Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Race For Calgary East

Calgary East is one of those ridings you might not expect the Tories to hold onto - especially if you're a big believer in ethnic bloc voting, and that the PC's are the "party of old, white men". Demographically, such a party wouldn't stand a hope in hell of getting elected in Calgary East - yet the PC's have held it for a decade and a half. The riding includes areas like Forest Heights, Marlborough and Radisson Heights - some of the lowest property-values in the city, and therefore the most likely place to find recent arrivals or folks who are down on their financial luck. The Liberals have been gaining steadily in the last 3 elections, and this was a targeted riding by many in the Liberal brain-trust this time a year ago. For 14+ years, PC Moe Amery has served as the MLA for the people of Calgary East. Amery is seeking re-election.

The Candidates:
Moe Amery (PC)
Bill Harvey (Lib)
Christopher Dovey (NDP)
Mike McCraken (WAP)
Ross Cameron (Grn)

Moe Amery is an institution in Calgary East, even if he's relatively unknown through the rest of the province. He is the prototypical "4th-line forward" of the political sphere - you need him to sit on committees, but he's not going to make it to cabinet - especially in light of allegations, ultimately unproven, of wrong-doing on his part a few years ago. Amery has good organization in Calgary East, as you'd expect from a long-time incumbent, and will be tough to move.

Bill Harvey ran for the Liberals in Calgary East in 2004, pulling in almost 29% of the popular vote. To win, he needs to either gain 2000 votes outright, or turn 1000 of Amery's voters to the Dark Side. Harvey was nominated rather late in the game this time around, and despite his strong ties to his community, may have a hard time getting "over the hump" due to the fact that he does not, in fact, live in the riding (which, in this author's opinion, shouldn't matter as much as it seems to). The Liberal organizers may have blown a chance in this riding, but time will tell.

Christopher Dovey is a local with deep roots in the community - exactly the type of candidate the Liberals should have tried to place here. Dovey organized a town hall to address concerns with the lack of repair at Marlborough Park Elementary last year, which gives him both local credibility as an organizer, and puts the shine on him among young area parents. He's also involved in ethnic politics - always tricky for the melanin-challenged. If he runs a fantastic, aggressive campaign and the Tories falter, there could be a big suprise on the morning of March 4th - don't bet the farm, but it's at least POSSIBLE.

Mike McCraken (no, I don't know if his brother's name is Phil) is a first-time candidate, with a long history of association with groups such as the Reform Party. The former commercial lender for CIBC and now business owner has a tough road ahead, as Calgary East is NOT the riding it was in the 1960's when Social Credit coasted to victory after victory here. McCracken may run into problems in the local candidate's forums, as his primary message seems to be that "The Tories have been around too long", followed by... well, by nothing. This may do more to help the Liberals and NDP than to help him, as people in this riding don't vote PC, they vote Moe Amery. This is NOT a hotbed of conservative thought, and the Wildrose Alliance had best not be mortgaging anyone's house on campaign expenses in Calgary East.

Ross Cameron is a rarity in provincial politics these days - he's a candidate with a platform that deviates from the script he's given by the Head Office. The Green candidate shares the values and policy ideas of the Green Party, but says his focus for the riding is on health care, education, and efficient transportation. The engineer has worked on major energy and power projects, but this may be his biggest challenge to date: In order to capture the votes of a majority in Calgary East, he's going to need to explain to them why he, and the Green Party, can help the people of this riding better than any of the other parties or candidates. Talking about the polar ice caps isn't going to win this riding, with schools crumbling and social infrastructure a mess. If he runs a great campaign, and steals votes from the Liberals, NDP, and disaffected Tories, he COULD place 3rd. Maybe.

1 comment:

Naheed said...

Someday, your secret identity and I should have a coffee and discuss east and northeast Calgary (not nearly the lowest incomes or property values in the city, despite popular perception) and ethnic bloc voting, which does exist, but in this province massively favours the Conservatives.

Put bluntly: ethnic people (of whom I think there are fewer in Calgary East, BTW, than the other east Calgary ridings -- the City is really slow on updating its stats, but it sure looks like those neighbourhoods are "post-ethnic" when you wander through)are voting Tory, not for Moe per se.

It's because ethnic power brokers are no dummies; if they're going to deliver the voter blocs they promise (sometimes justified, sometimes not, sometimes Ward 10 scandal), they will deliver them to the candidate who will win, even if it's Hung Pham, say.

In Calgary, you've always been better off making that bet with the PCs. The perception is changing, a little, and we may see proof of that in McCall. Time will tell.