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.
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 consultantScott Payne, andMatthew 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lawyer Rick Billingtonhas 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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).
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.