 21, I joined 1 Calgary Centre organizer Brian Singh and Athabasca University political scientist Jay Smith to discuss the potential for 1 Calgary Centre to effect the by-election race (I shared some thoughts on this topic in a previous blog post).

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Alberta Politics

calgary stampede: the greatest political show on earth.

Naheed Nenshi Horse Calgary Stampede
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi (via @nenshi)

The Greatest Show on Earth, also known as the Calgary Stampede, kicked-off celebrating its 100th anniversary this weekend. Between the chuck wagons and rodeo clowns, politicians off all stripes will drop into Calgary over the next week to kiss babies and grill pancakes.

Twitter was, well, atwitter with chatter comparing the level of applause received by Premier Alison Redford and Wildrose leader Danielle Smith at Prime Minster Stephen Harper‘s annual Stampede BBQ. It sounds silly, because it is, and it signals how deep the divide between Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose partisans are in this province.

No word about whether Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk and federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney took an opportunity to put aside their differences.

Liberal Member of Parliament Justin Trudeau was the talk of the political town at a fundraiser for the yet to be called Calgary-Centre by-election. Along with Beena Ashar, who already announced her candidacy, conservationist and former President of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Harvey Locke and TEDxCalgary organizer Rahim Sajan entered the Liberal Party nomination contest this weekend. As the provincial Liberal candidate in Calgary-Foothills during the 1989 election, Mr. Locke came within 500 votes of unseating Pat Black, who would later become Finance Minister Pat Nelson.

Here are some photos that were floating around social media networks this weekend. Check out Calgary Grit this week for his annual collection of political photos from the Stampede.

Wayne Cao Christine Cusanelli Sandra Jensen Alison Redford Calgary Stampede
Calgary-Fort PC MLA Wayne Cao, Tourism Minister Christine Cusanelli, Calgary-North West PC MLA Sandra Jensen, and Premier Alison Redford. (via Wayne Cao on Facebook)
Deron Bilous Pierre Nantel NDP Calgary Stampede
Edmonton-Beverly Clareview NDP MLA Deron Bilous and Longueuil–Pierre- Boucher NDP MP Pierre Nantel. (via Deron Bilous on Facebook)
Jonathan Denis Calgary Stampede
Justice Minister Jonathan Denis. (via Jonathan Denis on Facebook)
Raj Sherman Calgary Stampede
Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman. (via Raj Sherman on Facebook)
Danielle Smith Elizabeth May Calgary Stampede
Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May (via via @katyanderson)
Categories
Alberta Politics

ndp and liberals searching for a pulse on the prairies.

You can be forgiven if you missed it. Hundreds of Liberals from across Alberta gathered in Edmonton last weekend for the biennial meeting of the Liberal Party of Canada in Alberta.

Bob Rae
Bob Rae

Speakers and guests at the weekend conference included interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, Scarborough-Agincourt MP Jim Karygiannis, and Senators Grant Mitchell, Art Eggleton, and James Cowan. One of the main guest speakers was Donna Clare, the Edmonton-based architect who designed the new Royal Alberta Museum.

Electing only two MPs in the three prairie provinces, the west was a wasteland for the federal Liberal Party in the 2011 election. Only in Manitoba, where the party earned 16% of the vote did they place above 10% (they earned 9% in Alberta and 8% in Saskatchewan). While the west has not been a bastion of Liberal support for at least two generations, this level of support is far below the average support earned over the 1990s and 2000s.

The decline in support can also be seen at the provincial level.

With 5 MLAs and 10% support in this year’s provincial election, the Alberta Liberals are the strongest of any prairie Liberal Parties. In the November 2011 election, the Saskatchewan Liberals failed to elect any MLAs for the third election in a row and only earned 0.5% of the popular vote. In Manitoba’s election, held in October 2011, the Liberals fell from 2 MLAs to 1 MLA and earned only 7% of the province-wide vote.

Justin Trudeau
Justin Trudeau

Leadership was undoubtably a topic of discussion over the weekend conference. Next year, the federal Liberal Party will be choosing its seventh leader in ten years. Interim-leader Mr. Rae, who entered the role after Michael Ignatieff‘s resignation in 2011 election, recently announced that he decided to stand by his previous commitment not to seek the permanent leadership.

The rate at which Justin Trudeau is being touted as a leadership contender makes his candidacy feel almost inevitable. Long-shot candidate George Takach was in attendance at the weekend convention and constitutional expert Deborah Coyne entered the race today. Liberals activists I have spoken with over the past few days have named New Brunswick MP Dominic Leblanc, Quebec MP Marc Garneau, former Quebec MP Martin Cauchon, and past Ontario candidate David Bertschi all as possible candidates for the Liberal Party leadership.

Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan…

A little further to the east, supporters of the provincial NDP gathered in Saskatchewan for their annual conference and passed a resolution calling for a strategy to grow their party in the three prairie provinces. The conference included speeches from federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, who has not endeared himself to some Conservative leaders in the prairie provinces.

Brad Wall
Brad Wall

The popularity of conservative Saskatchewan Party Premier Brad Wall led to the provincial NDP being nearly wiped off the electoral map during last year’s Saskatchewan election. Currently without a permanent leader, the Saskachewan NDP have scheduled a leadership vote to be held in March 2013.

The decline of NDP support in Saskatchewan is not limited to the provincial level. Once a stronghold for prairie social democrats, federal NDP support in Saskatchewan took a sharp decline in the 1990s and the party no longer has any MPs from that province represented in Ottawa.

Over time, support for the NDP has shifted away from rural areas and to the cities. This concentrated urban support has not helped the NDP in Saskatchewan, where urban federal ridings were redrawn to include large rural areas outside the cities, where the Conservatives hold strong support. Despite leading his party to huge gains across the country, I am sure that former leader Jack Layton‘s address in central Toronto did not help grow his party’s support in rural Saskatchewan. It will be interesting to see whether the NDP under Mr. Mulcair, another big city politician, will be able to regain a toe-hold in Saskatchewan in the next election.

Across the prairies, the NDP remains strong only in Manitoba, where dominance over the northern regions and the city of Winnipeg ensures the continued election of NDP majority governments in that province. In Alberta, NDP support has long been limited to a handful of constituencies in Edmonton, where the party has 4 MLAs. Federally, the NDP placed well in a few Edmonton ridings, and Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncanwas re-elected in 2011.

A photo of Shannon Phillips Alberta NDP Candidate in Lethbridge-East.
Shannon Phillips

A creed known as the Lethbridge Declaration is gaining attention in some NDP circles by those who recognize the need to reconnect with voters in the prairie provinces. It is not completely clear how they will accomplish this, but looking to the declaration’s name-sake gives long-toiling social democrats a glimpse of hope in the Conservative Party’s prairie stronghold.

The NDP experienced significant growth in support in Lethbridge in the recent federal and provincial elections. It may seem like the most unlikeliest of places, but federal candidate Mark Sandilands earned 27% of the vote, nearly doubling his vote from the 2008 election (the Conservative vote dropped 10% from 2008).

In the recent provincial election, Shannon Phillips tripled her party’s support in Lethbridge-West, coming within 7% of defeating incumbent Progressive Conservative MLA Greg Weadick.

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Alberta Politics

the reform-conservative family feud continues in alberta’s election.

Wildrose is under attack! The same people that caused the Liberal Party of Canada to be in power for 13 uninterrupted years now have Wildrose in their crosshairs. They want nothing more than to see the Redford PCs re-elected to impose their big government knows best, ivory tower views on all of us.

In a fundraising email sent to supporters yesterday by campaign chairman Cliff Fryers, the Wildrose Party revved up its political fear machine by pointing out that others are revving up theirs.

Reform Party of Canada Logo
Reform Party of Canada

Progressive Conservative Party leader Premier Alison Redford has started to hone in on some of the Wildrose Party’s controversial policies, like citizen-initiated referendums that some critics say could lead to province-wide votes on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. A similar constroversial policy was prominently placed in the platform of the former Reform Party and its successor, the Canadian Alliance. While many Albertans still have fond memories and continued respect for Preston Manning and the movement he created, one recent survey suggests that this could be a good strategy for the PCs to use against Danielle Smith‘s party.

Much has been written about how much the electoral battle between Alberta’s PCs and the Wildrose Party is a continuation of the long-standing family feud between moderate Tories and Reform Party minded conservatives of yesteryear.

Premier Redford, who was a staffer to former Prime Minister Joe Clark, stepped up to challenge controversial right-winger Rob Anders for the Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-West before the 2004 federal election. Ms. Redford was defeated. (Ms. Redford’s ex-husband’s father was the last PC MP for Calgary-West and was defeated by Reform Party candidate Stephen Harper in 1993). PC campaign manager Susan Elliott was the national director of the former PC Party of Canada and a few of Premier Redford’s cabinet ministers, including Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Verlyn Olson and Lethbridge-West MLA Greg Weadick were federal PC candidates during the height of the Reform Party’s strength in Western Canada.

While Premier Redford may be more moderate than some candidate in the Wildrose camp, by almost every objective standard she remains a conservative.

PC Party of Canada

The Wildrose Party campaign includes a number of former Reform Party and federal Conservative stalwarts, including Mr. Fryers (who was Chief of Staff to Preston Manning), campaign manager Tom Flanagan (who was strategist for the Reform Party), Senate candidate and strategist Vitor Marciano (who is a long-time federal Conservative Party operative), and Jim Armour (an Ontario-based consultant and former Communications Director to Mr. Manning and Prime Minister Harper). Former federal Conservative candidate also Ryan Hastman joined the Wildrose Party staff shortly after the 2011 federal election.

Calgary-Southeast Conservative Member of Parliament Jason Kenney was reported to have said that “any attempt to hurt Wildrose by linking them to old Reform movement will backfire.”

Fanning the flames of western political discontent from his desktop in Toronto, former federal Liberal Party strategist Warren Kinsella waded into Alberta’s election campaign yesterday by posting some of Wildrose leader Ms. Smith’s more controversial comments. A similar and more usefully packaged piece of advice was provided by former Edmonton-Meadowlark Liberal MLA Maurice Tougas over the past weekend.

With a few exceptions most Members of Parliament have kept a low-profile during this provincial campaign. Westlock-St. Paul Conservative MP Brian Storseth was spotted in the Bonnyville A&W with Ms. Smith earlier this week. Edmonton-Spruce Grove Conservative MP Rona Ambrose has endorsed Spruce Grove-St. Albert PC candidate and Deputy Premier Doug Horner.

On the NDP side, Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan has endorsed Edmonton-Gold Bar candidate Marlin Schmidt. Quebec NDP MP Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet will be campaigning with Mr. Schmidt today. The shift in electoral boundaries places Edmonton’s francophone community in Bonnie Doon into the Gold Bar constituency.  The NDP are hoping that the retirement of popular Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald could be their opportunity to make electoral gains in this east Edmonton constituency.

Saanich-Gulf Islands MP and Green Party leader Elizabeth May is in Edmonton this week campaigning with EverGreen Party candidates.

Later this week, Papineau Liberal MP Justin Trudeau joining Lacombe-Ponoka Liberal candidate Kyle Morrow over cyberspace to speak to a class of students at St. Augustine School in Ponoka.