Opposition parties hope to turn the death of Edmonton’s Expo 2017 bid into a major campaign issue.
Federal opposition parties are preparing for the next federal election and nominating candidates in Alberta ridings where they think breakthroughs are possible.
The federal Liberals ended 2010 with a meeting in Edmonton-East selecting Shafik Ruda as their candidate of choice against five-term Member of Parliament Peter Goldring and former NDP MLA Ray Martin. Liberals in Calgary-East are expected to nominate Josipa Petrunic on January 18 to challenge Tory MP Deepak Obhrai. In late 2010, the Conservatives acclaimed party insider Michelle Rempel as their candidate in Calgary-Centre North, recently vacated by former Environment Minister Jim Prentice.
The federal Liberals slate in Alberta is expected to be bolstered when a high-profile candidate announces their intentions to stand against Labour Minister Rona Ambrose in Edmonton-Spruce Grove. Alberta political watchers have been abuzz with rumours that Ruth Kelly, publisher of Alberta Venture magazine and former President of Edmonton’s Chamber of Commerce, will carry the Liberal Party banner against Minister Ambrose. The rumours began after Ms. Kelly’s became an outspoken critics of the Government of Canada’s denial of funding for Edmonton’s bid for the 2017 Expo (and the large pile of federal infrastructure funding that was expected to come with a successful bid).
While I have remained largely indifferent to the 2017 Expo bid, it is easy to understand the frustration of the people who committed their time and energy towards the bid only to have political powers in Ottawa deny the funds needed to make it a reality. Minister Ambrose will be difficult to defeat, but I am glad that the Conservatives might actually have to pay some attention to and focus some of their campaign resources on a riding that they would likely take for granted.
A shift in financial and volunteer resources could also make a difference in the expected competitive races in Edmonton-Strathcona between NDP MP Linda Duncan and Tory candidate Ryan Hastman, and in Edmonton-Centre where Liberal Mary MacDonald and New Democrat Lewis Cardinal are challenging Tory MP Laurie Hawn.
Does Edmonton have a champion in Ottawa?
It is really hard to tell sometimes. Our Members of Parliament can be often seen at events around our city (some more than others), but none of them have distinguished themselves as Edmonton’s strong voice in the national capital.
Edmonton has its share of competent representatives in our local batch of current MPs, like Mike Lake, James Rajotte, Tim Uppal, and Mr. Hawn, but none of them have succeeded in carrying the kind of political clout that has defined Edmonton’s previous prominent champions in Ottawa.
In the recent past, our city has sent prominent voices like Jim Edwards, Deb Grey and Anne McLellan to the House of Commons and as one local columnist has suggested, we have not had a champion since. Edmonton’s lone opposition MP, Ms. Duncan, was elected with high expectations in October 2008, but has been somewhat of a ghost in our city ever since.
Are federal party leaders paying attention of Edmonton? Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, NDP leader Jack Layton, and Green Party leader Elizabeth May have visited Edmonton a number of times in the past year. Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Edmonton this year for the first time since 2008.