Tag Archives: Vincent St. Pierre

Can a ‘progressive’ win in Calgary-Centre? It is not impossible, but it might not be very likely.

1CalgaryCentre

1 Calgary Centre

Can the online campaign 1 Calgary Centre succeed in its goal to unite (or crowd-surf) progressive voters behind one candidate in the impending Calgary-Centre by-election? It is not impossible, but it is improbable.

The existence of a Naheed Nenshi, Linda Duncan, or Chima Nkemdirim style of candidate who progressive voters could unite behind could make Conservative organizers lose some sleep, but that candidate has yet to emerge and the December 4 deadline for the by-election to be called is quickly approaching. Much like the failure of the Democratic Renewal Project to unite parties on the provincial level, the reality of deep-rooted partisan associations driven by personalities who are committed to both brand and ideological are large challenges facing any group wanting to unite non-Conservative voters in this country.

Joe Clark Calgary-Centre MP

Joe Clark

Some supporters of the online 1 Calgary Centre movement have looked past the large plurality of votes earned by Conservative candidates in recent elections and point to the unlikely election of Joe Clark in the 2000 federal election. Keep in mind that Mr. Clark was no ordinary candidate. Mr. Clark was a former Prime Minister, senior cabinet minister, leader of the national Progressive Conservative Party, and he benefited from national profile, a televised leaders’ debate, and broad and diverse team of organizers in Calgary-Centre. Even with all this, he still only barely unseated Canadian Alliance Member of Parliament Eric Lowther. Mr. Clark was also a Conservative.

So perhaps Mr. Clark is not the best example. Of course, the by-election campaign has yet to officially begin and the final decision remains in the hands of voters in Calgary-Centre.

Now let us take a look at the candidates.

Joan Crockatt

Joan Crockatt

Blogger David Climenhaga published a witty retort of Catherine Ford‘s criticisms that Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt was largely to blame for the ugly labour dispute at the Calgary Herald in 1999.

As the Conservative candidate in a riding that has only elected Conservative MPs since 1965, Ms. Crockatt is the safe bet to win (former Mayor Harry Hays was elected as a Liberal in 1963 when this riding was part of the larger Calgary-South riding). But being the safe bet does not always ensure a smooth road to victory, especially when said candidate has a somewhat controversial political past.

A number of provincial PC supporters have voiced frustration with Mr. Crockatt’s politics and her tacit support of Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party in the recent provincial election. A number of prominent provincial PCs, including Tourism Minister Christine Cusanelli, campaigned for Ms. Crockatt’s challengers in the Conservative nomination contest.

On September 22, the Liberal Party will be holding its nomination meeting to select a by-election candidate. The three approved candidates seeking this nomination are educator and TEDxCalgary co-founder Rahim Sajan, lawyer and conservationist Harvey Locke, and businessman Drew Atkins. A fourth candidate, who I understand has yet to be approved by party central, is Steve Turner.

Naheed Nenshi

Naheed Nenshi

According to Liberal blogger Vincent St. Pierre, Mr. Locke’s campaign has attracted the support of high-profile Liberal Party organizer Donn Lovett. Mr. Lovett is known for his involvement successful election campaigns of Gary Dickson, Dave TaylorCraig Cheffins, and Mr. Clark. More recently, he managed the unsuccessful mayoral campaign of Barb Higgins, in which Ms. Crockatt was the media spokesperson.

Chatter on Twitter last week suggested that political spin-master Stephen Carter was involved in the campaign of Mr. Atkins, which turned out to be a false rumours. Both Mr. Lovett and Mr. Carter were involved in Mr. Clark’s successful Calgary-Centre campaign in 2000.

Chris Turner Green Party Calgary Centre

Chris Turner

Green Party leader Elizabeth May was in Calgary earlier this month to congratulate popular local author Chris Turner on his acclamation as the Green Party candidate. An award-winning author, Mr. Turner is the co-founder of CivicCamp and was a board member of Sustainable Calgary from 2008 to 2011. Oil City might not seem like prosperous territory for the Green Party, but I would not be surprised to see Mr. Turner do well when the ballots are counted.

Past provincial New Democrat candidate Brian Malkinson is the first candidate to publicly announce he is seeking the yet to be scheduled federal NDP nomination. Running as the NDP candidate in Calgary-North West in the 2012 provincial election, Mr. Malkinson earned 3.17% of the vote. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was expected to attend an NDP fundraiser in Calgary on September 21, but the event has been postponed. He will be in Edmonton this weekend for the annual conference of provincial New Democrats.

Occupy Calgary activist Ben Christiensen has been confirmed as the Progressive Canadian Party candidate. Obscure party launched after the 2003 merger between the federal PC and Canadian Alliance parties. This party is led by Brian Mulroney-era cabinet minister Sinclair Stevens.

alberta candidate nomination update – october 2011 (part 2)

I have updated the list of declared and nominated candidates standing for the next Alberta provincial general election. By my count, the parties have now nominated the following number of candidates out of 87 constituencies in the next election: Alberta Party 11/87, Liberal 20/87, New Democratic Party 49/87, Progressive Conservative 39/87, Wildrose 53/87.

Here are some of the recent additions to the list:

Chestermere-Rockyview – Global Television host Bruce McAllister is the new Wildrose candidate in this Calgary area constituency. Disappearing from the Wildrose candidate roster is Chestermere Town Councillor Heather Davies, who was nominated as the Wildrose candidate in May 2011.

Drumheller-Stettler: Rick Strankman was nominated as the Wildrose candidate after defeating jeweller Doug Wade in a contested race. A third candidate, past-candidate Dave France called foul against his party after he was disqualified from the nomination at the last minute.

Calgary-Hays: Former Libertarian Party of Canada leader Dennis Young also says he was unfairly disqualified from the Wildrose nomination in this sprawling south east Calgary constituency.

Calgary-Currie: Calgary businessman Norval Horner, a cousin of Deputy Premier Doug Horner, was nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in this constituency, which elected Liberal-turned-Alberta Party MLA Dave Taylor in 2004 and 2008. It is also expected that 2008 Progressive Conservative candidate Arthur Kent may run in this constituency as an Independent candidate.

Calgary-Klein: The Liberal Party nomination scheduled for October 15 was postponed. Candidates seeking the nomination included Vincent St. Pierre and Matthew Moody. Mr. Moody unexpectedly withdrew from the contest at the last minute.

Grande Prairie-Wapiti: Ethane Jarvis is the nominated Wildrose candidate.

Edmonton-Glenora – Former MLA Bruce Miller was nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in this constituency. Liberal insiders say that local restauranteur and artist Sheri Somerville was heavily courted to run, but declined to seek the Liberal nomination. Reverend Miller was first elected in 2004 with 35% of the vote in a close three way contest between himself, high-profile NDP candidate Larry Booi, and PC MLA Drew Hutton, and he was defeated by now-Culture Minister Heather Klimchuk in 2008 by 104 votes.

Edmonton-Strathcona: NDP MLA Rachel Notley was nominated as her party’s candidate at a meeting attended by Vancouver-Kingsway MP Don Davies. Ms. Notley was first elected as the MLA for this constituency in 2008, earning 49% of the vote.

Red Deer-South: On October 25, the NDP are expected to nominate former five-term City Councillor Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer as their candidate.

alberta liberals up in the air.

Even if someone were to offer me good odds, I would be hesitant to bet on who the real players will be in the next provincial election.

As David Climenhaga recently pointed out, although credible polls continue to show the Progressive Conservatives ahead in voter support, the media has continued to frame Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Alliance as the heir’s to the Legislative throne. For the most part, the free ride has continued.

Young Liberal Vincent St. Pierre has written a blog post ahead the Liberal Party’s May 14-16 policy convention disputing the Wildrose’s claims to be “ready to govern.” While I would also dispute those claims, the Liberals also have a difficult time claiming that they are “ready to govern.”

David Swann and the Liberal caucus.

The focus of the weekend convention is policy, but the big news could be financial. The Alberta Liberal Party is expected to announce shortly that their outstanding debt, much of which was accumulated during their disastrous 2001 election campaign, will finally be paid off. This is a big step for the Liberals, but it is only one of the many challenges facing their organization.

I have been accused by both MLAs and some party loyalists of having an anti-Liberal bent on this blog (one MLA even accused me of conspiring with the NDP) and while I admit to being critical of the Liberal Party, I believe that my assessments have been fair. As someone who was involved with the Liberal Party for many years, including time as a constituency vice-president and a political staffer, I am aware of the political strengths and psychological weaknesses of that organization.

The Liberal Party is in an interesting situation. They might be a beneficiary of a PC-Wildrose vote split in some Edmonton and Calgary constituencies in the next election, but their membership has not exactly been flooded by progressives afraid of the two conservative parties. The departure of MLA Dave Taylor and Kent Hehr‘s decision to run in Calgary’s Mayoral election is not a ringing endorsement of the party’s current fortunes. Can the party attract back into their ranks the sizeable group of Liberals who joined disenchanted Red Tories, moderate New Democrats, and former central Albertan Greens under the new Alberta Party banner? They have been low key, but since March, the Alberta Party has held almost 100 Big Listen meetings across the province.

You do not have to spend too much time inside the Liberal Party to become aware of how iconized the 1993 election is in the minds of party activists. As many Albertans will remember, that election saw former Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore lead the Liberals to their best showing in decades by winning 39% of the vote and forming official opposition by electing 32 MLAs.

Much of the traditional Liberal motto against large-scale change within their party – especially a name change – has centered around the 1993 vote. “We won 32 seats under Decore and we can do it again,” is something that I have heard countless times. There is no doubt that 17 years ago the Liberals launched an impressive campaign with a slate of candidates who were “ready to govern.” It would be difficult to argue that has been the case since. The Liberals have cultivated reliable support in a handful of constituencies in Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge, but they have had a very difficult time growing their base of support. In most rural areas, the Liberals have run paper candidates in the past three elections, ceding a growing number of constituencies to the PC hegemony.

The decision by the Liberal Party years ago to focus resources on urban areas has opened up the potential of rural success to the Wildrose Alliance, whose leader Ms. Smith has spent months traveling to rural communities and smaller cities meeting with any group that will have her. Her party is now reaping the benefits of gaining media attention from local weekly newspapers, organizing constituency associations, and attracting large crowds to their town hall meetings. Imagine what the political map would look like after the 2011/2012 election if Alberta had an opposition party that could elect candidates in both rural and urban constituencies.

Both the Liberals and NDP have been frustrated by their lack of traction in the polls (and in elections), but neither party appears prepared to change gears to face this reality. Liberal leader David Swann has held town hall meetings across Alberta, as has NDP leader Brian Mason, but there is little evidence that this will lead to an even mediocre rural breakthrough for either party. This is probably less the fault of the current leadership and more the fault of a tradition of political tactics focused on weekly issues and electoral strategies focused on urban enclaves (and the influence of their federal party cousins).

It is difficult to believe that these parties once had long-time MLAs who represented rural constituencies. NDP leader Grant Notley represented the sprawling Spirit River-Fairview from 1971 to 1984. Liberal leader Nick Taylor represented Westlock-Sturgeon and Redwater from 1986 to 1996. Premier Ed Stelmach defeated two-term Vegreville NDP MLA Derek Fox in 1993. The last time either of these two parties elected a candidate in rural Alberta was in 1997 when Liberal MLA Colleen Soetaert was re-elected in Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert.

If the Liberal Party is successful in building a policy platform that appeals beyond their traditional base of supporters, will they have an organization on the ground that can translate it into electoral results? Even if they have all the best policy ideas in the world, without  feet on the ground it will be very difficult – even with a potential vote split on the right – to reach beyond their traditional base of supporters in this province.

(I will be attending parts of this weekend’s Liberal convention as a media observer, including federal Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella‘s keynote address. Look for updates on this blog and on twitter at @davecournoyer)