Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair will visit Edmonton this week to campaign with local candidates and to rally their supporters. The visit by the two leaders follows an earlier stop by Conservative leader Stephen Harper during the second week of the election.
In a competition to own the “change” message, the NDP are holding a “Rally for Change in Edmonton” on September 10 and the Liberals are holding a “Rally for Real Change in Edmonton” on September 9. It is clear that both parties have identified varying degrees “change” as a common theme in this election campaign and that message could resonate in a handful of ridings in Edmonton in this election.
It is expected that popular Premier Rachel Notley might take the stage with Mr. Mulcair on September 10, to give her personal endorsement to the federal leader. With 64 percent of Edmontonians casting their ballots for the NDP in the May 2015 provincial election, the opposition parties have reason to believe that Alberta’s capital city is fertile ground for progressive messages.
Taking notice of the political shift in the city, the Conservatives recently dispatched Ontario candidate Kellie Leitch and Calgary candidate Michelle Rempel to canvass alongside Edmonton candidates who are in tough contests. Liberal MPs Ralph Goodale and Rodger Cuzner have travelled to Alberta in recent weeks and Ontario MP Carolyn Bennett will campaign in Edmonton later this week.
With forty days left in this election, here is a look at a few races in Edmonton and northern Alberta that could have interesting outcomes on October 19, 2015:
Edmonton-Strathcona: Two-term NDP MP Linda Duncan is expected to be re-elected but a resurgence in Liberal support for candidate Eleanor Olszewski could spoil an easy NDP victory and put Conservative Len Thom in a position to win. Note: The Liberal vote fell to an astonishing 2.82 percent in the 2011 election, down from 9 percent in the 2008 election.
Edmonton-Griesbach: If a second NDP MP is elected in Alberta, it will likely be Janis Irwin in this north east Edmonton riding. Ms. Irwin’s chances are boosted by highly-organized provincial NDP campaigns in the area and helped by the embarrassing antics of retiring Conservative MP Peter Goldring. The Conservatives nominated former city councillor Kerry Diotte as their candidate. Mr. Diotte’s record on city council and lacklustre bid for mayor in 2013 have left some Conservative activists unenthusiastic about their party’s chances of holding the riding. Note: I live in this riding and can attest to the large number of orange lawn signs that have popped up over the past few weeks, including one on my own lawn.
St. Albert-Edmonton: Will long-time Conservative Party loyalist Michael Cooper prevail over rebel MP Brent Rathgeber? Mr. Rathgeber is running as an Independent conservative candidate after quitting the Conservative caucus in 2013 to protest the level of control held over MPs by the Prime Minister’s Office. The two-term MP is well-known in the riding, but a deep Conservative establishment in the riding could be difficult for an Independent to uproot. Note: Before being elected as an MP in 2008, Mr. Rathgeber served as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Edmonton-Calder from 2001 to 2004.
Edmonton-Mill Woods: Popular city councillor Amarjeet Sohi surprised many political watchers when he declared his plans to seek the Liberal nomination earlier this year. Mr. Sohi faces former Edmonton-Sherwood Park Conservative MP Tim Uppal and NDP candidate Jasvir Deol in what could be a fascinating three-way race. Note: Mr. Uppal ran against Liberal MP David Kilgour in this riding as a Canadian Alliance candidate in the 2000 election and Conservative in 2004 election.
Edmonton-Centre: Three-term Conservative MP Laurie Hawn is retiring, leaving this central Edmonton riding up for grabs. The Conservatives have nominated former Chamber of Commerce CEO James Cumming as their candidate, while entrepreneur Randy Boissonnault is running for the Liberals and Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan for the NDP. While the demographics of this riding do not suggest chances would be favourable for the Conservatives, Mr. Hawn benefited in the 2011 election from a sharp vote split by the NDP and Liberals. Note: In 2011, Mr. Hawn earned 48 percent of the vote and the combined Liberals and NDP vote in this riding was 47.8 percent.
Edmonton-Manning: Encompassing the area of Edmonton north east of Edmonton-Griesbach, this riding could result in a close race between Conservative Zaid Aboultaif and New Democrat Aaron Paquette. Note: Mr. Paquette is also known as the founder of the clever #Ottawapiskat meme.
Justin Trudeau’s event, the “Rally for Real Change in Edmonton,” will be held on Wednesday, September 9th at 5:00 pm at the Radisson Edmonton South, 4440 Gateway Blvd.
Thomas Mulcair’s event, the “Rally for Change in Edmonton,” will be held on Thursday, September 10th at 6:30 pm at the Edmonton Shaw Convention Centre, Hall D, 9797 Jasper Ave.