Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Race For Calgary Foothills (& Edmonton Highlands Norwood)

An affluent suburban riding in the city's far north-west, Calgary Foothills might seem at first blush to be a very safe PC seat. After all, the riding has been shaded Tory Blue since its creation in 1971. The reality, though, is that in the past few elections, Liberals support has been at or near 4,000 votes - just about 2,000 shy of the total that incumbent Len Webber of the Tories received in 2004. If PC voters stay home, or park their votes somewhere else, this riding could join with other ridings in Calgary's west end and find itself part of a Liberal beach head in the city.

The Candidates:
Len Webber (PC)
Mike Robinson (Lib)
Stephanie Sundberg (NDP)
Kevin Legare (WAP)
Ian Groll (Grn)

Len Webber is running for his second mandate as MLA for Foothills. A quick trip over to his campaign website will find him receiving a shining endorsement, on video, from none other than Peter Lougheed. Yes, THAT Peter Lougheed. A father of 3 teen-aged daughters, Len desperately needs the people of Foothills to help keep him out of the house, by sending him to Edmonton. Webber's areas of focus include the environment and education, which should play well in suburbia. However, Len only won this riding by a couple thousand votes last election, and that was with a popular leader from Calgary running the show. This time around? Whole new ballgame. Webber will have to work for this one, as his margin of victory in 2004 was small enough that with the changes in the PC's since, he's lost much of his incumbent's advantage.

Mike Robinson is the former President and CEO of the Glenbow Museum, and former co-chair of the fantastic imagineCalgary initiative. A member of the Order of Canada, Robinson has been very involved with the David Suzuki Foundation for the last decade (although, given Suzuki's recent decline into crass partisanship and politics, I don't know if that's a good thing or not for Mike to brag about). The Liberals hope that having a high profile candidate in Foothills will be what they need to get over the top here - the problem is, Mike Robinson isn't a high profile candidate - at least, not among the people you're trying to woo. Team Taft is trying to get soft Dippers and Red Tories to cross over to their side - and Mike Robinson is a non-entity to both those groups. Who knows who Robinson is? The type of people who already voted Liberal in 2004, and 2001, and beyond. He's an intellectual celebrity, but the Grits missed an opportunity to nominate someone here with mainstream name recognition. This isn't to say that Robinson can't win - he can, and may. But he's no more of a "high profile candidate", outside the Liberal base, than Richard Evans was in the Calgary municipal election outside of the Blogging community. A few people - who were probably going to vote for you anyway - knowing your name doesn't make you high profile.

Stephanie Sundberg is a transit operator and political science student at the University of Calgary. The graduate of William Aberhart High School has extensive history in groups such as the Calgary Stampede Show Band. The nice thing about being a candidate for a party that is NOT expected to win is that, as a rule, the other candidates tend not to attack you. Nobody from Len Webber's team is going through a list of Stephanie's old boyfriends to interview them for dirt on her, and Mike Robinson isn't likely to dismiss her as a "mere student" in a public forum. So, in a lot of ways it's easier to run for the Greens, or the NDP, than for the Liberals or the Tories. But to step forward and put your name on that ballot, while still juggling a job and your 4th year of university Political Science courses, takes a lot of guts. Stephanie isn't going to be an MLA in 2008, but she's still a winner in my books.

The extensive information on Kevin Legare that I possess is as follows:
1) He's young
2) He attended St. Mary's University College

Memo to the Wildrose Alliance Party: These "election" things are the entire reason we even bother forming political parties. If you're going to spend all this time and energy trying to "run a full slate" across the province, you might want to consider trying to actually get some of them elected... sacrificing the time, energy and dignity of 83 candidates doesn't make you a real party - it makes you a very thorough joke. We vote in 15 days, and the only information on your website about Kevin Legare is his phone number. I ran a better campaign for the winner of Grade 9 class president - AND the runner-up (either way, I was going to win).

Ian Groll has no information available at this time. But you'll know him when you see him - he pretty much looks exactly like you'd imagine the local Green candidate to look. :)

Edmonton Highlands Norwood is at the very heart of NDP country. Although the riding itself is only seeing its second election, its 2 component ridings of Highland and Norwood have extremely strong records of electing left-leaning politicos, including at least 3 leaders of the NDP - Brian Mason (the incumbent), Ray Martin, and the late Pam Barrett. The riding is extremely ethnically diverse, and boasts (?) the second-lowest average household income in the province. The PC's normally poll at around 2000 votes here, and so will need to at least double their regular result to have a chance against the popular New Democrat leader. The Liberals, as late, have been a non-issue in this part of Edmonton.

The Candidates:
Brian Mason (NDP)
Andrew Beniuk (PC)
Brad Smith (Lib)
Travis Loewen (WAP)
Mohamad Maie Mohamad (Grn)

Brian Mason was first elected to Edmonton Highlands in the by-election to replace the retiring Pam Barrett. 4 years later, he had both her seat in the Legislature, and her old office, as Leader of the NDP. Mason is a U of A PoliSci grad who worked for Edmonton Transit as a bus driver for 10 years before getting involved in municipal Edmonton politics. After 11 years on city council, Mason made the jump to provincial politics, and has handily held his seat through general elections in 2001 and 2004. 2008 is not expected to be much different. Although many Albertans see Mason as out-of-step with the mainstream on many issues, he is widely respected as a good leader for the NDP, who represents their views well to Albertans and serves his constituents effectively. Some Liberals fear that if Mason can build some momentum in the next 2 weeks with his attacks on Kevin Taft, he may be moving to a bigger office: The one reserved for the Leader of the Opposition.

Andrew Beniuk is a hard man to track down... elected in 1993 as a Liberal, he was expelled/quit caucus (depending on who's telling the story) in 1995, sat as an independent for a while, and then crossed the floor to sit as a PC until the voters of Norwood in 1997. Beniuk ran as a PC in Edmonton Glengarry (now Decore) in 2001, losing by a mere 69 votes. Holder of a PhD in business, Beniuk seems pretty determined to stay in politics - and in so doing, he's challenging a very popular incumbent. The area PC's are very much behind Beniuk, though, so it may boil down to a case of whose volunteers work hardest. Don't bet on Beniuk to take out Mason - but don't count him out, either.

Brad Smith is a former Vice President of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (of which, as a government staffer, I am a reluctant member). A political science and economics student a Grant MacEwan College, Brad plays defence for his men's (see: beer) league team, which means he can skate backwards - a trick I never figured out. His union ties aren't going to be a big enough help to make much of a difference in this riding. Despite the diversity of culture in the riding, politically the vast majority of left-leaners here uniformly vote NDP - and the right wingers aren't likely to support their local Liberal.

Travis Loewen is a photogenic 20 year-old student from Concordia University-College. Heavily involved in athletics, Loewen no doubt would love to see this race develop like something you'd see in "Rocky"... The underdog no-one's ever heard of, working his tail off in obscurity, shocking the establishment with his tenacity... only one problem, though: Rockey loses. So will Travis - this time. Keep an eye on him, though - it only took the Italian Stallion one sequel to beat the Master of Disaster, Apollo Creed. What he learns in this race, Loewen can apply in subsequent elections, in a riding where he has a chance of winning.

Mohamad Maie Mohamad has no information available at this time.


Anonymous said...

No, having read another post I can see that this blog is exactly what I thought at first. PC fan-boy nonsense. I'm sure you won't have the cahones to publish either my earlier comment or this one thou, so have fun posting to a blog that has the massive readership of your friends and family.

For the record, I'm not tied to any one party but find your constant "yay PC!" and "boo Liberal" and "the NDP's ok since they aren't Liberal" stances to be tried and boring.

Enjoy watching your new leader take you to 40 seats on March 3rd.

Enlightened Savage said...

Anon: A few points.

FIRST, clearly you're not as smart as you think you are, as my 'cahones' are quite evident, your spelling notwithstanding.

SECOND, although I am in effect as anonymous as you are, I at least have a record of work on this site, through which my biases can be judged. So, if having read 2 whole posts you can declare me to be an obvious "PC fan-boy", I assume you're fine with my characterization of you as an "anonymous, small-l liberal troll".

THIRDLY, if you were to read other posts (I assume you're capable, but I may be assuming too much), you'd find I am an equal opportunity blogger, just as likely to offer kudos to a Liberal as to a Tory, and just as likely to attack idiocy on the right as on the left. My record, sir, speaks for itself.

LASTLY, thanks for stopping by - come on by anytime (but be sure that your comments deal with the issues being discussed and not with the author - if you want to exercise your right to your own soapbox, Blogger will host you for free).

Anonymous said...

I very much enjoyed your bit on Travis Loewen. Having met him in person, I like what he brings to the table. Do you think he will be able to make a splash somewhere down the road? If so, which riding?

Enlightened Savage said...


I certainly think Travis has a shot down the road. Although Southern Alberta might be more fertile ground on the whole, closer to home I think he may do well in a riding like Drayton Valley-Calmar or Whitecourt-Ste. Anne.