Thursday, September 10, 2009

T-Minus 4 Days...

(edited on Sept. 11 to correct a pretty big typo - content otherwise unchanged)

Nation, the Calgary-Glenmore by-election is entering its home stretch, and I thought now would be a good time to wade into the fray - especially considering that your humble scribe has his bachelor party scheduled for this Saturday, and may be... ill-equipped to blog on Sunday.

The Glenmore race has been heating up the internet since the moment it was announced - as a matter of fact, since BEFORE it was announced. I want to deal with each candidate seperately, since in a melee situation like the one we've had develop, keeping a balanced perspective can sometimes be problematic, at best.

In the interests of fairness, I'll talk about each candidate and their campaign alphabetically.

Eric Carpendale, Alberta's NDP

Carpendale has been nearly invisible to the public eye during this campaign. I drive through the riding every single day and have yet to see a lawn sign. Now, there may in fact be any number of good reasons for this - maybe the NDP is spending their money on things other than lawn signs in this race. Maybe Carpendale is knocking on every door in a suit and tie, and attending every school council meeting and community breakfast in the riding. But, in looking at the NDP website, you can't help but wonder if they're really offering him anything but token support.

In his effort to boost the NDP caucus by 50%, Carpendale is taking an odd approach - at least, odd for a New Democrat: He's criticising the Stelmach government's fiscal management. It's an interesting approach from the NDP, as it shows that they're capable of putting fire-and-brimstone ideaology on the back-burner for the sake of political reality: Fiscal management is a big deal, and a hot-button issue, in this riding.

Bottom Line: Carpendale is a young candidate who's been saddled with the unenviable task of appealing to an electorate that is looking for someone to replace their recently departed "elder statesman" of Ron Stevens. By most accounts he's an engaging personality one-on-one - he's a union leader, a father of 2, and a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces, for which he deserves the utmost respect. With some more polish he might be the future of the NDP in Alberta - but that future is not today.

Carpendale on Twitter

Diane Colley-Urquhart, Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta

Colley-Urquhart finds herself in an unfamiliar situation in Calgary-Glenmore. She's trying to make the jump from popular alderman to MLA, however many of the people who support her as an alderman are backing other candidates in this race - and that support, or lack thereof, has nothing to do with Diane herself. She's running for a party that just tabled a $6.9 Billion deficit and has a leader who is never going to be given a fair shake by the voters of Calgary because he's from "up there", and beat 2 Calgarians for the leadership.

Ed Stelmach could dive across an intersection to shield a baby carriage from an oncoming truck on MacLeod Trail, and he'd be criticized by locals for holding up traffic.

Diane has been hitting the doors of Calgary-Glenmore at a blistering pace, and has a pretty good sign prescence in the communities - once you get off the corners and the main arteries, you see as many of her signs on the cul-de-sacs and private lawns as anyone else's - and more than most candidates. She's a practicing nurse, so she's aware of the health care issues that are so important to residents of the riding, and she's got a solid fiscal voting record to stand on. Detractors have suggested that she'd be just another voiceless back-bencher, but there are ample reasons to believe that Diane's voice would be an important one on issues such as transportation and health for a caucus desperate to show it does, in fact, care about Calgary - and a cabinet role isn't out of the question, either. She is still serving residents of her ward as an alderman during the campaign, electing not to leave them without representation for the next year unless absolutely necessary, but is returning her salary to the city - so, she hasn't taken a leave-of-absence, but she's taken a pay cut of 100% during the campaign.

Bottom Line: She's hungry, and is drawing enthusiastic support from the PC ranks all over the city - people who know how to win. It will be a challenge to inspire voters to come out in a by-election and vote for the status quo, but such is the life of the by-election candidate running for the governmening party. If her volunteers pound the Get Out The Vote hard enough, Diane could find herself in a new job.

Colley-Urquhart on Twitter
Colley-Urquhart campaign website

Antoni (Tony) Grochowski, Independent

A veteran of municipal (mayor in 2004, ward 10 in 2005, seperate school trustee in 2007), provincial (for the SoCreds in 2008) and federal (independent, 2008) races in the past, Grochowski throws his hat into the ring this time as an independent candidate in Calgary-Glenmore.

An architect by training, Grochowski clearly has a deep desire for public service. He has in the past espoused views opposed to smoking bans, and in favour of Bishop Fred Henry's call for an end to funding Catholic school programs with gaming funds.

Bottom Line: Independent campaigns can win, but only if they're well-organized. Tony deserves all the credit in the world for running... but to be taken seriously, he's going to have to pick a single job he wants to win, and work on getting his message out to voters. This won't be it.

Antoni appears to have no social media or internet prescence for this campaign.

Paul Hinman, Wildrose Alliance Party

A former MLA for the riding of Cardston-Taber-Warner, Hinman has served as the leader of the Wildrose Alliance Party since its inception, and is currently serving as its interim leader until the conclusion of their leadership race.

Hinman's campaign has shown itself to be very capable and organized in the latter weeks of this race - while they got off to something of a slow start, they've more than made up for it since then with tireless door-knocking and a sign crew that seems to have a 4x8 sign on every corner - and more than a few private lawns, as well (go big or go home, I guess). The major theme of the campaign seems to be to capitalize on the discontent among Calgarians with the leadership of Ed Stelmach, as their campaign slogan even mentions Ed by name.

Wildrose Alliance supporters have been all over the internet, Twitter and the blogs, stumping for their guy - it's a good example of the kind of full-court press that other parties would be wise to emulate in the future (note to the parties: Hire a social media hotshot. Do what they say. Don't be luddites.). Like the early gold rushes, if you don't get your claim staked on the world wide web, someone else will stake it from underneath you. While Hinman is making some hay with his anti-Stelmach messaging, he's missing a particularly large plank of the Glenmore-centric platform by not talking about his proposed solution to the Ring Road debacle. Alberta-wide
solutions are good, but it's not a provincial campaign - it's a local one, and the people of Glenmore are electing a local representative to talk about their specific issues, not a new government.

Bottom Line: While Hinman has a natural ally in that the reality of by-elections suggests that the voter interested in change is more likely to come out than the satisfied voter, his campaign runs into a bit of trouble as a result of the current leadership race within his party. Albertan voters are used to thinking of their votes not as going to a candidate, but to the party under which that candidate runs. Hinman's campaign hasn't exactly discouraged this thinking, either, sugesting that a vote for Colley-Urquhart is in fact a vote of support for Stelmach. Where this comes back to bite them a bit is in the fact that, by extension then, a vote for Hinman is a vote for... whomever wins the WAP leadership race. Which, at this point, could mean either Danielle Smith, Mark Dyrholm or Jeff Willerton - 3 VERY different candidates, under whose leadership the party would end up occupying 3 very different spots of real estate on the Alberta political
spectrum. That uncertainlty as to what the party will stand for a year from now may force some potential WAP voters to shy away from voting for Hinman, for the time being.

On a side note, it still impresses the hell out of me that Hinman speaks Tagalog. It's a beautiful language that I'm trying to get a grip on, but that grip continues to evade me - well done, Paul.

Hinman campaign website

Avalon Roberts, Alberta Liberal Party

Dr. Avalon Roberts is a practicing psychiatrist and health care advocate with the Friends of Medicare, seeking election for the third time provincially (she has run twice before in Glenmore, as well as once federally in Calgary South West against that Harper fella). Her campaign is hoping for a repeat of the Craig Cheffins by-election victory in Calgary-Elbow, with the all-out war between the PC's and Wildrose Alliance facilitating a right-of-centre vote split.

Driving up and down the major roads in Calgary Glenmore, you'd think this was a three horse race for popular support. Indeed, Roberts has significant name recognition in this area because of her past political forays, and that recognition - combined with the growing focus of the Liberals on turning anti-Stelmach sentiment into capturing "Battleground Calgary", much as they were able to do with anti-Klein sentiment in Edmonton - could work in her favour here. There aren't a lot of Roberts signs on private property, but even when you're mad at the Premier for the very good and valid reason that "he's not from this city", putting up a Liberal sign in your yard is... a sketchy prospect, at best.

Roberts talks a lot about Calgary-Glenmore having "effective opposition" working for them in Edmonton... I don't know whether she intends that to mean that Ron Stevens, the Deputy Premier, was "INEFFECTIVE opposition", or that she thinks being across the room yelling at the cabinet benches is a better way to represent the people of Glenmore than actually being in the cabinet room, where the decisions are made - either way, it's a talking point that needed a bit more thought put into it before it became one of the central points of the campaign.

On the issue of the Ring Road, Roberts has remained publicly silent as far as I can tell. I'm particularly interested to hear her proposed solution to the issue, because of her involvement with the Weaselhead Society, which has come out strongly opposed to any contruction or road building that affects the Weaselhead natural area.

Bottom Line: Anyone who thinks Roberts can't win this race is fooling themselves. The Liberals are riding a high in this city since the last provincial election, and their supporters are VERY likely to come out in droves trying to wrest this seat from the Tories. The campaign has been a bit underwhelming overall, and a bit of a pall has been cast by the appearance in the past week of potentially illegal 3rd-party advertising on Avalon's behalf... but if the Colley-Urquhart and Hinman people back off the GOTV efforts even for a moment on the 14th, they might both be looking up at the next Official Opposition critic for Health and Wellness.

Roberts' campaign website
Roberts on Twitter

Len Skowronski, Alberta Social Credit Party

You can call the SoCreds a lot of things... but quitters, they ain't. I got my first glimpse of a Skowronski sign in this campaign on August 31st, on a patch of grass in a high school parking lot. Because those High School kids are VERY likely to vote Social Credit. :)

Skowronski is the leader of the Alberta Social Credit party, and has been since 2007. He has run provincially twice before - in 2004 in Calgary-Varsity, and in 2007 in Calgary-Bow. The campaign signs feature a modified Alberta license plate with the SoCred logo and the plate reading "R U Ready?" - a message that suggests the Social Credit revolution is upon us once again. In fairness, the party has made a lot of strides lately in terms of policy and party infrastructure - the problem they run into is with their brand. To most Albertans, Social Credit has gone the way of the T-Rex - a big deal at its peak, but a historical footnote these days.

The sad thing about Skowronski's candidacy is, he proposes a lot of good ideas, and common-sense democratic solutions to some of the issues facing Glenmore, and all of Alberta. His brand, though, has simply GOT to change. The same policies and ideas, presented by the "Moving Alberta Forward" party, would gain a whole new level of traction in the public consciousness.

Bottom Line: Good ideas, but lacklustre execution and a terrible branding issue leave the campaign fighting to avoid the embarassment of finishing dead last.

Skowronski campaign website (sort of...)

Calgary-Glenmore Candidates Forum
Thursday, September 10th
7:00 pm
Southwood Community Hall
11 Sackville Drive SW
Seating is limited, so arrive early.
Bring an open mind. Leave your campaign signs at home. The object is to discuss issues and let the undecided choose, not to chant, cat-call and intimidate better than "the other guys".


altapo said...

Good post, you can't be serious about a cabinet seat though... Diane'll have to get in line behind Dave Rodney and the rest of the gang.

Leanne said...

Bachelor party!

Congratulations, chum.

C.Morgan said...

A good breakdown. It is going to be a long 4 days (has been a long few weeks come to think of it).

Will see you at the forum if you are making it out.

Derrick Jacobson said...

Good Post, it's a reasonably equal look at each candidate (better than I could do!). Hopefully we will see your post on the debates.
Your view on Ed Stelmach is also accurate, but come on, he brought this on himself. Many supporters and members of his caucus warned him.

Brian Dell said...

Actually, Ray Martin, NDP MLA, said on 24 Jan 2008 that "with all the spending they've been doing, I don't think the budget is going to be pretty." So it is not without precedent for the NDP to make an issue out of this.

And I have to note the Dr Evil moment re "$6.9 Million". Capitalizing the M doesn't make it a billion. And in fact the REAL deficit is closer to $9 billion, since the deficits at post-secondary institutions and the health superboard are not being factored into that $6.9 billion number.

Enlightened Savage said...

Brian: I can't believe I didn't catch that mistake - my bad.

I'm editing the post to reflect the Billion, not the Million I mistakenly typed before.

Thanks for the thoughts,

- E.S.