Some ridings, you can win without even trying. McCall is not one of them. Although it has been electing Progressive Conservatives since 1975, ethnic issues are HUGE in McCall, and the person who plays the "ethnic politics" game the best can win this riding, handily. Just as an example, only 58% of the residents in this riding speak English as the primary language at home - a full 36% speak something other than one of Canada's 2 official languages, and 17% speak Punjabi. Likewise, 36% of the riding's residents were born in Alberta, while almost 33% were born in Asia or the Middle East. A large Sikh temple dominates the local skyline. Exacerbating the issues in this riding is the fact that, before the Edmonton Castledowns recount in 2004, this riding went to Shiraz Sharrif of the PC's with their smallest margin of victory in the province (245 votes). This election will be a complete re-match, with the PC's, Liberals, NDP and Wildrose Alliance all running the same candidates they did in 2004.
Shiraz Sharrif (PC)
Darshan Kang (Lib)
Preet Sihota (NDP)
Ina Given (WAP)
Heather Brocklesby (Grn)
Shiraz Sharrif is a 4-term MLA, and the incumbent here. A child welfare worker before being first elected in a 1995 by-election, Shiraz does a lot of volunteer work in the community and is generally seen as a nice guy. He ran into serious problems here in 2004, though, with Darshan Kang coming within 300 votes of sending Sharrif to the "waiting for pension to kick in" line. Sharrif is very aware that he is in a precarious position, although it probably helps that he won't suffer much from the "post-Ralph hangover" that many PC incumbents will notice - Ralph's coat-tails weren't all that long in McCall.
Darshan Kang has seen the promised land - in 2004, he was tantalizingly close to victory, and he's pulling out all the stops this time around. As of February 10th, Kang had reportedly knocked on more than 17,000 doors in the riding, and had only 2 streets left to go. Likewise, Kang's volunteers have been all over the place, giving the impression to the casual observer that they're WAY out in front, just by way of visibility. You can bet that Darshan's people are going to be going full-bore in their Get Out The Vote efforts - they know all too well how a few votes can make the difference. I am going to be very surprised if I wake up on March 4th, and Darshan Kang isn't the MLA-Elect for McCall.
Preet Sihota finished last in McCall in 2004, getting just 264 votes. Don't be surprised if he finishes last again this time - it's nothing about Preet himself, but from Kang's perspective, if they convince the 263 left-leaning voters in the riding who aren't Preet himself to vote for Darshan Kang in 2004, Kang is the incumbent right now. You'd better believe every single NDP lawn sign in McCall is being used as a target for the Liberals, to knock on that door and convert the occupants. Preet is a realtor and advocate for public heath care.
Ina Given is one of my favourite WAP candidates. Besides being one of only 7 women running for the Wildrose Alliance (a subject that, believe me, will be covered in later postings), Ina works with special needs children, recently read Barack Obama's book (how was it, Ina?), and listens to one of my all-time favourite Canadian bands, the Arrogant Worms. Okay, so I'm lifting a lot of this info from her candidate profile that ran in the paper today - turns out the mainstream media is good for something after all. Ina's husband is the WAP candidate for Calgary Cross, and she finished 3rd here in 2004. Although the riding may not have the right demographics to go Wildrose in 2008, a successful Get Out The Vote operation by Ina's campaign on voting day could reap some good rewards for the party's vote total here - and hurt Shiraz Sharrif's re-elections chances in the process.
Heather Brocklesby is a "true believer" - she's been in the Greens for 5 years, and for all the right reasons. The legal assistant is running for MLA, but also for serious bragging rights, as her husband ran for the Greens here in 2004, and pulled in 359 votes. For all KINDS of reasons, Heather wants to beat that total. She minored in PoliSci in university and (obviously) assisted with her husband's campaign in 2004, so she's not going into this wide-eyed and unprepared. She's not going to win - but she may be able to change some minds, and make a difference - which is entirely the point. Heather lists Northern Saskatchewan as her favourite vacation spot - what's the attraction: the trees, or the mosquitoes?