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Alberta Politics

Winter is coming and so is the a by-election in Calgary-Centre.

Calgary-Centre by-election Liberals NDP
The Liberals and New Democrats enter the Calgary-Centre by-election contest.

Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt and Green candidate Chris Turner are no longer alone in Calgary-Centre, as the field of candidates is filling out. Time is also running out for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to set the date for the by-election.

Late last month, the Liberals nominated lawyer and conservationist Harvey Locke. Soon after his nomination Mr. Locke was boosted by a visit from Justin Trudeau, who launched his leadership campaign a day earlier in his Montreal riding of Papineau.

Winter is Coming Chris Turner
Calgary-Centre Green candidate Chris Turner is targeting the highly influential “Game of Thrones” voters.

Late to the game, the New Democrats are finally starting the process of nominating a candidate to run in the by-election. The three candidates seeking the yet-to-be scheduled nomination contest for the yet-to-be called by-election are recent provincial NDP candidate Brent Maklinson, social media consultant Scott Payne, and Matthew McMillan.

After a number of rumoured high-profile candidates declined to seek the nomination, the NDP focused much of their energy over the summer on organizing a functional riding association in Calgary-Centre. In 2011, a parachute candidate earned 14% of the vote for the NDP.

Meanwhile, the 1 Calgary Centre group is holding an “Unconference for post-partisan politics in Calgary.” On September 21, I joined 1 Calgary Centre organizer Brian Singh and Athabasca University political scientist Jay Smith to discuss the potential for 1 Calgary Centre to effect the by-election race (I shared some thoughts on this topic in a previous blog post).

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Alberta Politics

Can a ‘progressive’ win in Calgary-Centre? It is not impossible, but it might not be very likely.

1CalgaryCentre
1 Calgary Centre

Can the online campaign 1 Calgary Centre succeed in its goal to unite (or crowd-surf) progressive voters behind one candidate in the impending Calgary-Centre by-election? It is not impossible, but it is improbable.

The existence of a Naheed Nenshi, Linda Duncan, or Chima Nkemdirim style of candidate who progressive voters could unite behind could make Conservative organizers lose some sleep, but that candidate has yet to emerge and the December 4 deadline for the by-election to be called is quickly approaching. Much like the failure of the Democratic Renewal Project to unite parties on the provincial level, the reality of deep-rooted partisan associations driven by personalities who are committed to both brand and ideological are large challenges facing any group wanting to unite non-Conservative voters in this country.

Joe Clark Calgary-Centre MP
Joe Clark

Some supporters of the online 1 Calgary Centre movement have looked past the large plurality of votes earned by Conservative candidates in recent elections and point to the unlikely election of Joe Clark in the 2000 federal election. Keep in mind that Mr. Clark was no ordinary candidate. Mr. Clark was a former Prime Minister, senior cabinet minister, leader of the national Progressive Conservative Party, and he benefited from national profile, a televised leaders’ debate, and broad and diverse team of organizers in Calgary-Centre. Even with all this, he still only barely unseated Canadian Alliance Member of Parliament Eric Lowther. Mr. Clark was also a Conservative.

So perhaps Mr. Clark is not the best example. Of course, the by-election campaign has yet to officially begin and the final decision remains in the hands of voters in Calgary-Centre.

Now let us take a look at the candidates.

Joan Crockatt
Joan Crockatt

Blogger David Climenhaga published a witty retort of Catherine Ford‘s criticisms that Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt was largely to blame for the ugly labour dispute at the Calgary Herald in 1999.

As the Conservative candidate in a riding that has only elected Conservative MPs since 1965, Ms. Crockatt is the safe bet to win (former Mayor Harry Hays was elected as a Liberal in 1963 when this riding was part of the larger Calgary-South riding). But being the safe bet does not always ensure a smooth road to victory, especially when said candidate has a somewhat controversial political past.

A number of provincial PC supporters have voiced frustration with Mr. Crockatt’s politics and her tacit support of Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party in the recent provincial election. A number of prominent provincial PCs, including Tourism Minister Christine Cusanelli, campaigned for Ms. Crockatt’s challengers in the Conservative nomination contest.

On September 22, the Liberal Party will be holding its nomination meeting to select a by-election candidate. The three approved candidates seeking this nomination are educator and TEDxCalgary co-founder Rahim Sajan, lawyer and conservationist Harvey Locke, and businessman Drew Atkins. A fourth candidate, who I understand has yet to be approved by party central, is Steve Turner.

Naheed Nenshi
Naheed Nenshi

According to Liberal blogger Vincent St. Pierre, Mr. Locke’s campaign has attracted the support of high-profile Liberal Party organizer Donn Lovett. Mr. Lovett is known for his involvement successful election campaigns of Gary Dickson, Dave TaylorCraig Cheffins, and Mr. Clark. More recently, he managed the unsuccessful mayoral campaign of Barb Higgins, in which Ms. Crockatt was the media spokesperson.

Chatter on Twitter last week suggested that political spin-master Stephen Carter was involved in the campaign of Mr. Atkins, which turned out to be a false rumours. Both Mr. Lovett and Mr. Carter were involved in Mr. Clark’s successful Calgary-Centre campaign in 2000.

Chris Turner Green Party Calgary Centre
Chris Turner

Green Party leader Elizabeth May was in Calgary earlier this month to congratulate popular local author Chris Turner on his acclamation as the Green Party candidate. An award-winning author, Mr. Turner is the co-founder of CivicCamp and was a board member of Sustainable Calgary from 2008 to 2011. Oil City might not seem like prosperous territory for the Green Party, but I would not be surprised to see Mr. Turner do well when the ballots are counted.

Past provincial New Democrat candidate Brian Malkinson is the first candidate to publicly announce he is seeking the yet to be scheduled federal NDP nomination. Running as the NDP candidate in Calgary-North West in the 2012 provincial election, Mr. Malkinson earned 3.17% of the vote. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was expected to attend an NDP fundraiser in Calgary on September 21, but the event has been postponed. He will be in Edmonton this weekend for the annual conference of provincial New Democrats.

Occupy Calgary activist Ben Christiensen has been confirmed as the Progressive Canadian Party candidate. Obscure party launched after the 2003 merger between the federal PC and Canadian Alliance parties. This party is led by Brian Mulroney-era cabinet minister Sinclair Stevens.

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Alberta Politics

conservatives choose joan crockatt. liberals still hoping for a star?

Joan Crockatt Stephen Harper Calgary Centre
Joan Crockatt and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Political commentator Joan Crockatt was chosen as the Conservative Party candidate in the yet to be called by-election in the federal riding of Calgary-Centre. Ms. Crockatt bested five other candidates, including the heavily endorsed lawyer Greg McLean and former MLA Jon Lord. According to a report from the Calgary Herald, more than 900 party members cast ballots out of approximately 1,850 eligible members.

With the Conservative candidate chosen and widely expected to win the upcoming by-election, attention will now shift to the opposition party candidates. The New Democrats have yet to select a candidate and no prospective candidates have made their intentions public. Past candidate William Hamilton has announced his intentions to seek the Green Party nomination and popular local writer Chris Turner has expressed interest in that party’s nomination.

Chima Nkemdirim
Chima Nkemdirim

Despite already having two capable candidates – Rahim Sajan and Harvey Locke – approved to seek the Liberal Party nomination, some party activists are concerned that their central party is holding out for a big-name star candidate to swoop into the downtown Calgary riding. These activists suggest that the Liberal Party is hoping that Chima Nkemdirim, chief of staff to mayor Naheed Nenshi, will change his mind and seek the nomination. Others suggest that the party is hoping to recruit a star candidate, like Olympic gold medalist Mark Tewkesbury, to carry the Liberal Party banner in the by-election.

This is reminiscent of the Calgary-Centre Liberal nomination before the 2004 election, when local lawyer Julia Turnbull, who had been campaigning for the nomination, was nearly pushed out of the race in favour of former Calgary police chief Christine Silverberg, who the central party had hoped to appoint as the candidate.

A new group, calling themselves 1 Calgary Centre, has formed in hopes of mobilizing progressive voters within Calgary-Centre to support and elect a consensus candidate in the upcoming by-election.

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Alberta Politics

calgary-centre by-election nominations take a strange turn.

The Calgary-Centre Conservative Party nomination contest took a turn for the strange over the past few weeks.

Originally shaping up to be a three-candidate contest, Alderman John Mar and former Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation chairman Andy Crooks dropped out of the race earlier this summer, leaving political commentator Joan Crockatt as the lone survivor of the original three candidates in the nomination contest.

Jon Lord Calgary-Centre Conservative
Jon Lord

Video store owner, former Alderman and Progressive Conservative MLA Jon Lord is one of the new candidates to enter the contest. Mr. Lord placed a distant sixth in his bid to become Mayor of Calgary in 2010 and was unsuccessful in his attempt to win back the PC nomination in Calgary-Currie before the recent provincial election. In the 2004 provincial election, Mr. Lord was unseated as MLA by Liberal Dave Taylor.

Lawyer Rick Billington has also joined the contest. Mr. Billington is a long-time Conservative Party director in the neighbouring riding of Calgary-Southwest. His website biography lists him as having participated in the Leaders Debate preparation team for Premier Alison Redford during the 2012 Alberta election.

Also running are Stefan Spargo, who was former MP Lee Richardson‘s campaign manager and also made an unsuccessful bid for the PC nomination in Calgary-Currie, and past Conservative riding president Greg McLean, who entered the contest last week.

Calgary Joe Soares
“Calgary Joe” Soares

Perhaps the strangest candidate to join the Conservative nomination contest is Quebec political advisor and Ottawa-area resident Joe Soares – who describes himself as “Calgary Joe.” It is not known whether Mr. Soares has spent any significant amount of time in Calgary or has any connection to the city or the province of Alberta.

The messaging on Mr. Soares’ website is a textbook case of negative partisanship, taking aim at New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair, who he accuses of wanting to destroy Alberta’s economy. The political insider also takes aim at the perceived frontrunner Ms. Crockatt, who he accuses of defending former Ontario Conservative MP Belinda Stronach when she crossed the floor to the Liberal Party in 2005 (which I imagine is a top of mind issue for Conservative Party members in Calgary-Centre).

The date of the Conservative nomination vote has not yet been set, though the deadline to enter the contest occurred last week.

Despite rumours that popular Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann might enter the Liberal Party nomination contest (or the NDP contest), only two candidates will be on the ballot at the vote on September 15, 2012. Lawyer and former Canadian Parks and Wilderness Association President Harvey Locke and educator Rahim Sajan.

Past candidate William Hamilton has already declared his interest in running for the Green Party and author Chris Turner told the Calgary Herald that he is considering seeking the nomination.

Anne McGrath NDP
Anne McGrath

Their status as Official Opposition in Ottawa does not seem to have generated wide interest in the NDP nomination. I have heard very little about who the NDP candidate in this by-election could be.

However unlikely, the latest speculation I have heard is that some party members are trying to draft Anne McGrath to carry her party’s banner in the downtown Calgary riding. Ms. McGrath is the former President of the NDP and chief of staff to former NDP leader Jack Layton. She ran for the provincial NDP in the Calgary-McCall by-election in 1995.

The newly created Online Party of Canada has attained registered status with Elections Canada just in time to nominate a candidate to run in the Calgary-Centre by-election.

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Alberta Politics

nathan cullen aims to unite progressives in calgary-centre.

Nathan Cullen NDP MP
Nathan Cullen

Skeena-Bulkley Valley New Democrat Member of Parliament Nathan Cullen is jumping into Calgary’s Stampede celebrations next week to host a workshop on uniting progressives in advance of the inevitable by-election in Calgary-Centre.

On July 11, Mr. Cullen will co-host a workshop with Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MLA Rachel Notley with the goal of sending “Stephen Harper a stinging message in his own backyard that his divisive politics aren’t going to cut it anymore.”

In 2011, the NDP orange wave made more of a ripple than a splash in Calgary-Centre. Parachute candidate Donna Montgomery earned only 14% of the vote, up from 9% in 2008. It is difficult to imagine any candidate other than a Conservative will win the expected by-election, but it is interesting to see that the NDP are putting some energy into cultivating and engaging potential supporters in this downtown Calgary riding.

Representing the northern British Columbia federal riding through which the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline will travel, Mr. Cullen has been a vocal critic of the development that would export crude oil and bitumen from the Athabasca oil sands to a marine terminal in Kitimat, BC. The NDP launched a spoof website last week in response to claims by Conservative politicians that “radicals” are holding up the public hearing process.

Calgary-Centre Conservative MP Lee Richardson announced his resignation on May 30, 2012 after accepting a job offer to become Principal Secretary to Premier Alison Redford. Mr. Richardson was first elected in this riding in 2004 and was re-elected with 57% of the vote in May 2011.

Conservatives Joan Crockatt and Alderman John Mar have announced their bids to seek their party’s nomination. Beena Ashar is the lone candidate seeking the Liberal nomination and past candidate William Hamilton is seeking the Green Party nomination.

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Alberta Politics

[updated] did jason kenney deepen the conservative divide in calgary-centre?

In light of yesterday’s embarrassing missive by federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney about Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk, the race to become the Conservative Party candidate in the yet to be called Calgary-Centre by-election may get more interesting. Suggestions that the by-election could be defined by the deep schism between federal Conservatives (many of whom support the Wildrose Party) and the long-governing provincial Progressive Conservatives may soon become a reality in the lead up to the Conservative Party nomination.

Three in. The Conservative nomination contest.

John Mar Calgary-Centre Conservative
Alderman John Mar

Conservative political pundit and former Calgary Herald editor Joan Crockatt and former Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation board member Andy Crooks were the first two candidates to announce their intentions to seek the Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Centre. Mr. Crooks has already been endorsed by Calgary-West MP Rob Anders, a supporter of the Wildrose Party who is known for his far-right conservative politics.

Mr. Crooks was a signatory to the now famous “Alberta Firewall Letter” in 2001, which was also signed by Conservative luminaries Stephen Harper, Ted Morton, Tom Flanagan, Rainer Knopff, and Ken Boessenkool.

Two-term Calgary Alderman John Mar, recently in the news for his tough on potato farmers stances, entered the contest last week. With ties to the PCs, Alderman Mar could represent the voice of moderate Conservatives in the nomination contest.

Tory victory inevitable? Almost certainly, but…

Joe Clark Calgary-Centre MP
Joe Clark

Unless something cataclysmic occurs in the next six months, it is highly unlikely that the by-election in this riding will result in anything but the election of another Conservative MP. The type of Conservative candidate could effect how strong that outcome is.

Previous elections suggest that Calgary-Centre has a more moderate conservative streak than some other Calgary ridings. In the 2000 federal election, Progressive Conservative leader and former Prime Minister Joe Clark, a Red Tory, returned to the House of Commons by defeating Canadian Alliance MP Eric Lowther in what was one of the closely watched racesin the country. Another moderate Tory, Lee Richardson, continued this trend until his recent resignation.

The Liberal long-shot.

Beena Ashar Liberal Calgary-Centre
Beena Ashar

While it may not translate to votes on the federal level, voters in this riding have a streak of electing non-Conservative representatives on the provincial level, including Liberal MLA’s Kent Hehr and Dave Taylor (Mr. Taylor later joined the Alberta Party).

Fresh off the provincial election trail, Beena Ashar has announced her intentions to seek the Liberal Party nomination. As the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Elbow, Ms. Ashar placed a distant third behind Premier Alison Redford. She also placed third when challenging Ward 5 Alderman Ray Jones in the 2010 municipal election.

Past Liberal candidate and former school board chair Jennifer Pollock announced on Twitter last week that she would not be running in the by-election.

Update: William Hamilton, the 2011 Green Party candidate, has announced that he will seek the Green Party nomination when the election is called. Mr. Hamilton was also the EverGreen Party candidate in Calgary-Elbow in the recent provincial election.

Update (July 24, 2012): Andy Crooks has dropped out of the Conservative nomination.