Monday, February 25, 2008

The Race For Calgary Montrose


It's not just the name of a popular Family Guy character (a name that my friends who witnessed my behaviour in the mid-to-late 90's claim is a perfect nick-name for me - not sure why...), it's also a perfect description of Calgary Montrose. Municipally and provincially, when election time comes around this riding goes absolutely off-the-reservation crazy.

Ward 10 Alderman scandal? Here.
Michael O'Malley, the former Catholic School trustee who sued the board while sitting on it? Here.
The PC Party of Alberta winning a lawsuit against its own constituency board? Here.
Human rights complaints, on the flimsy basis of "Christophobia" (the alleged Christophobes in question - Christians.)? Here.

For 14 years the home of the man many consider to be one of the least effective MLA's in recent memory, Montrose has 2 "nevers" in its history: It has NEVER elected an MLA who wasn't a Tory. And, it has NEVER had voter turn-out of more than 50%. This riding will be had by whomever runs the best (or dirtiest) campaign, and (more importantly) by the candidate who runs the best Get Out The Vote operation on March 3rd. There are already allegations of impropriety being thrown around all over the place, and we're still a week from voting.

The Candidates:
Manmeet Bhullar (PC)
Michael Embaie (Lib)
Al Brown (NDP)
Said Abdulbaki (WAP)
Fred Clemens (Grn)
Ron Leech (Ind.)

Manmeet Bhullar has 2 biographies, depending on who you ask. If you ask a PC supporter, they'll tell you that he has served as a senior member of national campaigns (which would have put him at ages 23 or 25 at the time, being only 27 now) and is in his second year of Law school after obtaining a Bachelor of Arts (Sociology) from Athabasca University. They'll tell you he led campaigns that raised over $50,000 for the Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank, and almost $100,000 for the Calgary Health Region. They'll tell you he has advised Jim Prentice and the Prime Minister's Office. Non-PC supporters, though, mention that Manmeet is indeed in his second year of Law school - in Ontario. They wonder whether he'll drop out of school, or be another MIA MLA if he's elected. They mention his family connections within the PC party and the Federal Tories, and wonder aloud about the circumstances and possible favouritism that saw him appointed as a candidate here. The word "carpet-bagger candidate" gets used a lot. The former board members of the PC Association in Montrose, for the most part, want nothing to do with his campaign (which again, depending on who you're listening to tell the story, might be a blessing for Manmeet). What can NOT be denied, though, if the sheer volume and dedication of his volunteers. Team Bhullar is absolutely everywhere in this riding, trying to spread the message and get their guy elected. If sheer force of will of one's volunteers can get someone elected, Manmeet may be needing to take a leave of absence from Queen's after this semester.

Michael Embaie is a hugely respected candidate, very well known in the ethnic and social services communities in Calgary. A former UN employee, Embaie is currently a sessional instructor at the University of Calgary's Faculty of Social Work. A long-time advocate for marginalized persons, Embaie sees the voters of Montrose as being marginalized as well by their "representation" over the past 14 years. Running for a seat in Calgary with a message of empowerment is almost always a good strategy, and the appetite for change is especially powerful in Montrose. Time will tell whether the voters think that Bhullar is change enough, or whether they may want to "cleanse the palate" with Embaie.

Al Brown is an electrician, union executive and community activist. Given that Montrose contains a high percentage of recent arrivals to the city (and, in a lot of cases, the country), the casual observer could be forgiven for assuming that this would be prime NDP real estate, given the party's focus on social programs, assistance, and the like. The reality, though, is quite different - many of the recent arrivals in Montrose number among the hardest workers in the city. They work long hours, want to pay as little tax as they can, and expect that their hard work will benefit their own families more than the government's pet programs. Not looking good for Brown, who is trying to improve on the NDP's 4th-place finish here in 2004.

Said Abdulbaki, on the other hand, could surprise a lot of people. The businessman and owner of Pizza Time (which, for the record, makes a TREMENDOUS pie) is a first time candidate for the Wildrose Alliance. This was one of the Alliance's stronger ridings in the city in 2004, and the "lower my taxes and stay out of my life!" message of Paul Hinman might play very well here. One area that Said is going to have to focus on to attract voters from the other parties is the Wildrose hallmark of electoral reform - if anyone knows how messed up the current system is, it's the people of these communities. Abdulbaki is going to have to run a very aggressive GOTV effort, but if he does, he could get a few thousand votes - which, in Montrose, might be all you need.

Fred Clemens is a former Park Warden from Ontario, with an education in environmental studies, and currently works in commercial real estate. What's curious is that Clemens, an avid outdoorsman and athletics coach, is running in Montrose instead of closer to his home in Calgary Currie. Montrose is not fertile ground for the Greens, and Clemens' qualifications indicate he would be a valuable asset to the Greens in the legislature - so why wouldn't they position him to succeed, by running him in a riding they could possibly win? It's a curious choice - but Clemens is a solid candidate, no matter where he's running. He's just got no chance to win in Montrose.

Ron Leech won the nomination for the PC's in a nomination meeting that, according to party rules, was flawed and therefore ruled illegitimate. The PC's then appointed Bhullar as their candidate for Montrose. Leech - an outspoken pastor at Eastside Church, has really muddied the waters in the riding with such statements as "(Leech) is fully supported by the constituency board of the Calgary Montrose PC Association", and his campaign office staff refer to him as the "Progressive Conservative candidate Ron Leech" (at least, when I called them they did). Further, many former PC's affiliated with the former MLA here (Hung Pham) have apparently been sewing confusion at the door, by suggesting Leech is the PC candidate. Given these examples, there's little question as to why the PC's weren't comfortable appointing Leech after the "non"-ination meeting. As a pastor, Leech should know that wishing doesn't make it so. What he COULD have parlayed into a positive ("proof" that Ed doesn't care about Calgarians) his campaign has instead dropped the ball on, and he's seen as running for the PC nomination and running against Ed Stelmach, rather than trying to be elected as an independent MLA and to represent the interests of Montrose in the Legislature. If he gets a huge push from the "values voters" who would be inclined to support a pastor, he can win - but it'll take busloads of supporters (40 or more busloads, actually). If he does win, it would be interesting to see him in the Legislature, with a pending human rights complaint against the Premier (who attends Sunday mass, by the way), on the basis of "Christophobia".


Anonymous said...

Said knocked on my door and he seemed like a likable enough guy. I asked him a question about education and he gave me a great answer.

I have always voted PC, but with the shenanigans that the PC Party has pulled in this riding I think I will give Said and the Wildrose Alliance my vote.

Anonymous said...

Shenanigans nothing. Montrose board was Hung Pham people. Pham knew the Premier would not sign his nomination papers, so he resigned and pushed his man for the nomination in a nominaton meeting that did not follow established rules (with respect to call for nominations, etc.). Pham is trying to make life miserable for the PC candidate.

Whether Pham's gambit will work or not is a different matter. The Vietnamese community is not enamoured with Pham as his past actions painted the entire community in a bad way.

Anonymous said...

Let's keep in mind that lless than a week before the start of the election Mighty Ed basically ORDERED the local riding association to have a nominee in place for it, or he would give them one. The "not done to rules" only applied because it was someone that mighty Ed did not approve of.

Enlightened Savage said...

Anon @ 1:07 - that's a pretty specific assertion to be making. Do you have some kind of factual basis for it, or are you just throwing mud around hoping something sticks? Even on the 4th of February, Tory executive director Jim Campbell said of Montrose "...we told them for weeks their process is not approved,"

So, they knew their process was not approved, but went ahead anyway - and we're surprised that the nomination was invalidated? That's like having your lawyer tell you before you sue that you have no grounds, but you file anyway, lose, and then cry about how the judge didn't like you...

Anonymous said...

I bought an apartmentin this riding 6 years ago. The politics here kinda smells bad. Instead of discussing the various points of view and believe me there are a lot of issues to be solved in this riding, we only hear about the infighting. Just appointing someone to run in a a riding isn't good. He will just be a Torie yes man which we don't need. We need someone who will attend the house regularly to fight for this constituency that is number one on my list. I think we need a guy like Said in there. That will certainly clean up the PC mess for the future and we may even get something out of it, like good government!!!

Enlightened Savage said...

Nation, a very long post was submitted for approval to this thread at 8:28 this evening.

The post was very positive towards Manmeet Bhullar and his team. However, I have chosen not to approve this post due to accusations of racist statements being made by one of the candidates.

There is a line in polite discourse, and making accusations of racism without proof crosses that line.

All posters are more than welcome to criticize candidates for their public statements - however, when levelling accusations that a candidate is making racist statments, I'm going to need proof before I let that be posted here.

If there is some sort of proof that the statements in question were made, I'd be happy to post that proof. Otherwise, if the Anonymous poster in question wants to re-post their praise of Bhullar, I'll be happy to post that on its own.

Anonymous said...

I think its sad that people are so closed mined about the candidates running. Obviously if Ed appointment a canadiate the candaiate is more than qualified to bring change to the Montrose area. As far as race goes.. I've seen the tactics by both sides and I must say I am in shock how Pastor Ron Leech can go agaisnt everything he preeches about love and respect for all Gods creatures then goes around calling Bhullar a muslium when he is a Sikh. It just goes to show the ignorance that is in this riding and if the people elect and ignorant leader who does not care about the people as much as the postion he as won, well its another 4 years of bad poltics in Montrose.
Also its funny how Leech was rejected by the PC party but still continues to say he is supported by them when his people call for support. I just don't understand how a man of the church can be so untruthful. And the fact that he is endorsed by Hung Pham is also interesting considering how much people in Montrose hate Pham but have found a new found love in Ron.

Anonymous said...

Ron Leech is not saying he is supported by the PC party but by the Montrose PC Association. Anonymous at 11:20am where did you hear Ron saying Bhullar is a muslim? stop telling lies and by the way check your spelling.

Anonymous said...

I have a voicemail message from Ron Leech's people saying he is the PC candidate. So thats not a lie. Just because you do not believe something does not make it a lie. Leech has openly called Bhullar a Muslium many different times.

This is the internet ok dont worry about my spelling dont you have better things to do than to critise my spelling and grammar?

Bottom line... The Pastor is running the dirtiest game. If a person of the church has to resort to the kind of cheap tactics Ron Leech is using he must be really unsecure in his chances. This is just my opinion and I have every right to say the things i have been done by all candidates and so do all of you.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why people have to comment on such minor issues when the overall bigger issue is who can best support the Montrose riding with the greatest ability. Obviously someone who does not even live in Calgary and is not familiar with the communities in the riding will have a great challenge in even familiarizing himself with the issues and the people. Ron Leech has not only lived in the riding but he's worked in the riding for the past 17 years in a very socially active position.

Anonymous said...

I agree it is important to evaluate which individual will be the best candidate for this riding.

However, living in one home does not always increase your credibility of being aware of current issues in the community. In a time when there are new innovations and new ways of doing things; there is a new change each day. What we need is change that is relevant to todays issues.

Making criticisms of someone due to the fact they are not in the city for 8-12 months for the past year and a half to further enhance their education is unfair - especially when you discover the amount this individual has given back to the community in their young life thus far.

I have seen this candidate at my door twice. I have brought forth my concerns - he is not only in touch the people of this riding, but with the issues we face.

It is important to be active, however this individual has also shown great results and accomplishments in whatever opportunities he has endeavored into.

That said, this young man has my full endorsement this upcoming Monday.

Anonymous said...


Most , if not all, of the dirty politics in this riding have been linked to the PC's. They could have appointed a sack of hammers as the PC canidate and it would get votes. Being appointed just means a favor is being done, not that the person is "qualified"

It is sad. I don't get albertans who vote for blue cause mommy and daddy did. Stop being sheep and really look at the platforms and look at the trackrecords.

Most of all...any one who says that 37 years of tory rule is the reason alberta is where were are obviously you need to pull your head out of the oilsands and realize that it was who happened to be in power and it wasn't managed all that well.

I just hope that it isn't much longer that I get to enjoy my 12 hour waits in the emergency rooms that my healthcare premiums buys me the privilage of.

Anonymous said...

Just a correction from his bio....Manmeet attends the University of Windsor Law School, not Queen's.

Go Manmeet!!

Kabootar said...

Manmeet just handily won - it was relatively close until Monterey polls and advance polls came in. I feel bad for Michael - I used to work with him, and he's a nice guy. Manmeet and his team showed a lot of energy and were quite impressive in organization and GOTV. This thing was probably won over the weekend. Ignore the opportunity of advance voting at your peril!!