Wednesday was not a typical day for Calgary Grits.
While leadership candidates must all fly into town, knowing the party’s weighted-by-riding leadership system makes a vote there far more valuable than a vote in Toronto, I have never seen a serious candidate launch their leadership campaign from the heart of Conservative country. But there was Martha Hall Findlay at the Stampede grounds, declaring her intentions to run for Liberal leader.
It’s tempting to write off the Calgary launch as a meaningless prop, but politics is all about symbolism and Hall Findlay may very well be the closest thing to a “Calgary candidate” to ever run for Liberal leader. She’s an executive fellow at the University of Calgary, once lived in the city for a few years, has family in the area, and employs a Calgary-centric campaign team. Yes, she might very well get steamrolled by Justin Trudeau, but what says you’re the Liberal Party’s “Calgary candidate” more than crushing defeat? Or having your hopes dashed by a Trudeau, for that matter?
Even more surprising on Wednesday, was a poll showing Liberals on the cusp of history in the Calgary Centre by-election:
Joan Crockatt (CPC) 32%
Harvey Locke (Lib) 30%
Chris Turner (Green) 23%
Dan Meades (NDP) 12%
Now before we all get visions of Calgary’s first Liberal seat since Trudeaumania (the first Trudeaumania, that is), it’s worth considering Forum’s shaky reputation and the small sample size (n = 376). I don’t think anyone believes this poll is accurate, but the question is how inaccurate it actually is.
After all, parts of this riding are red provincially (or green now, thanks to the ALP’s rebranding), and Naheed Nenshi won over 50% of the votes in the riding during the last municipal election. It’s a downtown riding, and although they’d never admit it, downtown Calgarians have a lot more in common with downtown Torontonians than with Nanton ranchers.
So even though the Tories got 57% the last election, by-elections are strange animals and Crockatt is a divisive figure – I would not be surprised to see her at 40-45% on by-election night. And that puts us squarely in Linda Duncan territory, where a coalition of progressives could actually win.
Of course, Alberta progressives have a habit of tripping over their feet anytime they get remotely close to power. So we’ve got the Greens attacking the Liberal candidate for “just visiting”, and the Liberal candidate calling the Green candidate “a twerp”. While there are coalitions calling for strategic voting, this poll paints a picture of the Greens pulling away enough vote to let Crockatt hold on – even though the Liberal candidate is an environmentalist who founded the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.
So, in all likelihood, it will still be a few years before the Liberals actually win a seat in Calgary. Or until we get a real Calgary leadership candidate. But Calgary Liberals were closer to both those accomplishments Wednesday than they’ve been in a long time. It was a good day to be a Calgary Grit.