One year ago today, just over 50% of Albertans made their way to the polls to vote in the 2008 Canadian Federal Election. While just over two years since the previous election, last October saw some Edmontonians (and Strathconans) paint their electoral map with a little more diversity of colours (even if it only resulted in one actual change in electoral representation). A year out, here is a look at some of the more interesting ridings from 2008 and what the electoral races may shape up to look like in the next election.
I expected closer results in this riding during the last election, but if only one thing were clear about the 2008 election, it is that the Liberals under Stephane Dion had zero momentum in western Canada. After narrowly defeating Liberal MP Anne McLellan in 2006, a low voter turnout allowed Conservative Laurie Hawn to widen his margin of victory into a comfortable lead in 2008 when facing off against consumer advocate and Liberal candidate Jim Wachowich (the total voter turnout dropped by over eleven thousand votes and over 9,000 Liberal voters stayed home, dropping that party’s support by over 9,000 votes between 2006 and 2008).
This riding has been the focus of both Reform/Canadian Alliance/Conservative and Liberal resources since 1993 and the prospect of three strong candidates in the next election could make this Edmonton riding a centre of attention once again. Hawn is a strong campaigner, but he is now facing two hard working challengers who have already began campaigning door-to-door. Liberal Mary MacDonald is a lawyer, Ph.D., former Deputy Chief of Staff to McLellan, and former provincial Liberal candidate. New Democrat Lewis Cardinal is an educator, activist, and former candidate for City Council. Some people will inevitably bemoan the potential for vote-splitting between the two main challengers, but I am looking forward to watching three strong candidates make this riding competitive in the next election. If Edmonton-Centre becomes home to a serious three-way race, I would wager that anything could happen.
This riding could be one to watch in the next election. With the collapse of the Liberal-vote in 2008 (likely caused by the previously mentioned Dion-factor and the last minute withdrawal of candidate Jim Jacuta), former MLA Ray Martin was able to capitalize and boost the NDP vote by 13% to a solid second place finish. The riding has been represented by MP Peter Goldring since 1997, but the eclectic collection of citizens in this riding supported NDP MP Ross Harvey in 1988 and Liberal MP Judy Bethel in 1993.
Although Goldring has perfected the art of invisibility as a backbench MP, he still hold an incumbency advantage and I wouldn’t underestimate Martin, who has once again been nominated as the NDP candidate in the next election. A seasoned elections veteran, Martin’s political drive has led him to be elected the MLA for Edmonton-Norwood from 1982 to 1993, Edmonton Public Schools Trustee from 2001 to 2004, MLA for Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview from 2004 to 2008, and Leader of Alberta’s Official Opposition from 1986 to 1993. I have also heard that along with Edmonton-Strathcona, the NDP are planning to focus much of their resources on this riding, which was their second strongest Alberta finish in 2008.
In 2008, Independent conservative James Ford rode a strong wave of Strathcona County-concentrated discontent after a shady Conservative nomination process chose former Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont candidate Tim Uppal over local favorite Jacquie Fenske.
Ford’s strength led this riding to the second closest results in the province, but I wonder whether a second run by Ford would result in the same level of discontent. This has been a strong conservative riding and includes areas that are represented on a provincial level by Premier Ed Stelmach and Finance Minister Iris Evans. If the voters in this riding are now less offended by the internal party shenanigans than they were a year ago, I would imagine that they will return to a traditional Conservative voting pattern.
Linda Duncan, NDP – 20,103 (42.5%)
Rahim Jaffer, Con – 19,640 (41.6%)
Claudette Roy, Lib – 4,279 (9%)
Jane Thrall, Grn – 3,040 (6.4%)
Kevan Hunter, ML – 147 (0.3%)
A year ago today, NDP candidate Linda Duncan edged out long-time Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer in a close election race. Initially planning a comeback, Jaffer is now dealing with some personal issues in Ontario and the Conservatives have nominated Ottawa insider Ryan Hastman as their standard bearer. Both candidates and their teams have been busy canvassing door-to-door over the summer months in this extremely geo-politically polarized riding (as you can see by the poll results from the map above).
Since the last election, a number of people have noted to me that Duncan has become somewhat of a ghost in Edmonton. I will give Duncan the benifit of a doubt that she is still mounting the learning curve that all elected officials face during their first couple years in office, but I am sure that Hastman’s campaign will focus on this point.
Expect a flood of resources and high-profile MP visits to the riding from both the NDP and Conservatives to continue before the next election (NDP leader Jack Layton has visited this riding at least 4-5 times since October 2008). The collapse of the Liberal vote helped vault Duncan to her victory, but it shouldn’t be underestimated how strong her organization and her campaign momentum were in the last election. If she is successful in her next election, she will be the first NDP MP to be re-elected in Alberta’s history. The Liberals have yet to announce a candidate in this riding, but Michael Ignatieff spent the Canada Day long weekend in the riding.
(Thanks to Jordan C. for the map)