Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Race for Calgary-Buffalo

Created in 1971, Calgary-Buffalo is a classic "downtown urban" constituency - high-density housing, demanding campaigns that think outside-the-box in terms of contact with voters, and a committed self-interest that makes for unpredictable election results. The redistribution has resulted in the loss of the area west of 14th Street, which had been among some of the strongest areas of support for incumbent Liberal Kent Hehr. Before Hehr's election in 2008, the riding had been held for 2 terms by the PCs, and by several Liberals for a combined 15 years before that.

Buffalo includes everything from ritzy glass-walled condo towers to 85 year-old houses in Victoria Park. The most pressing issues tend to vary from election to election, but in the last 10 years or so crime and law-and-order are often near the top of the list.

The Candidates:
Mike Blanchard (WRP)
Rebecca Eras (NDP)
Kent Hehr (LIB)
Jamie Lall (PC)
Cory Mack (AP)

Mike Blanchard is a popular former host with CHQR AM770 in Calgary. Contrary to the perception of some of the other hosts on QR, Blanchard tends more to the "active listener" description - you get the feeling you're the only person in the room when you're talking to him, he's so focused on what you have to say. A U of C grad in communications and political science, Blanchard has been beating the drum for the Wildrose in Calgary on the issues of health care and municipal affairs - both of which may be issues that could catch fire in Buffalo.

Rebecca Eras is a PR consultant with deep ties to the NDP. She worked on Jack Layton's leadership bid for the federal New Democrats in 2003. Her professional focus has been on youth issues, renewable energy and sustainability. She lists affordable housing as one of the most pressing issues in Calgary-Buffalo.

Kent Hehr's story reads like the stuff of fiction: Confined to a wheelchair after being struck by gunfire during a drive-by shooting, he went on to earn his law degree at U of C and beat the odds to capture this seat, which had been Tory Blue for the 8 years prior. You half expect him to be exposed at some point as a costumed crime-fighter, patrolling the streets by moonlight. He dabbled with a mayoral bid in 2010 before pulling out and throwing his support to Naheed Nenshi's ultimately successful bid. Hehr is the Deputy Leader of the Liberals in the Alberta Legislature, and has earned universal respect from all sides of the political spectrum for his tireless efforts to improve his community.

Jamie Lall is a first-generation Canadian, living the Canadian Dream. A graduate of the U of C in political science, Lall is heavily involved with the non-profit sector - particularly with Prospect Human Services, a group geared towards finding adults with disabilities meaningful and inclusive workplaces. Lall is young and energetic, which he's going to need if he wants to knock off the popular incumbent AND his media celebrity challenger. Lall was unsuccessful in an attempt to win the hotly-contested PC nomination in Calgary-McCall, but was subsequently appointed by the party to run in Buffalo.

Cory Mack is an entertainer and artist, well known as a gifted comedic mind and stand-up (if that doesn't send warning signs to her fellow candidates ahead of all-candidates' forums, it should). Mack is also a support worker for developmentally-disabled adults. Unbelievably (in a good way), Cory actually has a list of her fellow candidates in Calgary-Buffalo, along with web links, on her own webpage. I'm just in awe of this approach - it's showing the courage of your convictions to stand by your principles even when it's politically disadvantageous to do so. Whether or not she's the next MLA for Calgary-Buffalo, Mack - and her Alberta Party - are showing that they're not your grand-daddy's politicians. They're raising the level of the game, and making it about more than just winning. And that's a good thing that we need more of, in my opinion.


Alberta Political Museum said...

Will sanity prevail and Kent gets re-elected?

Anonymous said...

Kent Hehr has earned and earns every day the mantle of MLA for Calgary Buffalo.