Tag Archives: William McBeath

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).

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.

why early opposition attacks on alison redford will backfire.

Danielle Smith Alberta Wildrose No Plan

Left: No Plan ads from 2008 election. Right: Wildrose attack ads in 2011.

Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party has launched a series of negative television ads against soon-to-be Premier Alison Redford, who will be sworn-in as Premier tomorrow in Edmonton. The television ads bear an eerie resemblance to the negative ads used by Nancy MacBeth‘s Alberta Liberals in the 2001 election and the “No Plan” ads aired by the ‘Albertans for Change‘ coalition in the 2008 election.

The Wildrosers early attack ads are a page out of the federal Conservative Party election campaign textbook, which should not come as a surprise considering that Ms. Smith has surrounded herself with federal Tory activists, including Vitor Marciano, William McBeath, Ryan Hastman, and Steven Dollansky.

The most obvious differences between Ms. Redford and successful targets of federal Conservative smear campaigns are that:

1) she is not a Liberal, she is a Conservative
2) the PCs have a massive majority government in the Assembly and are still the best-organized and most well-funded political organization in the province, and
3) I believe that Albertans have generally been impressed with what they have seen of her so far.

Is it too early for the opposition parties to be lobbing grenades at the yet to be sworn-in Premier Redford? Ms. Redford was selected as leader at around 1:30am on October 2 and at 4:45pm, Wildrose attack dog Rob Anderson had already sent out a media release criticizing her. Always a gentleman, Mr. Anderson later tweeted that he would take a break from attacking Ms. Redford on Wednesday so that she could attend her mother’s funeral. How compassionate of Mr. Anderson.

Rob Anderson Twitter MLA Wildrose

Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson's October 5 tweet.

With the next general election expected within six months, the Wildrosers have decided to strike a negative tone, starting with attack ads and releasing a list of forty mistakes they say that the PCs have made during their forty years in government. The PCs have made many mistakes, but Albertans will reject the negative tone of the Wildrosers just as they have rejected the negative tone of the other opposition parties year after year. It is not enough to just remind Albertans that the Tories have become a monument to institutional mediocrity after forty years in government. Albertans know that because they voted for the PCs. Opposition parties need to take an extra step to give Albertans compelling and positive reasons to support them at the polls, something the Wildrosers have failed to do.

Not to be outdone by the Wildrose attacks against Ms. Redford, the NDP joined the fray. On Monday morning, NDP leader Brian Mason attacked Ms. Redford for delaying the fall sitting of the legislature, which was scheduled to begin on October 25, and the appointment of Alberta Health Services chairman Ken Hughes to her transition team. While both criticisms were valid, they were never meant to be “constructive” as Mr. Mason claimed on his blog the next day.

Unlike the opposition parties, who rely heavily on the daily Question Period to get their media hits during the legislative session, I believe that it was perfectly reasonable for Ms. Redford to want more than 15 days to prepare a legitimate legislative agenda. Regardless of what I may believe, Ms. Redford took the opposition advice, and to Mr. Mason’s surprise, announced that there will be a fall sitting.

Meanwhile, Ontario conservative blogger Stephen Taylor spun the Wildrose talking points this week claiming that Ms. Redford is the product of a labour union conspiracy, because of the support she received from front-line education and health care workers during the campaign. Maybe the view from Ottawa is blurred, but Mr. Taylor’s argument is silly when you take into account that most of these front-line workers probably regularly vote for the PC Party anyway.

Edmonton Journal columnist Graham Thomson pointed out early this week that Ms. Redford’s ‘honeymoon,’ a period that is traditionally given to new political leaders to allow them to settle into their new job, has been cut short by the opposition attacks. I predict these early aggressive tactics will only backfire on the opposition.

Every Albertan knows what is is like to start a new job and how bad it feels to get criticized before you even have a chance to started. No one likes the jerk who criticizes them before they have a chance to get familiar with the job. Hardline supporters of the opposition parties will rise to support their leaders attacks, but as the Wildrosers ads say, Albertans support integrity and democracy, but they also support fairness and don’t like jerks.

testing conservative unity.

Calgary-Centre North by-election could be a test of conservative unity in alberta.

As the first major political event on the federal stage in Alberta since the Wildrose Alliance jumped from insignificance to contender in the polls over the past year, the Calgary-Centre North by-election could be a symbolic test of the Conservative Party’s strength in tolerating the provincial split in the conservative movement in Alberta. The resignation of Environment Minister Jim Prentice could open the door for a contested race for the Conservative Party nomination that could highlight some of these cleavages. Could that riding’s Conservative nomination contest become a proxy war in the battle between moderate and ideological conservatives that has exploded on the provincial level?

I have had an number of interesting and frank conversations with federal Conservative Party organizers who are acutely aware of their delicate balancing act. In most provinces, many members of the federal Conservative Party are also members of the equivalent “conservative” party in the provincial level (ie: BC Liberals, Saskatchewan Party, PC Party in Ontario and the maritimes). Alberta’s conservatives are in a different situation.

Many active members of the Conservative Party of Canada remain active members of the four decade-long governing Progressive Conservatives, but many have become active with the Wildrose Alliance over the past year (including Wildrose candidates Andrew Constantinidis in Calgary-West and Rod Fox in Lacombe-Ponoka who are former Conservative Party Electoral District Association Presidents). Two of the Wildroses main political staffers are also products of the federal Conservative school of politics. Executive Director Vitor Marciano and Communications Director William McBeath both left positions in the federal Conservative establishment to join the insurgent Wildrosers since Danielle Smith became leader.

It is somewhat reminiscent of the split that happened among conservative voters in the 1990s with the rise of the Reform Party of Canada and the decline of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. Although they did not form a functional provincial-wing, the split between the Reformers and the federal PC Party in Alberta also happened during a time of flux on the provincial level. Many Reform Party supporters were drawn to the policies of fiscal conservative provincial Liberal leader Laurence Decore. A few Reformers such as Don MacDonald and Donna Graham ran as Liberal Party candidates. Mr. MacDonald stunned many political watchers when he handily won a 1992 by-election in the Three Hills riding in the conservative heartland. The Liberals also won support in the Little Bow constituency where candidate Ms. Graham came within 262 votes of defeating Tory Barry McFarland. It was a different time.

Following the 1993 re-election of the PC Party led by Premier Ralph Klein, many of these tensions disappeared as many Reformers made amends with Alberta’s natural governing party. Some of these tensions re-emerged under a resurgent Social Credit in 1997, but that year’s election proved to bare no fruit for the antiquated political movement. By 2001, when Reform MP Ian McClelland moved into provincial politics it appeared that all was beautiful, calm, and quiet on the conservative front. What a difference nine years can make.

Back to my original point, it will be very interesting to watch how the Conservative Party of Canada will try to mitigate any migration of the conservative conflict into its ranks in Alberta.

the wildrose’s new hired gun.

The Wildrose Alliance is bolstering their staff in preparation for the next provincial election.

Recent hire William McBeath left his position as Director of Operations for Minister Diane Finley in Ottawa to become the Director of Candidate Operations and Party Communications for the Wildrose Alliance. Although he spent some time in Ottawa, political watchers will remember Mr. McBeath from his time as Alberta Regional Organizer for the Conservative Party of Canada, as researcher for former Edmonton City Councillor Mike Nickel, and as an organizer for Ted Morton‘s PC leadership campaign in 2006. Mr. McBeath joins long-time Conservative Party organizer Vitor Marciano, who was hired as the Wildrose Executive Director in March 2010.

The Wildrose Alliance has also attracted the support of two former Conservative Members of Parliament. Retired Edmonton-St. Albert MP John Williams and Westlock-St. Paul MP David Chatters are supporting Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock Wildrose nomination candidate Link Byfield in his campaign against PC MLA Speaker Ken Kowalski.

“The issue is not the MLA; it is the party and the government. The government has been around too long.” – Former Conservative MP John Williams

The Wildrosers will be holding a contested nomination meeting in the Liberal-stronghold of Edmonton-Riverview. Candidates John Corie and Chris Ozdoba will duke it out on October 21 for the chance to hold their party’s flag in the constituency represented by MLA Kevin Taft since 2001 (who is not seeking re-election).

The Liberals have yet to announce a nomination date in Riverview, but rumours are circulating that retiring Public School Board Trustee Don Fleming is interested in seeking the Liberal nomination. Before Dr. Taft, the Riverview constituency was represented by current City Councillor Linda Sloan from 1997 to 2001.

The Wildrosers have a head start in candidate nominations, but are not the only party holding nomination meetings.

The Liberal Party nominated former MLA Weslyn Mather in Edmonton-Mill Woods last weekend and will be holding a nomination meeting in Edmonton-McClung on October 23. Former MLA Mo Elsalhy is expected to be acclaimed at the nomination meeting.

The NDP have a contested nomination meeting in Grande Prairie-Wapiti scheduled for next week. Contestants Paula Anderson and John Friesen are probably participating in the first contested candidate nomination for the Grande Prairie NDP in recent memory.