Friday, February 15, 2008

The Race For Calgary Elbow

"Welcome to Ralph's World..."

In March of 2001, this was the start to a victory speech by a jubilant Premier Ralph Klein. Klein had been Premier for the past 8 years, and would serve for 5 more.

Today, it is an ironic turn of phrase, when one sees this riding, which Klein held by sheer force of personality for over a decade, held by a Liberal incumbent. How did Elbow go Liberal? The truth is, Elbow has ALWAYS been SORT of liberal (or at least since 1989)... and only the cult of personality that followed Ralph Klein around this part of Calgary in the 1990's stopped them from capitalizing that "l" much sooner. Vacated after Klein's retirement in 2007, the riding was won by Craig Cheffins of the Alberta Liberals in a much-ignored June 2007 by-election. Cheffins is seeking re-election.

The Candidates
Craig Cheffins (Lib)
Alison Redford (PC)
Garnet Wilcox (NDP)
Dale Nelson (WAP)
Jonathon Sheffield (Grn)
Trevor Grover (SC)

Craig Cheffins has been the MLA for Elbow for a little under a year. His office in Mayfair Place is completely unidentifiable - if you don't know which unit # you're looking for, you'd swear the place was closed and vacant. On his website, he talks about the evils of "downstream clear-cut logging along the Elbow"... Craig, I think you mean UPstream... BEFORE it gets to Calgary, right? Since the Elbow doesn't, well, EXIST downstream of the city... it's a noble pursuit, and the issue IS one of importance - just make sure you're saying what you mean before you say it, that's all. Cheffins has a long history of volunteerism, and prior to his election he worked for Mount Royal College. He comes across as earnest and interested in the issues and opinions of his constituents - and he worked his butt off to get elected in the first place, so he's no slouch. After a decade of having an MLA they could see every day on the news, but rarely in their riding, the people of Elbow seem happy to have someone without too much on his plate. He just needs to make himself more... visible.

Alison Redford stands to benefit from the serious case of the willies that Tories in Calgary get every time they see Elbow coloured red on their constituency maps... the Progressive Conservative brain-trust is bound and determined to bring this riding back into the fold, no matter the cost. She has already avoided making the big mistake that the Tory candidate made in the 2007 by-election here, when he threatened to "choke the premier". He's not really all that popular in cow-town, but threats of physical violence might not be the way to go, especially WITHIN your party. Redford's big issue is the status of Calgary's "ring road" - long overdue, in large part because of seemingly never-ending negotiations with the Tsuu T'ina Nation. She has pledged to shine the light of public scrutiny on the process - not sure if that will help, but it will certainly answer the questions as to why this has taken so long, it might not even be relevant any more - the city has outgrown the footprint of the planned route. Alison Redford is a lawyer of some renown, having worked for the federal government and internationally. Redford can give Cheffins a run for his money, especially at the candidate's forums - only time will tell how the people of Elbow will vote - their 3rd election (by-election, civic election, provincial election) in a little over 9 months. Voter fatigue being an issue, the candidate who gets out the vote will be the candidate who takes the riding.

Garnet Wilcox has a solid background in both environmental and First Nations issues... his challenge is going to be in getting his message out. The baby-faced NDP candidate is going to have a hard time being taken seriously when standing next to a sitting MLA and an internationally recognized lawyer - but, the best surprises are the ones we least expect. If Wilcox can tap into the appetite for change in the riding, and highlight some of the complaints about Cheffins, he may be able to persuade voters to lend him their ballots come March 3rd.

Dale Nelson is a born Lethbian (Lethbridger? Nah, let's go with Lethbian), who obtained a BSc in Agriculture from the U of A. After a brief stint in the centre of the universe, Nelson returned to Alberta where he spent time learning about and working in the oil sands of northern Alberta. He now works as a Power Engineer Instructor at SAIT. A fluent speaker of sign language (I'm impressed, and envious), Dale is a prolific volunteer and an even more prolific father, having raised EIGHT children. Yikes! He's a natural for the job of Speaker of the House... Elbow isn't known for it's far-right leanings, but there is an opportunity for Nelson to capitalize on the active faith communities in the area, and give his party a much-needed shot in the arm in the city.

Jonathon Sheffield is a lamb to the slaughter in this race, which is a pity... filled with recreationalists who want to be close to the mountains, and bordered on the south by the Glenmore Reservoir, Elbow is RIFE for a serious, qualified Green candidate to sweep the voters off their feet. Sadly, by most accounts, Sheffield isn't the person for the job. Earnest and enthusiastic he may be, but the voters aren't going to give the Greens much of a look this time around - and that's a shame.

Trevor Grover is a party man, through-and-through. He really believes that the Social Credit Party is the way to go, and that voters will come around. Although Grover is a good candidate in many ways, I fear his belief in his party is misplaced - no SoCred has sat in the Legislature since 1982. That's the doing of the people of Alberta, and the SoCreds have nobody to blame for that but themselves. That said, there is much to like about Grover - he's articulate, passionate, and charismatic. He's a bit focused on taxation - everyone needs a top priority, but there are more pressing issues in Elbow than a tax revolt - but, overall, Elbow could do a LOT worse. If Grover wasn't such a dedicated SoCred, I suspect he'd be a GREAT candidate for the Wildrose Alliance in the future.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately for Alison Redford (but maybe fortunately for him) Cheffins backed out of a planned candidate forum set for Saturday.

This was mentioned in the Calgary Herald. What was not mentioned was that Cheffins' campaign manager had signed off on the event (time, place, etc.) via email and it was a go... right up until Cheffins backed out. This part was not picked up in the Herald story, which attributed the abrupt change of heart to reservations about it having been proposed by Redford's team.