Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Race For Calgary Egmont

Egmont. Egmont, Egmont, Egmont. When I moved to this riding just over a year ago, I had no idea that I'd be hearing its name in my sweat-soaked nightmares. And yet, here it is: The riding was formed in 1971, and has been coloured Tory Blue ever since. The Tories have never garnered less than 50% of the popular vote in this riding, and as recently as 2001 Denis Herard pulled in a popular vote of 72.7%. In 2004's "Klein-feld - the Election About Nothing", though, the riding returned Herard with only 51.8% , giving the Liberals thier usual slice of around 20%, and placing the Alberta Alliance third, with nearly 15% of the vote - their highest total in any of the province's urban ridings. The Greens also did well here, with leader George Read pulling in almost 1000 votes.

Federally the area is overwhelmingly Conservative, as part of Calgary South East, one of the safest ridings in the country for Big Blue. Jason Kenney, the popular 4-term (soon to be 5) Member of Parliament, supported Jonathan Denis in his run for the Tory nomination (as a matter of principle, Denis Herard stayed neutral in the nomination process - it's an unwritten rule for outgoing PC's).

Denis Herard, the 4-term incumbent for the PC's and former Minister of Advanced Education, is retiring.

The Candidates:
Jonathan Denis (PC)
Cathie Williams (Lib)
Jason Nishiyama (NDP)
Barry Chase (WAP)
Mark McGillvray (Grn)
Craig Chandler (Ind)

Jonathan Denis is a rarity in provincial politics - he's a candidate who's willing to go off-script, and talk about things not contained in the party's press package. Even more remarkable is the fact that Denis is a young, first-time candidate doing so, in a riding targeted by the Liberals as "winnable". A businessman, lawyer, and health-care advocate, Denis looks to continue the tradition of Denis Herard by being an MLA accessible to ALL in the riding, regardless of for whom their ballot was cast. He makes the point that there will be times when the riding does not agree with his personal views on an issue - and, importantly, realizes that in those cases, it's his job to represent the people, first and foremost. This is something more candidates and MLA's need to realize.

Seeing as how Jonathan is vying for the VOES (Vote Of Enlightened Savage) in this campaign, I've been having a dialogue with the candidate and his team, and will spend a little more time on Egmont as compared to the other ridings. 3 questions I asked that were of particular importance are below, along with Jonathan's answers.

ES: What is the greatest asset that Jonathan can bring to the table as MLA for Calgary Egmont?

As someone in his 30's with many solid accomplishments, Jonathan represents the ideal combination of an experienced and established professional who has a vision for the future of Calgary-Egmont and for Alberta.

Calgary Egmont is a microcosm of Calgary at large. Its history goes back to the original settlement of Calgary and encompasses both inner city and the orginal suburban districts of Calgary. Its potential for evolution and development is almost unmatched in the city. The planned South-East LRT line is only one example of the potential we have for becoming a beacon on inner city and suburban development. Egmont has an incredible diversity of residents, from the quintessential inner-city professional to retired seniors. We've met residents who have lived here since their neighborhood was at the edge of the city and have seen this city change from a small town to the economic metropolis that we now experience. We've met families who are raising their children in some of the most beautiful subdivisions that Calgary has ever produced. Yet they all have similar concerns. A solid economy, health care, safety for their parents and children. We can achieve all that with the PC's. We can bring Change that Works to this constituency.

As an MLA, I will work towards reducing our dependancy on personal vehicles for regular activites by encouraging and supporting Transit Oriented Development
including recreation and shopping facilities within easy walking distance of our homes and transit location. I would support the city in its plan to develop a real rapid transit solution for our residents to get to and from work, regardless of whether they work downtown or not. I would encourage the development of more riverside parks to mirror the very strong successes Calgary has had with its park and river side trail systems on the north side of the city.

ES: Egmont is a "tale of 2 ridings", with the liberal north and conservative south. How does Jonathan plan to be an MLA for ALL of Egmont, given a) the very divided nature of the riding in general, and b) the very vocal minority of conservatives who feel they have been wronged by the PC Party?

In the 2004 election, we had widespread support throughout the constituency - including in the north. This being said, we recognize that the boundaries include Ramsay (an inner-city neighbourhood) as well as more established areas such as Willow Park and newer areas like Riverbend. Jonathan is a hard worker who is willing to put the interests of the constituents first and he is prepared to work for everyone in Calgary-Egmont, regardless of their voting preference or location.

Jonathan agrees that a the PC party should establish a nomination process similar to the federal party where candidates have to be potential members for 6 months and are vetted by the party PRIOR to beginning campaigning. This being said, Jonathan has always wanted to serve this constituency and in both elections received more votes than any other winning PC nominee in Calgary.

Jonathan has been proud to run a positive and clean campaign and will continue on this track as the MLA for Calgary-Egmont.

ES: Who are Jonathan's political heroes? What about them does he hope to emulate in his public life?

Jonathan has known Jason Kenney for many years. Jason first sought office when he was 28 (much younger than Jonathan) and has earned a reputation as a hard worker and someone who is Calgary's representative in Ottawa - not the other way around. Jonathan will be the same type of representative for our city in Edmonton.

Also of note, for you Social Networking types... Jonathan's Facebook group has the most members of any PC candidate.

Cathie Williams is a former chair and trustee with the Calgary Separate (Catholic) School Board. Prior to that, she served as Chief Financial Officer for a group of companies in Edmonton. Williams made headlines last October when she pulled out of the race for re-election to her seat in the school board with only a few days left until voting day, to run for the Liberal nomination in Egmont instead.

As a former high-profile school board trustee, Williams has an advantage over many candidates, Liberal and otherwise: Name recognition. People are used to hearing her name in the news. As such, the Liberals have all-but crowned her a "star candidate", and there are whispers on the Liberal side that they hope to take the riding with about 40% of the votes cast - counting on a split on the right, and some drift from dissatisfied Tories.

Offers by this scribe to give Williams an opportunity to express herself in this space were rebuffed by her riding president, on account of the obvious bias of The Enlightened Savage.

Jason Nishiyama is a 20-year veteran of the Canadian Forces Reserve and a high school teacher for the Calgary Board of Education, currently teaching in a special setting working with youth who have addiction issues. Nishiyama has a strong business background as well, serving on the board of directors for one company (for which he was also Operations Manager), and serving as Treasurer for his condo board. Egmont is not fertile soil for the NDP, but Nishiyama is hopeful that he will be able to improve on their last-place finish in 2004.

Barry Chase captured 620 votes to finish 3rd in 2004 in the riding of Calgary Shaw. This time around Chase is running in the riding in which he grew up and attended school - when it was on the outskirts of town. Chase has a strong background in finance, and his son Travis is running for the Wildrose Alliance in Calgary Fort (Nation - would they be the first father/son combination to sit in the Legislature at the same time? A T-shirt might be on the line...). As mentioned previously, this was the strongest urban riding for the Alliance in 2004, and they're looking to build on that momentum. As "Harper Conservative" country, especially in the riding's south, there is quite a lot of policy overlap with the Wildrose Alliance, and if Chase can get his message out over the other noise coming from the right, he might have a chance to substantially improve his party's vote total... bet on 3rd place.

Mark McGillvray is the future of the Green Party in Alberta. For that matter, he's the present, too. A backbone of the party, he has found himself responsible in part or in whole for much of the party's infrastructure within the province, both on the provincial and federal levels of politics. A blogger and content director for, McGillvray is a perfect example of what the Greens need to do in order to get their message out to their demographic - young idealists who need to live here for the next 60 to 80 years, and would appreciate a nice, clean planet to live on. Mark has run for the Greens twice in the riding of Calgary Centre-North federally, winning 11% of the vote each time with total expenditures, in both elections COMBINED, of less than $8,000. Now THAT'S efficiency - he's spending less than a dollar per vote. In 2004, he also ran provincially for the Greens in Calgary Mountainview, placing third.

Much of the strength the Greens have shown to date in Alberta - their strongest province in Canada, shockingly - is due to Mark McGillvray. He is exactly what the Greens need to move their party forward - a political organizer who cares passionately about the environment, rather than their current make up as a party of environmentalists, who for the most part know nothing about how to organize politically. And while he may not win in Calgary Egmont, you WILL see this man pushing the Green agenda onto the provincial radar in the ensuing years, and I would not be shocked at all to see him sitting in the Legislature one day - sooner, rather than later. (Note to Mark: Don't run any further south in the city in 2012 - I'd hate to have to run against you)

Craig Chandler won the first nomination race for the PC's in Calgary Egmont, before having his nomination rejected by the party's executive as not being in the "best interests of the party". In the time since, the "stone that the builders rejected" has tried to become his own cornerstone (despite being rebuffed by the Wildrose Alliance), and he has pursued a "scorched earth" campaign against the PC's, using the considerable organizational muscle of his PGIB to attack and confound the PC's at every opportunity (this, despite his own admission that many rate-paying members of the PGIB are dedicated Tories, and are therefore essentially paying for the attacks on their own party). Most experts and pundits agree that the Chandler camp has little chance of winning the riding, but could possibly take enough votes from the PC's to let Liberal Cathie Williams come through the middle to win the seat. Seeing no difference between the PC's and the Liberals, Chandler seems to be fine with that.

A political operative of renown on the right wing of Canada's political spectrum, Chandler claims to have managed 48 campaigns, of which 40 were successful. As a candidate himself, Chandler has a much less stellar track record, having lost on both the federal and provincial level, as well as drawing boos from the assembled members of the federal Progressive Conservative Party for his vitriolic speech at their leadership convention in 2003 before withdrawing from the race for the party leadership. He was also recently rejected as a candidate for the Board of Directors on the newly-formed Wildrose Alliance. One wonders, if his organization and training is so good, why the only candidate that Craig Chandler and his people can't get elected to office is... well, Craig Chandler. Might it be his charming personality? On March 3rd, the citizens of Egmont will let us know. Look for a Jacques Parizeau-esque "women and ethnics" excuse shortly thereafter, sounding a lot more like "pc wimps and bleeding-heart transplants from back east". Never fear, though - Chandler will soldier on, snug in his opinion that he knows what we need, even if we're too stupid to figure it out yet.


Anonymous said...

Wow! What a propoganda piece for Jonathan.

What a surprise March 3 will bw for the traditional parties.

Enlightened Savage said...

Anon: On February 4th, I announced that this blog was going to try and be as non-partisan as possible. I extended an invitation for any and all candidates to approach me with their message, and that I would offer them a chance to get it out through this space. In Egmont, only Jonathan Denis did so.

If only one candidate knocks on your door, can you be blamed for listening to what they have to say?

son of gaia said...

Where's your "Race for Calgary Lougheed" posting? Did I miss it?

I've been waiting for a Dump Dave Rodney campaign to start up, but it's looking like I'll have to start it myself. Of all the useless appendages on the Tory body politic, Dave Rodney takes the cake. He was nominated for the riding originally as a front for Smoke-free Alberta, and has done nothing of significance other than putting forward "Bill 201: Smoke-free Places Act, 2005" on behalf of his masters. He was chairman of AADAC when that agency's Tobacco Control executive director Lloyd Carr was exposed as an embezzler by the auditor-general, and as soon as Stelmach took over Rodney was unceremoniously booted out of the chairmanship. His big "claim to fame" is being a motivational speaker, for goodness sake, and having climbed Mount Everest - which makes him a first-class hypocrite when it comes to lecturing other people on the need to not put their health (and lives) at risk...

Anonymous said...

You alwayz know it'z da PGIB chair when there's lotz of spelling mistakes and garbege.

Enlightened Savage said...

sog: Watch for Lougheed on Feb. 21.

Anonymous said...

SOG must be missing his smoke break.

I love the irony of someone who uses the handle "Son of Gaia", yet whose hot button issue is smoking, summarized as "why the hell won't you let me smoke where I want, when I want, and allow me to get cigs over the counter, without blaming me for being a cost on society".

re: Rodney. Like him or no, Rodney is a good constituency rep, and gets back to people quickly on the issues they raise. He shouldn't have much difficulty being re-elected.

calgarygrit said...

Thanks for the profile – Egmont’s my former riding so I’m curious how it will go. I expect Chandler to do alright there, but his base all went Alliance last time, so really, I don’t see him getting over 20%. Green vote will probably fall a bit of Reed isn’t running here and the NDP isn’t anywhere on the map. Liberals didn’t run a campaign last time and have a top line candidate who knows what to do during an election so their vote should go up. And with Denis gone (replaced by a new Denis admittedly), you’d think the incumbency edge would be gone, but I never saw Herard as being that personally popular anyways.

So, my view is that this one only goes Liberal if the dam breaks and they get 12-16 seats in Calgary. Otherwise, it should stay in the PC column.

Anonymous said...

Hey Sav:

I didn't get your invitation as I would have welcomed a chance to goe toe-to-tow with Mr. Denis over who's more conservative.

As a Green, we consider ourselves the conservatives that actually 'conserve' stuff; we are fiscally responsible, socially progressive and committed to long term environmental sustainability.

Check us out at and see how we would guarantee your health, weath and happiness -- long term.

Anonymous said...

This would be among the last seats in Calgary to ever go Liberal. Even when the PC's had bad times in 1989 and 1993 - the MAXIMUM the Liberal vote ever reached was 28% and otherwise is around 20%.

I'm hearing the new Denis is a masterful campaigner and has raised a lot of money. In with the new guard.

son of gaia said...

Some Anonymous coward attempted to put these words in my mouth:

"why the hell won't you let me smoke where I want, when I want..."

In reality, I've always supported public smoking bans that are rational & reasonable.

My objection to Rodney has to do with his being a inept manager (AADAC) and a blatant Mimbo stooge of special interests rather than a representative of the will of his constituents.

Roy Harrold

Anonymous said...

When is there going to be an all candidates forum in this riding? I am dying to see Chandler getting his arse fed to him by all the other candidates. I guess the election is so low key, there is probably not one planned right? Keep me updated on your blog!

Anonymous said...

I was supporting Cathie Williams and thought she had a shot but even our polling doesn't crack 25%.