Will Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson run for the Progressive Conservatives in the upcoming spring provincial election? His surprise resignation announcement today timed with the PCs abrupt delay of their nomination in the northeast Calgary-Cross constituency until March 14 has led some political watchers to speculate Mr. Hanson could be appointed as a candidate.
With the retirement of six-term PC MLA Yvonne Fritz, seven candidates are seeking the PC nomination in Calgary-Cross. Deep political divisions between the various ethnic groups backing those candidates led one political observer described the race as “a gong-show.” Appointing a high-profile outsider like Mr. Hanson might be a more palatable alternative for the PC establishment to holding a highly divisive nomination meeting that would be difficult to control.
But Cross is not the only available spot. There are six other constituencies in Calgary that do not yet have PC candidates, including Calgary-McCall and Calgary-Fort, in which nomination meetings have not yet be scheduled.
Calgary-McCall is currently represented by Liberal Darshan Kang, who is jumping into federal politics as the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Skyview. In Calgary-Fort, long-time PC MLA Wayne Cao is retiring and the New Democrats have recruited former five-term city councillor Joe Ceci.
Mr. Hanson is already seen as close to Mr. Prentice, having invited him to ride alongside the Calgary Police Foundation during the 2014 Calgary Stampede Parade. Mr. Prentice was the Chair of the Calgary Police Foundation Fundraising Committee.
This would not be the first time the PC Party appointed a candidate in north east Calgary. In 2008, two days after the election was called, 27-year old university student Manmeet Bhullar was appointed by Ed Stelmach as the PC candidate in Calgary-Montrose. Mr. Bhullar is now Minister of Infrastructure and is considered one of Mr. Prentice’s chief political lieutenants.
Mr. Hanson would be one of the latest in a string of police chiefs to jump into electoral politics. In Ontario, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives salivated when Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino was able to steal a long-time Liberal riding in a by-election. In British Columbia, Kash Heed, the chief constable of the West Vancouver Police Department, briefly served as Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
While he would be a political unknown to most Albertans outside of Calgary city limits, Mr. Hanson would be one of the PCs first “star candidates” to be nominated for this election. And with most PC MLAs winning their nominations by acclamation and only a handful of low-key nomination contests underway, a high-profile name like Mr. Hanson’s could bring some much needed heft to a PC slate still heavily loaded with Redford-era MLAs.