Monday, February 25, 2008

The Race for Calgary Mountain View

Calgary Mountain View is notoriously fickle - as a general rule, incumbents have had a hard time here. The NDP held the riding from 1986 to 1993, the PC's from 1993 to 2004, and Liberal David Swann won the riding in 2004. Including the communities of Parkdale, Hillhurst, Montgomery, and Bridgeland (among others), the riding is comprised mainly of older homes in more established neighbourhoods. In the past 2 elections, the voter turn-out has been under 50%, so the candidate who gets the vote out the best may wake up on March 4th as an MLA. If they need someone to run their constituency office - I'm available. ;-) Dr. David Swann (Lib) is seeking re-election.

The Candidates:
David Swann (Lib)
Leah Lawrence (PC)
John Donovan (NDP)
Cory Morgan (WAP)
Juliet Burgess (Grn)

Dr. David Swann is the Liberal environment critic, and has been an outspoken defender of the Elbow and Bow river watersheds, and a proponent for the full protection of Kananaskis Country (currently, just over 50% is park-land; the rest allows logging, hunting, drilling for gas, etc.). Mountain View is a riding with a lot of environmentally aware people, and it tends to attract environment-focused candidates. Perhaps the biggest thing going for Swann is the fact that he's just a genuinely likeable guy - Even in the recent candidate's forum here, partisan PC observers felt genuinely bad for the man when he was being pummeled by his opponent on several of the issues. When your opponents feel bad for you when you're being corrected on the facts, that's a good sign that you're a pretty likeable person. It doesn't guarantee he'll be re-elected, but it's a big bonus working for him. He won this riding by 3,000 votes in 2004, but the PC's are pulling out all the stops to try and take him out.

Leah Lawrence is one of the star candidates for the Progressive Conservatives in this election. She's been keeping a blog going, both before and during the campaign, so kudos for that. A national and international participant in climate change and energy technology development, Lawrence helped to found Climate Change Central, Canada's first public/private partnership on climate change, in 2000. This engineer, economist and published writer is an extremely well-spoken and passionate candidate, whose environmental pedigree would qualify her for the leadership of the Greens. Lawrence also handles herself very well in forums, as she was the "pummel-er" of Swann in the Mountain View forum last week. The PC's want this riding back, BADLY, and Leah is very well positioned to take the whole ball of wax. As one insider pointed out: "Why would Mountain View want to be the home of the environment critic when they can elect Lawrence, and be the home of the Minister instead?"

John Donovan finished 4th here in 2004. John is an avid outdoors enthusiast (big surprise - he IS running in Mountain View, after all) and dedicated advocate for the poor and working poor of the city. While the NDP didn't even garner 800 votes here in 2004, the riding has elected New Democrats in the past, and Donovan is in good company in being rejected by Mountain View's residents - Jim Prentice ran and lost here for the PC's in 1986. Worked out okay for Jim in the long run. John's strategy thus far seems to be to let the Liberals and PC's smash into each other, and hope to sneak up the middle. It's not all that likely, but with voter turn-out so low in 2001 and 2004, if the NDP decides to put a priority on this riding... nahhhhh. I can't bring myself to type it.

Cory Morgan is a likeable enough fellow, if you don't know anything about his political past. The founder of the Alberta Independence Party, Morgan also ran in 2004 in the riding of Highwood for the Separation Party of Alberta, where he received 299 votes. In that same election, the Alliance received 589 votes in Mountain View. Morgan is running on a platform focused on electoral reform. There may be room in Mountain View for the Wildrose Alliance to gain some ground, however the people of the riding may be hesitant to vote for someone who has a well-established desire to withdraw their province from confederation. Morgan may break 1000 votes, but he won't do much better than that.

Juliet Burgess is trying to improve on a 3rd place finish for the Greens in Mountain View from 2004. The riding, as we've established, is inclined to listen to what the Greens have to say. Burgess is just a shade over 20 years old, and yet is already experienced in the political field, having run as an 18 year-old in the 2005 Federal Election for the Greens in Calgary Nose Hill, pulling in 3700 votes. Actively involved in the local theatre scene, Burgess may inherit a lot of the votes of disgruntled Tories uncomfortable with the Alliance candidate. Not enough to win, but enough to make the people of Calgary (and, one would hope, the broadcasters who hold the debates) sit up and take notice.


Anonymous said...

If "pummelling" equates to providing fact as a contrast to Swann's platitudes, then pummell away I say!

I was at the debate. Swann was completely outmatched in the facts department. His every answer was essentially: "the problem is due to 15 years of conservative repression/mismanagement - we will do better because I am a nice guy".

Now, facts don't matter for some people, but for undecideds, they do. Mountainview is winnable for the PCs if they get their vote out.

Anonymous said...

Shocked to see that the PC's have an excellent candidate with a stronger environmental resume than Swann! It would be great to see someone of Leah Lawrence's calibre on the government benches come March 3rd!!

Anonymous said...

To answer your tory insider question: would you rather have an MLA who lobbies the government for meaningful action on the environment or an MLA/Environment Minister with both hands tied behind her back?

Anonymous said...

"would you rather have an MLA who lobbies the government for meaningful action on the environment or an MLA/Environment Minister with both hands tied behind her back?"

Say no to drugs. That is the most ham-handed spin I have seen in a long time. Yes, much better to be an Opposition MLA "shadow minister" than to be someone who could quite possibly be responsible for the file.

If that is the case, why is Taft running for the Premiership? Using your logic he would be far more effective as Opposition Leader.

Anonymous said...

I am very interested to see how the campaign teams have taken to the blogosphere, posing as anonymous citizens..

I was present at the Calgary Mountain View debate last week, as an undecided non-partisan. I saw 2 quality candidates, each with strengths and weaknesses, depending on the issues. Lawrence sounded very credible on climate change, of course, and convinced she could make a difference from within the Tory party. Swann was impressive, however, on issues such as water, public financing of environment and education, and the state of health care. So I saw a bit of pummeling both ways, with no clear winner.

The audience was probably 1/3 partisan for either candidate, and 1/3 undecided. The partisans cheered on cue for their candidates as you would expect. Where the cheering went beyond the expected, however, was when Swann said that the future of our water supply should not be left to volunteers (as in Water for Life) and that the eastern slopes of the Rockies had to be managed to protect our water supply. Where the booing went beyond the partisans was when Lawrence tried to state her commitment to the PC party while disowning its past performance ("I am and sick and tired of people who just want to talk about the past" is not a great way to sway voters, Leah) and when, in old Tory form, she suggested that more money would flow into the constituency if the voters played the Tory tune.

I left feeling that both Swann and Lawrence would make good MLA's, and probably both should be in Edmonton. If I had been pressed to make a choice at the end of the evening, I would have gone with Swann.

Anonymous said...

one alberta voter,

I think that is a pretty good summary. But when it came to facts - actual hard evidence - Lawrence was on top. You are right to say that Swann had the audiences ear on several topics, but I am hardpressed to think of any concrete answers he gave. He was also completely wrong when he said there was no monitoring and regulation of coal-bed methane (CBM) wells, while they have been regulated for 30-some years.

You also neglect to mention that a few Liberal partisans were actively heckling Lawrence near the end of the debate, including David's handler (who was standing within arm's reach of me). Swann was given a respectful audience the entire time. Unfortunately Lawrence did not get the same courtesy from SOME of the audience.