This Week in Alberta: The Battle for Centre-North

The last round of by elections served as a good reminder of what unpredictable creatures they can be. The Tories took a riding they hadn’t held in 22 years, with the Liberals winning a Manitoba seat they got just 9% of the vote in last election. This should heighten interest in the upcoming Calgary Centre-North by election, even if the Liberals’ Alberta co-chair concedesyou could move the federal capital to Calgary and they still wouldn’t vote for you“.

There’s probably some truth to that, though I do think there are probably some things the party could do outside of blatant pandering that might get them in the game in Calgary. And if they ever do those things, Calgary Centre-North is certainly a riding to watch.

Yes, I know Jim Prentice has taken it by at least 30 percentage points in each of the last three elections, but consider this:

1. Prentice is a red tory, and a popular one at that.
2. Centre-North contains much of the old Joe Clark Calgary Centre – a riding that scared the Conservatives so much, they had to destroy it during the last round of redistricting.
3. Provincially, it contains much of the Calgary Mountainview electorate that has given David Swann over 50% of the vote in the past two provincial elections.
4. When I ran a demographic regression analysis, Centre and Centre-North came out as the two worst ridings for the Conservatives in Calgary.

So this is all to say Centre-North is one of the more interesting Calgary ridings, but that’s kind of like saying blue is one of the more interesting colours of paint to watch dry.

And as the slate of candidate slate rounds itself out, the by election has gotten even less intriguing than before Christmas when there was (albeit far fetched) speculation about a Dave Bronconnier versus Ric McIver cage match.

Instead, Michelle Rempel was acclaimed as the Tory candidate. Rempel has a solid bio and I presume she’s well organized and well connected given how no one else bothered to run for the nomination in this safe Tory seat. But she certainly lacks the “star” power it takes to get the Ontario press gallery interested in a Calgary by election.

Carrying the Liberal banner will be 66-year old University of Calgary professor Stephen Randall. Randall has an impressive bio and it wouldn’t at all surprise me if the grits came across him when said “if you like Michael Ignatieff you’ll like these books by Stephen Randall“. But he’s certainly not a household name by any means.

The Greens, who came within 14 votes of second place in the last election, will put forward Heather MacIntosh as their candidate. Heather, according to her official bio, “enjoys her book club and Flamenco dancing, and is a strong proponent of fair trade“.

We still don’t have an NDP candidate, though John Chan has been this riding’s man in orange for the past three elections.

As for when Calgarians will go to the polls? Well, judging from the Pundits Guide round-up, it would appear that a call is likely by April 20th, so as to lump it in with (at least) two other by elections. That’s assuming the rest of the country isn’t thrown into an election before then.

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