Alberta Politics

Week 1 Update from the Calgary-Lougheed by-election

Photo: Former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed. The Calgary-Lougheed electoral district is named after Lougheed.

It has been one week since the Calgary-Lougheed by-election was called. The by-election is being held on Dec. 14, 2017, but voters in this district also have the option of voting in advance polls on Dec. 6, 7, 8 and 9, 2017.

This is the third by-election since the general election of 2017 that swept the New Democratic Party into government. And like the previous two by-elections, this one will be held in a district where voters elected a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2015.

Four candidates have so far been nominated to stand in the by-election:

Phillip van der Merwe, New Democratic Party

Premier Rachel Notley was on-hand with Alberta NDP candidate Phillip van der Merwe at tonight’s opening of the party’s campaign office in Calgary-Lougheed. Having just returned from speaking engagements in Vancouver and Toronto, where she pitched the benefits of oil pipelines, Notley returned to Calgary days after the Conference Board of Canada projected Alberta’s economy could grow by 6.7 percent in 2018.

But do not expect the NDP to spend much time focusing on economic issues. They are doing their utmost to make sure Jason Kenney’s opposition to the recent Gay-Straight Alliance law and his support from anti-abortion groups remains a topic of discussion.

This will be a tough election for the NDP, as this area of southwest Calgary is considered bedrock conservative territory. In the recent Calgary mayoral election, voters in this part of Calgary supported conservative Bill Smith over progressive Naheed Nenshi.

Jason Kenney, United Conservative Party

UCP candidate Jason Kenney drew a big crowd of supporters when he opened his campaign office on Nov 19, 2017. The recently elected UCP leader is almost universally considered the favourite to win this by-election.

Kenney and his supporters have started to claim that Albertans’ home heating bills will increase by 75 percent because of the province’s Carbon Levy. Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips denied Kenney’s claims, describing them as ‘patently false,’ but the UCP has capitalized on confusion about the provincial and federal carbon taxes in order to draw connections between the Notley NDP and the Trudeau Liberals.

The claims are reminiscent of Kenney’s rhetoric and photo-op from December 31, 2016, when he insinuated the same Carbon Levy would lead to a spike in automobile gas prices. That didn’t happen. With constant predictions that the sky is falling on the issue of a carbon tax and rampant truthiness on other issues, Kenney is sounding more and more like Chicken Little.

David Khan, Liberal Party

David Khan Alberta Liberal Party Leader
David Khan

Liberal Party leader David Khan announced he will stand as his party’s candidate in this by-election. The Liberals currently hold only one seat in the Legislature, Calgary-Mountain View represented by former leader and fourth-term MLA David Swann.

This will be Khan’s third election attempt since 2014 and his first since becoming leader earlier this year.

He first ran as his party’s candidate the 2014 Calgary-West by-election, where he placed 3rd with 8.5 percent of the vote. In the 2015 general election he ran in Calgary-Buffalo, where he placed 3rd with 24.7 percent of the vote (the constituency was represented by Kent Hehr from 2008 to 2015).

The Liberals will host an “Ugly Christmas Sweater & Karaoke Party” fundraiser at Khan’s campaign office on December 9, 2017.

Romy Tittel, Green Party

Romy Tittel Alberta Green Party Leader
Romy Tittel

Recently elected Green Party leader Romy Tittel will run as her party’s candidate in the by-election. An online statement said she plans to champion “Doughnut Economics” based on Kate Raworth’s 21st century vision for future economic health and prosperity.

Tittel was selected as the party’s leader at a November 5, 2017 meeting in Red Deer. She previously ran for the federal Green Party in the 2015 general election in Foothills, where she placed 4th with 3.25 percent of the vote.

No candidate, Alberta Party

The Alberta Party announced this week that it will not be running a candidate in the by-election. Party leader Greg Clark, who is stepping down as party leader next year, called the results of the by-election “a foregone conclusion,” suggesting that the party would have no chance of defeating Kenney.

This is the second consecutive by-election in which the party’s has declined to run a candidate. In a Feb. 29, 2016 media release about the Calgary-Greenway by-election, party leader Greg Clark said “Running in this byelection is not the best use of our resources as we build towards 2019.”

Sitting out this by-election presents a missed opportunity for the Alberta Party to debut itself following its revival last weekend in Red Deer. But having their candidate get clobbered by Kenney would take a bite out of their narrative that they are a growing home for moderate conservative voters. By not running a candidate, the Alberta Party saves themselves the embarrassment of placing third, fourth or fifth in this by-election.

5 replies on “Week 1 Update from the Calgary-Lougheed by-election”

Disagree with the Alberta Party assessment, I think this was a major flub on their part.

Sure, they aren’t going to win and may even end up with a bad result, but a small chance of a good result is better than the zero chance they’ve given themselves by not running. That’s just poor strategy.

More crucial however is that this decision all but ensures they stay irrelevant for the time being, and even worse, they’ve stopped cold any public momentum they got from Mcpherson and Red Deer. Alberta politics will be focused on this by-election for the next couple of weeks and the Alberta Party will cross the minds of no one. They could have capitalized on the proximity in time to those previous events and geography to their political base in Calgary by mobilizing volunteers and fundraisers in what is ultimately a meaningless and free test run of their commitment and your messaging. Instead all anyone knows is that you’re not running.

And the ‘resources’ argument? Pure nonsense. No one expects you to win it, you don’t have to pour your heart, soul, and bank account into it. If you can’t afford a little by-election run, then you have more serious cash problems than you’re letting on.

Then let’s address the credibility issue. The Alberta Party has none. It’s apparently turfed its own leader (Clark stepped aside on his own accord, please) and is being taken over by elements from the old Tory D-Squad. They’re a joke right now and this just cements it, especially to progressives. How can the Alberta Party claim to lead any change against Kenney when it doesn’t even bother to run against him? The stakes are as low as you can get in this by-election, but the symbolism is incredibly high,, yet the Alberta Party still can’t be bothered to try. Amazing!

Say what you will about the ALP and Khan, but the guy knows an easy opportunity when he sees it. This is a chance to boost your profile and get some experience and excitement going, and the worst thing that happens is you lose a by-election everyone forgets about a month later. There is literally nothing to lose here. Same with the NDP and Greens.

What a fumble, seriously. I’m not saying it’s a lethal one but the missed opportunities I can see here are killing me.

Kyle, your entire argument assumes they have policy and a position and something to say. I think mounting evidence would suggest otherwise.

They have spent the last few years trying to be as unobjectionable as possible to as many people as possible. I think that position has finally run aground among other parties willing to strongly state what they stand for.

They are at least smart enough to keep quiet and let people assume they are directionless and meaningless rather than put themselves in a position that will not require any assumptions at all.

That’s a fair point. All I know about them is that they say they’re centrist – which means what to who, anyway? Reminds me a lot of the Iggy-era Liberals. Directionless indeed.

It has been said (I vaguely recall the quote being attributed to Abraham Lincoln) that “it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt”. Perhaps this is the Alberta Party’s underlying rationale for staying out of elections … that it’s better to remain silent and be accused of having no platform, than to run in an election and prove it.

Peter Lougheed (sometimes known as Loghead) wracked up the most debt of any premier in Canadian history and then his famously favored Premier Klein paid it off on the backs of the poor, the sick, the elderly and schoolkids, not to mention doing absolutely nothing about climate change or anything else to improve the health of Albertans.

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