The second by-election since Alberta’s May 2015 election will be held on March 22, 2016 in the northeast Calgary constituency of Calgary-Greenway. With the re-election of Manmeet Bhullar, this constituency was one of eight in Calgary to elect a Progressive Conservative candidate in that election. His death in November 2015 triggered this by-election.
By-elections can produce unexpected results. While they are important snapshots of the political mood of an electorate at a certain point in time, the results can be poor indicators of outcomes of future general elections.
In October 2014, four by-election wins by the PC Party made Premier Jim Prentice look like a political juggernaut. His party was swept out of office by Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party seven months later. A by-election win by the Wildrose Party in 2009 did not produce a Danielle Smith-led government in 2012 and an important by-election win by the Liberals in Ralph Klein’s Calgary-Elbow constituency in 2007 also ended up being a false start for that party in the next election.
Last year’s by-election in Calgary-Foothills, triggered by Mr. Prentice’s election night resignation, was the first in Alberta’s dramatically new political environment. The NDP poured significant resources in their campaign to elect former MLA Bob Hawkesworth and his loss to Wildroser Prasad Panda was a blow to the NDP, which is likely why the NDP appear to have done a better job managing expectations for Roop Rai‘s campaign in Greenway.
Alternatively, the Calgary-Greenway by-election is a must-win for the PC Party, which has dropped down to eight MLAs from 70 MLAs before the 2015 election. PC candidate Prab Gill needs to retain this by-election to signal his party will continue to be a viable alternative to the NDP.
A win by the PC Party would also throw a wrench into the plans of the official opposition Wildrose Party, which has been aggressively attacking the new NDP government since it took office less than a year ago. A Wildrose win might be a final nail in the coffin of the PC Party.
A win by the Liberals would be, well, unexpected.
One poll, released by Mainstreet Research on March 12, projected a four-way race between the PC Party, NDP, Wildrose and Liberals.
Unlike most of the 44-years of PC Party government, Albertans no longer live in a political environment where we can expect the governing party to win every seat. And that’s a good thing.
The following candidates will be listed on the ballot on the March 22, 2016 by-election in Calgary-Greenway:
Green Party: Thana Boonlert [Facebook, Twitter]
Liberal Party: Khalil Karbani [Facebook, Twitter]
Independent: Said Abdulbaki
Independent: Larry Heather
Independent: Sukhi Rai
New Democratic Party: Roop Rai [Facebook, Twitter]
Progressive Conservative: Prab Gill [Facebook, Twitter]
Wildrose Party: Devinder Toor [Facebook]