Alberta Politics

Wildrose defeated by “Justin Trudeau Liberal” in Calgary-Greenway by-election

Prab Gill won today’s by-election in Calgary-Greenway with 27 percent of the vote, holding the northeast Calgary electoral district for his Progressive Conservative Party. The by-election was triggered after the death of popular MLA Manmeet Bhullar in November 2015.

Devinder Toor Wildrose
Devinder Toor

Perhaps demonstrating how high the political stakes were for the conservative opposition parties, the right-wing Wildrose Party delivered a last minute flyer to houses across Greenway attacking Mr. Gill for being a “Justin Trudeau Liberal.”

The braintrust at Wildrose Party headquarters, all federal Conservative loyalists, probably didn’t consider that Albertans are smart enough to know the difference between federal and provincial politics. And then there is the possibility that Mr. Trudeau, and local Liberal MP Darshan Kang, might actually be popular among voters in northeast Calgary.

Khalil Karbani, the actual Liberal Party candidate (who ran for a Wildrose Party nomination in 2012), placed third with an impressive 22 percent of the vote. As the provincial Liberals have essentially been non-existant in this constituency for some time (they did not run a candidate in 2015), the longtime community association president likely benefited from his own personal popularity and that of Mr. Kang (and Mr. Trudeau, I am sure).

Khalil Karbani Liberal
Khalil Karbani

Wildrose candidate Devinder Toor placed second with 23 percent, only three points higher than he placed in last year’s general election. Mr. Toor faced allegations of questionable business practices during the campaign which may have hurt his chances. But the loss can also be seen as a rebuke of the Wildrose Party’s no holds barred ideological and negative attacks against anyone who disagrees with its positions.

The Wildrose Party’s attacks on Mr. Gill probably do not bode well for Wildrose leader Brian Jean‘s fumbling attempts to convince the PCs to merge with them before the next election. With one by-election win under their belt, the PCs could feel a renewed sense of optimism for their own future electoral prospects.

Roop Rai NDP Calgary Greenway
Roop Rai

New Democratic Party candidate Roop Rai placed fourth with 20 percent. Premier Rachel Notley played down expectations in this by-election but a fourth place finish by the NDP candidate, even if was only seven points behind the victor, is a poor finish for a governing party.

The by-election will likely contribute to the narrative that the NDP have lost popularity in Alberta, regardless of the party never actually having won an election in Calgary-Greenway. It is also the start of the narrative that, despite their claims, the Wildrose Party is not the only party that can defeat the NDP – the PCs and the Liberals can now claim they can defeat the NDP as well.

As I wrote earlier this week, it is difficult to tell what impact a single by-election will have on future general elections. An abysmally low voter turnout, at 29 percent, suggests that none of the parties have meaningfully connected with voters in this constituency.

We do know two things. First, the PCs blocked the Wildrose Party from grabbing one of their nine remaining constituencies, which is an important victory for a party that was written off as dead less than one year ago. Second, attacking Justin Trudeau in Calgary might have actually hurt Wildrose chances of winning this by-election.

Unofficial results of the Calgary-Greenway by-election from Elections Alberta:

Prab Gill, PC: 2,292 (27.7%)
Devinder Toor, Wildrose: 1,957 (23.6%)
Khalil Karbani, Liberal: 1,870 (22.6)
Roop Rai, NDP: 1,667 (20.1%)
Thana Boonlert, Green: 166 (2%)
Said Abdulbaki, Independent: 146 (1.7%)
Larry Heather, Independent: 106 (1.2%)
Sukhi Rai, Independent: 61 (0.7%)


15 replies on “Wildrose defeated by “Justin Trudeau Liberal” in Calgary-Greenway by-election”

Ummm … “a party that was written off as dead”… Not sure about the tastefulness of this wording, given how this seat became vacant…

Wildrose increase in popular vote of 2.58 percentage points much better than NDP and PC losses of 16 points and 15 points respectively.

I voted NDP but I’m glad to see the Wildrose lose. The PCs are centrist conservatives. The Wildrose are extremists and have risky policies that would bring even more economic uncertainty to Alberta’s fragile economy. Anybody but Wildrose!

The fact is that the NDP were the big losers, finishing in 4th place and seeing their share of the popular vote decline from 36% to just 20%. The Liberals did very well and the WR gained in share of popular vote.

In the last two by-elections the WR finished first and second, showing that the WR can do well in Calgary and not just rural Alberta.

It would probably be wise not to try and read too much into a by election that does not change the government. Often, by elections have not been very good predictors of elections in Alberta. I suppose it is a bit of good news for the PC’s as they won it. Also some good news for the Liberals, as they were very close behind the Wildrose and almost came second. However, it really was almost a four way race with all the parties between 20 to 30 percent.

This seems to indicate to me that Albertans are not particularly enthusiastic about any of the parties at the moment. The next election is quite a long time away and a lot could change. Possibly two parties (the PC’s and Liberals) will have new leaders before then, which will have a bigger impact on things than this by election.

The anti-Liberal campaign of the Wildrose is wh they came so close. People are tired of phony conservatives (PC) and want a free enterprise, principled conservative party.

This is a very complex byelection to analyse. Almost a year ago there was the Orange Wave. Today there is the Trudeau Shine. Changes. Typical Canadian politics.
What is different here, is loyalties in a very ethnically diverse constituency. Loyalties can change. But the change is not only about party politics.
Since I don’t speak Punjabi, Urdu, Farsi, and Arabic I’m out of the loop. The pundits I normally follow have my language issues. Unfortunately and not surprising, I haven’t seen an in depth analysis by anyone. The pundit I seek needs to have deep roots in this community.


Normally you do decent analysis, but this is laughable. Oh, the Wildrose only increased their vote by 3% compared to 2015! Let’s ignore that the mere presence of a fourth party candidate along with a Green candidate and three independents in the byelection compared to 2015 means more of the vote pie is automatically taken – an extreme example of this can be seen in the recent Edmonton municipal byelection, where Moe Banga won with a mere 17.8% vote in a record slate, because every extra candidate hoovers up a few percent or fraction of a percent of the vote. Despite the increased slate, the Wildrose was the only main party to increase their vote percent (the Liberals, not having run in 2015, obviously had no place but to go up)

Meanwhile, the PCs and NDPs lost 15% and 16% respectively. But we get ‘Wildrose barely increased their vote’ and ‘NDP was only 7% behind the victor’ instead of ‘Wildrose narrow PC vote lead between the two from 21% to 4% despite the PCs having feel-good will based on their former MLA being a popular community figure who died in a Good Samaritan incident’ (albeit too large for a headline) or ‘Governing party candidate places in 4th’

The last place finish of the NDP is just an early report card; it indicates that citizens are aware of their non-performance to date.

I imagine this non-performance will continue to ultimately end in a loss in the next provincial election.

The provincial NDP seem to have bad advice about how to act in government. They seem to have a few Harper type advisers around them and it’s all about media message management, non-transparency and shutting out the citizens from Ms. Notley’s Facebook page. The blocking of comments by citizens like myself is anti-democratic and it appears to me that commenting on social issues that matter— such as the problems in continuing care—result in these sorts of unwarranted censorship acts.

Part of the narrative of loss of voter confidence that you speak about– is due entirely to their actual lack of non-performance; part of it is due to the failure to listen to us-the citizens who gave them this opportunity that they have mishandled. They won’t get another opportunity.

With the PCs poor record of governance, I don’t think they’ll be back.
The rise of the Liberals is interesting. It could be due to the shine from the sun of Mr. Trudeau or it could be due to the movement of former PC voters who voted NDP –now voting Liberal.

I am curious what this swing group of voters will do in the next election.
The Liberal Party of Alberta would be an attractive place to park my swing vote if they had a strong leader in place.
With a strong leader, they could take the place of the NDP as an opposition party at least.

I imagine the Wildrose party will take over the government in the next provincial election.
The Wildrose folks are being branded as extremist types –but I have met one of the MLAs and he was just an ordinary citizen so I doubt that this sort of perverse labelling is true. In fact, I doubt that we have any extremist politicians in Canada compared to the Trump junk in the USA. Most of the MLAs in Alberta– are ordinary citizens who haven’t learned how to serve their constituents yet. They all have a lot to learn and they have been given at least three years to learn their jobs.

It’s very fluid right now in politics.
But this by election is a clear indication of voter unrest.
I believe we will have the NDP out the door in the next provincial election, the Wildrose Party will be in a good position to win, and there will be a renaissance among the provincial Liberals.

That sentence should have been:

Part of the narrative of loss of voter confidence that you speak about– is due entirely to their actual lack of performance; part of it is due to the failure to listen to us-the citizens who gave them this opportunity that they have mishandled. They won’t get another opportunity.

The Wildrose may have increased their percentage so I suppose that can give them some comfort. However the end result is they still did not win – they lost to the third place party in the legislature (although number two in popular vote in the last election).

Calling the PC candidate a liberal in an attempt to tarnish him may have helped them a bit, but perhaps they should have called him a communist instead That seemed to have worked better for them in the last by election they ran in, although I think that did reinforce the perception across much of Alberta that Wildrose are a bit extremist and not totally in touch with reality.

Yes, there were more parties running and candidates in the by election butI think that probably hurt the the PC’s and the NDP much more than the Wildrose. Somehow I can’t see a lot of Wildrose supporters switching to vote for the Liberals in the by election, but I could see some PC’s and NDPers doing that.

I think there was a bit of a nostalgia vote for PC here. Also the one area that blew liberals into third place came from an area overlapping with a liberal MP win- khan. So not surprising given the sunny days Trudeau still prevalent. I think we can not take away any message here other than the NDP lost big time, and voters clearly pick conservatives. Conservatives should start to understand that there is a parade in Alberta, they should u ite and lead it!

Rural Gal: Given the basic fact that the Conservatives after Peter Lougheed were a big disaster for Alberta and the Wildrose have proven twice that they do not have what it takes to lead Alberta, how can a “united right” work out? Preston Manning (a carbon tax supporter) tried to “unite the right” the last time. It failed.

This is not a story about any political party popularity.

It is really a story about apathy among Albertans. With so many Albertans feeling economically pinched, where are they when it comes time to exercise their voting franchise?

Or is the apathy because they know that Alberta is having a tough time now with historically low prices for the one horse economy that province has relied on and which are a product of international making having nothing to do with any political party and which no Alberta political party can do anything about.

If and when oil prices rise, I suppose the governing party will get credit for superior management even though they will continue to have no effect on those prices.

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