Friday, February 22, 2008

The Race For Calgary Mackay (& Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville)

On the city's northern border, Mackay includes such communities as Panorama, Harvest Hills, Country Hills, and Coventry. The riding is far from uniform in its demographic, as even within the communities themselves the residences range from million-dollar homes to starter condos. In 2004, PC Gary Mar won the riding by 3000 votes. With Mar departed for greener pastures, the riding is up for grabs.

The Candidates:
Teresa Woo-Paw (PC)
Tianna Melnyk (Lib)
Daena Diduck (NDP)
Rob Gregory (WAP)
Ryan Smith (Grn)

Teresa Woo-Paw hopes to hold this riding for the Tories. A former chair of the Calgary Board of Education (the board, in fact, that was so dysfunctional in 1999 that she asked Minister of Education Lyle Oberg to fire the lot of them - which he did), Woo-Paw is lauded for her work with the Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary, and many other organizations that aid recent arrivals to Calgary and Canada. While she has some name recognition to long-term residents, she will find it challenging to make the jump from local school board politics to the down-and-dirty world of provincial politics.

Tianna Melnyk is a teacher and community volunteer. She'll be looking to build on the 2,600 votes that the Liberal candidate received here in 2004, running against a popular incumbent in Gary Mar. A drive through the riding makes it quite clear she's not winning the sign war - but it could very well be that her efforts (and budget) are being spent elsewhere. The contrast her campaign hopes to paint between she and Woo-Paw is the current, front-line teacher versus the chair of a dysfunctional board from 9 years ago.

Daena Diduck is the vice-president of the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Association of Calgary, vice-president of Calgary's Korinnya Ukrainian Choir, and participates in the Calgary branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. I guess that means she's Ukrainian... or that she really, REALLY likes perogies (with bacon... mmmmm...). Diduck's big issues include the affordable housing crunch (which is felt, to a degree in Mackay) and the high cost of post-secondary education. This riding was NOT kind to the NDP in 2004, as their candidate finished 5th (beating only an independent named "Paul Martin", in Calgary... gee, wonder why HE lost...). If they can effectively double their vote this time around, they've got a good chance of finishing 3rd.

Rob Gregory is a former cop and crown prosecutor, so you can just imagine where his policy emphasis lies - which may play well in Mackay, where there is quite a bit of vandalism and petty crime. Gregory is also a visible WAP candidate, with a campaign vehicle that resembles the Devil's Ambulance - go to his website to see a picture (I think if I was bleeding to death and that thing pulled up, I'd tell them I'd wait for the next one to come along). Gregory now runs a successful traffic ticket defence agency. This was one of the Alliance's strongest Calgary ridings in 2004, pulling in 640 votes. The policies of the party, combined with the background and visibility of the candidate make this an interesting race, especially with no incumbent holding an advantage. Can Rob Gregory beat the odds? Tune in on March 3rd to find out...

Ryan Smith breaks my heart, as an Oilers fan, every time I read his name. Wrong spelling, but you get the idea... the holder of a degree in economics, the Green candidate works at EnCana (yes, you read that right). An active member of the party for the past couple of years, Ryan will be trying to build on a 443 vote result from 2004. I don't know how receptive Mackay will be to the Green message - they've got a lot of other issues that, in their minds, demand more immediate solutions than the environment. That said, a young candidate with new ideas can often stir the imagination of the electorate. If he can get the party behind him, Smith can turn some heads.

Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville is a rural riding located just to the East of Edmonton. Held for 2 terms in the 1980's by the NDP, the riding elected Ed Stelmach, a former county Reeve, as their MLA in 1993. Ed's still around. The riding, like many rural ridings, has a higher-than-average rate of voter participation, in this case averaging in the 70-80% area (the entire province averaged less than 47% in 2004). Including such bustling metropolises as Bruderheim, Ft. Saskatchewan, Lamont, Tofield and Vegreville, the 28,000 or so voters of the riding are hard-working people with no time for "style over substance" - a philosophy that should be evident, considering who's been representing them in the Legislature for the past 14 years. Their incumbent MLA, Ed Stelmach, is seeking re-election. He also happens to be the 13th Premier of the Province of Alberta, and leader of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta (if you didn't know that, you should probably stop reading now).

The Candidates:
Ed Stelmach (PC)
Earl J. Woods (Lib)
Clayton Marsden (NDP)
Ryan Scheie (Grn)

Ed Stelmach was born in Lamont 57 years ago, and left the U of A pre-law program to run the family farm at age 22. He was elected Reeve of Lamont County at age 36, and MLA 6 years later, knocking off a popular NDP incumbent in the process. He has been the MLA for this area since 1993. He is absolutely... not... going... to... come... even... close... to... losing... this... seat. Period. This is, without a doubt, the safest seat in the province. The people of the riding are absolutely thrilled that "their guy" is the Premier, and the attack ads against Ed have made them even more determined to send him back to the Legislature with a landslide in his home riding. Everything that the snarky media in the cities says disapprovingly about Ed... "unsophisticated... not flashy... hee-haw... back-woods... farmer... too measured..." makes him even more beloved here. The Wildrose Alliance isn't even bothering to run someone, and it's the kind of riding they'd stand a decent chance in - if the Premier wasn't running here. They know better - and now so do you.

Earl J. Woods is a former truck driver, television co-host, researcher and writer. He's running in large part as result of his (then) bride-to-be's horrendous experience with the healthcare system. No joke - go read it on his site for yourself. It's horrifying. I've experienced similar issues here in Calgary, and just because we're used to it doesn't make it right, or okay. Woods is the inheritor of a candidacy that saw the Liberals finish a strong second to Stelmach in 2004, but still 3,000 votes behind. I suspect the margin will be much larger this time around - but that's no fault of Earl Woods... it's just the way the cookie crumbles.

Clayton Marsden is a union tradesman, make no mistake about it. Even his official campaign photo includes him wearing his work helmet, complete with union decal. An advocate for labour law reform, Marsden is hoping his candidacy gets him the name recognition necessary to further those goals - he can't possibly think he has a shot at winning. The NDP finished 4,500 votes behind Stelmach in 2004. If Taft's "Urban-centric, attack Ed" campaign turns off enough left-leaning voters in the riding, Marsden could possibly finish 2nd.

Ryan Scheie is a 21 year-old who is brave enough to go into a fight he knows he can't win. An economics student at the U of A, he hails from this riding and volunteers in the community. This is the first time a Green has run in the riding.

1 comment:

Michael Roach said...

Hi "Enlightened Savage" (love that name),

Just to clarify something on Rob Gregory... that's not his campaign vehicle -- that's the CJAY92 ambulance, "Dr. Feelgood".

Although I think it would make a pretty cool campaign vehicle!