Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Battles for Edmonton Strathcona and Calgary West

Edmonton - Strathcona

Edmonton Strathcona is an interesting riding to watch. Sandwiched between North and South Edmonton, it is home to many of Edmonton's Francophones, and hosts some of the city's oldest neighbourhoods - as well as the University of Alberta campus. Since 1953, Strathcona has been represented by 2 Liberals, 1 SoCred, 4 Progressive Conservatives, a Reform Party MP, and by current MP Rahim Jaffer (first as a Reform member, then the Canadian Alliance, and now as a member of the Conservative Party). Jaffer won the riding in 2006 by a margin of 5,000 votes over returning NDP candidate Linda Duncan. Strathcona has higher-than-average voter turn-out, with 70% of eligible voters casting a ballot in 2006.

There are currently 3 registered candidates in Strathcona:

Rahim Jaffer (CPC) - Rahim Jaffer was first elected to represent the riding of Edmonton Strathcona as a Reform Party MP in 1997, at the ripe old age of 25 (my GOD, what have I DONE with my life?!?). He gained national recognition in 2001 when a staffer masqueraded as Jaffer on a radio call-in show - an event that the people of Strathcona were happy to move past, as Jaffer was handily re-elected afterwards. Rahim most recently chaired the Conservative Caucus, and is seen by many as a rising star in the Tory Caucus. He earned an enemy-for-life of The Enlightened Savage when he proposed to fellow Tory MP Helena Guergis. Jaffer doesn't have a whole lot to worry about in this riding, but he can't take victory for granted - he's up against a strong challenger in Linda Duncan, and much of this constituency is in the provincial hands of Liberal and New Democrat MLA's - so they're not shy about voting for parties on the left.

Claudette Roy (Lib) - A long-time resident of Strathcona, Claudette Roy is a former teacher and icon of Edmonton's Francophone community, who was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2000. Also extremely active in the Catholic Church, Roy's credentials as a leader in her community are simply staggering. She has served on or chaired the boards of several museums, sworn-in new citizens, been deeply involved in Alberta's Centennial celebrations, and also plays a mean piano. While this riding wasn't very kind to the Liberals in 2006, they've got a great candidate in Roy this time around - her biggest challenge is going to be in defying the perception of her as a "niche" candidate - the token Francophone candidate in a french-speaking part of town. Her biography should clear up THAT misconception really quickly - now, if only the wizard on her campaign hadn't posted it as a .pdf on her website. Note to Liberal web-wizards: A lot of the residents of Strathcona are over 70. Think about it.

Linda Duncan (NDP) - Linda Duncan is an international environmental law consultant with a resume that would make major law firms all over the globe drool. Her credentials in the environmental law field have many whispering that she would be an excellent choice for the next leader of the federal Green Party. Formerly the Chief of Enforcement for Environment Canada, Duncan put a scare into the Conservatives in 2006 when she came within 5,000 votes of unseating popular incumbent Jaffer - while spending $20,000 less than the Jaffer campaign. Intensely likeable, Duncan is popular with older voters - a traditional "bedrock demographic" of the Conservatives, and another reason for Rahim to get out and knock on those doors.

Take a look at: Linda Duncan. Her volunteers are energized, her party is emboldened by their results in 2006, and her credentials are impeccable.

EDIT 9/11 9:44 am - Linda Duncan will be on the Rutherford Show today during the 10 o'clock hour.

Calgary West

In the past 3 federal elections, a conservative has won Calgary West by a combined 69,000 votes over the next closest challenger - which has sometimes ALSO been a conservative. There's also a maverick streak in the people of this riding that can't be ignored - in 2006, the 3rd-place finisher here spent a grand total of $200 on their campaign. That's right, for the price of a Playstation 2, you can be the third-place finisher in Calgary West. This riding has seen its share of controversy with its current MP, Rob Anders. Last election, the people at voteoutanders.com encouraged the people of Calgary West to consider parking their vote with a candidate less likely to embarass them (that's be just about anyone). And while the rules of the Conservative Party ensured, yet again, that Anders would be the CPC nominee in this election, the voters of Calgary West don't just have the same old list of leftist candidates from which to choose this time around - a moderate conservative is running as an Independent. So, while there's little doubt that Calgary West will again elect a conservative MP, the question begs to be asked - will they elect a Conservative, or a conservative?
EDIT 01/10 3:50 PM - The incumbent reportedly failed to show up at a scheduled Bow Cliff Senior's Forum in the riding - effectively sending the implied message that he had better things to do than talk to seniors (solid politics, as a Conservative - seniors NEVER vote, especially not for conservative candidates).
Other All (or Most, Rob) Candidates Forums Scheduled Include:
Thursday, October 9 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm University of Calgary (MacEwan Hall)
Friday, October 10 7:00 pm - 8:15 pm Varsity Community Centre

Rob Anders (CPC) - Rob Anders called Nelson Mandela a communist and a terrorist - and then refused to take Mandela's resultant phone call. He went "missing" during the election of 2006 (allegedly stashed out of harm's - as in, media microphone's - way by Harper's people), and recently compared the government of China to the Nazis (riiiight - but it was Harper skipping the Opening Ceremony that they were mad about). His nomination in Calgary West for the Conservatives was overturned by a judge, and yet Rob's back anyway. And let's not forget THIS gem. Anders has as much chance getting a seat at the cabinet table as I do - which is to say, none at all. In fact, there's talk that many federal Tories in the rest of Canada are hoping he goes down to defeat, so they can get him off the slate of candidates in the future (claiming to be a tolerant, modern, progressive party from whom mainstream Canada has nothing to fear is a hard sell when you've got Rob on the ticket). ALL of that said, Anders has routinely won this riding by some of the largest margins in the country. Devotion to Anders himself? To their former MP, Stephen Harper? Or to the only conservative on the ballot? With Kirk Schmidt running this time around, we'll see. I just know that if I lived in Calgary West, then REGARDLESS of my political leanings, I'd do whatever it took to get rid of the stigma of my neighbourhood as being "represented by Rob Anders".

Jennifer Pollock (Lib) - Jennifer Pollock is a former chair of the Calgary Board of Education, and captured 20% of the vote in this riding in 2006. She maintains a blog on her website - with all of one posting - so bonus marks from E.S. on that account. The hockey mom (of four) obtained a Bachelor's of Zoology in the 70's, and recently graduated from U of C's law faculty and was called to the bar... not a lot of lawyers in this town with an undergrad degree that required dissection of scat, I'll bet. Pollock is an unlikely Liberal, in that she spends a lot of time talking about how Ottawa needs more Calgary, and not the other way around. Let's not fool ourselves, though: It will take a miracle for this riding to go Liberal - they last elected a federal Liberal here in 1940, when gas went for 18 cents a gallon and a new home would break the bank at $6,500.

Teale Phelps Bondaroff (NDP) - Bondaroff is no stranger to Calgary politicos, having run for everything but dog catcher in the past 5 or so years. He was the Alberta NDP candidate in Calgary Bow in this year's Provincial Election (he got 500 votes), as profiled by a devastatingly handsome blogger here. Teale protested the University of Calgary decision to disallow credit card payment of tuition fees by rolling a wheelbarrow full of coins to the payment office. He gained 5,000 votes for the NDP in this riding in 2006, at age 19. The NDP website has precious little information on Teale, despite the fact that he's run for them before. Bondaroff is also on Facebook, and is on the record as a supporter of the establishment of a provincial park in the eastern region of Kananaskis - a cause he and I have in common. An avid debater, Teale is just going to keep getting better and better at this "election" thing, until he wins one some day. That day is coming - but it won't be October 14th.

Randall Weeks (Grn) - Weeks also ran for the Alberta Greens in Calgary Bow earlier this year, provincially (830 votes). An auditor for an oil company, Weeks is the rare Green who realizes that destroying the economy to save the environment is foolhardy. He has what can charitably be described as a "voracious dislike" of the incumbent - can't say he's anywhere NEAR alone in that regard. The Greens registered 10% of the vote in this riding in 2006, while spending a minuscule $200 on the local campaign. The biggest challenge for Weeks is going to be to capitalize on the Tory discontent in the riding, as there's a palatable Independent option for the Tories running in the riding this time around.

Kirk Schmidt (Ind) - Kirk Schmidt has gotten a lot of attention from this blog in the past year, and with good reason. He's a straight shooter who understands the economy, and the power that an Independent - and therefore the people of that Independent's constituency - wield in a minority government situation. He has committed to sitting as an Independent, separate from any party caucus, if elected. Kirk also blogs, and is a frequent reader of this blog and is a F.O.E.S. If fiscal accountability, social policies that reflect mainstream Canada from a decade more recent than the 1950's, and progressive environmental policies that won't cripple the economy all sound appealing to you, Kirk might be your candidate. If wielding an incredible amount of power as a voter in Calgary West in the (assumed) upcoming minority parliament sounds appealing to you, Kirk might be your candidate. The reality is, Schmidt represents the ideal citizen, and the ideal voter: Someone who has their own opinions, but is willing to listen to the opinions of others, and then make an informed decision free of party loyalty or dogma. Let's remember: For an Independent, EVERY vote in the House is a "free vote" - where they get to vote on behalf of the people in their riding, and not the lobbyists who paid for their party's campaign ads.

Take a look at: Kirk Schmidt. The people of Calgary West aren't neanderthals, they're small-c conservatives who can't bear the thought of marking an "x" next to a Liberal or Dipper. Now that they've got the option of getting rid of Anders and still voting for a small-c conservative like themselves, will they?


kenchapman said...

Gret post ES. Now take a look at Edmonton Centre - it is another volatile one...Anne McLellan's stomping ground and a new smart and serious Liberal in Jim Wachowich

Enlightened Savage said...

Ken - Edmonton Centre is a very interesting race indeed. It'll be getting its scheduled Savaging on September 14th.

Heather said...

Hrm. Elections Canada isn't listing a Green Party candidate for Calgary West...do we know for sure if we have one or not?

Anonymous said...

September 19. . . I think this is day 13 of the campaign and I have yet to see a Liberal sign on the north side of the Bow.

Does Jennifer Pollock know the boundaries of her constituency? Or has she, too, thrown in the towel on Dion?

I have lived in Calgary West since 1997 and have yet to see her at my door or at an event on the north side. . .