Will any Calgary Grits be going to Ottawa in 2015?

Nenshi made history in 2010. His Chief of Staff might do the same in 2015.
Nenshi made history in 2010. His Chief of Staff might do the same in 2015.

We’ve all heard the jokes.

When Calgary was hit with flooding in 2005, the Calgary Herald ran a delicious cartoon showing a giant ark being loaded up at the Stampede grounds, and Noah lamenting that, despite his instructions to rescue 2 of each kind, he couldn’t find a second Liberal.

It’s been 46 years since the Liberals won a seat in Calgary, meaning local grits are 0 for their last 83. However, loss number 83 in that streak – Harvey Locke’s near miss in the 2012 Calgary Centre by-election – has given Liberals hope. Obviously, a lot of that is because of Justin Trudeau.

Given the frequent burning of Pierre Trudeau effigies on Nose Hill, it’s easy to forget the last Liberal victory in Calgary came during the original round of Trudeaumania. And, while Trudeaumania II has been tempered by memories of the NEP, Justin has been doing everything right, making frequent trips to Alberta, and earning praise by getting dirty and doing real work rather than cheap photo ops after last year’s devastating floods. More importantly, he has come out in favour of the Keystone Pipeline, positioning himself as the most pro-oilpatch friendly leader in his party’s history.

trudeau work

So, while the odds are still long, talking about a Liberal win in Calgary has moved from the Fantasy genre to Science Fiction – far fetched, but possible without breaking any of our universe’s physical laws.

Not surprisingly, Calgary Centre is seen as the primary target. Locke came within just over 1,000 votes in the by-election, and there’s been speculation of Naheed Nenshi’s chief of staff, Chima Nkemdirim, running in 2015. That speculation is likely to grow following the announcement of Nkemdirim as a guest speaker at the upcoming LPC convention.

The new riding boundaries should also work in the Liberals’ favour. Lopped off of Centre is the affluent western part of the riding where the CPC earned 65% of the vote last election, replaced with a chunk of polls where they were held to 43%. Taken together, the Conservatives picked up 55% of the vote in the new Calgary Centre in 2011. Those type of numbers shouldn’t make Harper sweat, but recent polls have the Conservatives down by an average of 15 points across Alberta, opening up the very real possibility of an upset if the “anybody but” vote coalesces behind a single progressive candidate. Nkemdirim certainly gives the Liberals a good chance to rally the “Nenshi coalition” under one banner.

So expect to read a lot about Calgary Centre next year. However, equally deserving of attention is Calgary Confederation. On paper, Confederation is actually the most vulnerable of the new Calgary ridings – in 2011, the Tory vote in the polls that now make up the riding was 52%, lower than in the new Centre. Indeed, Confederation is a gift from the boundaries commission gods to Liberals in Calgary (perhaps given out of pity). Confederation brings together the provincial riding of Calgary Mountainview, dominated by Liberal David Swann, with the University of Calgary campus – still a breeding ground for lefties, despite the best efforts of professors Flanagan, Morton, and the rest of the Calgary School. Throw in the fact that there is no incumbent Conservative MP, and the riding looks ripe for the taking.

matt grantThe likely Liberal candidate in Confederation is 30-year old lawyer Matt Grant, a former EA to Liberal MLAs Craig Cheffins and Kent Hehr, and the son-in-law of former Mayor Al Duerr. None of that screams “star candidate”, but I got to know Matt quite well during our young Liberals days, and he’s one of the hardest working Liberals I’ve met. From what I’ve seen over the years, the biggest progressive success stories in Alberta are usually born out of candidates going door to door until their knuckles bleed, rather than holding out hope on big names. Mix that in with one of the most impressive and tech-savvy campaign teams ever assembled in Calgary, and you’ve got all the ingredients for an upset.

I use the term upset, because the Tories are still very much the favourites in Centre and Confederation (or Skyview for that matter, another riding opposition parties should not ignore). Even if the Conservative vote falls to the 40% range in these ridings, it would take a concerted effort to wrestle these seats away, and the left has a frustrating record of splitting the few progressive votes which exist in Alberta. Look no further than Joan Crockett winning the Calgary Centre by-election with 37% of the vote.

However, at the very least, the Conservatives will need to spend time and resources fighting for seats in their own backyard. And maybe, just maybe, sometime next year Calgary will send a Liberal MP to Ottawa for the first time in nearly 50 years.

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31 responses to “Will any Calgary Grits be going to Ottawa in 2015?”

  1. Calgary Skyview will also be a prime target – I’d argue that we stand a better chance of winning it than Calgary Centre. In 2011, we would have got around 30% of the vote to Conservatives’ 55%, and that was in an absolutely disastrous campaign…

    • Absolutely. The CPC transposed vote in Skyview is similar to Confederation and Centre and, like you said, the non-CPC vote actually coalesced behind the Liberals there last time.

      I kind of glossed over it in this post, since I haven’t heard as much about possible candidates there yet, but you’re 100% correct that the riding shouldn’t be overlooked as a possible LPC pick-up.

  2. I live in Calgary Centre. I hate when Liberals say that the “progressive” vote was split last election. Liberals are not entitled to progressive votes, they’re not the same as the Greens or the NDP, and if they’re going to win they need to do more than just be “progressive”.

  3. Election results like this generally only occur in banana republics, guess that says it all, honestly, well, maybe not. Has anyone from the Vatican had a look around Calgary for a candidate for the next holy father.

  4. Wake up you people, no, I guess I’ll start singing…

    I’m just a drummer in a rocking roll band…come on you know the words!!!

  5. I hear you can get a phd in voter suppression at the university of Calgary. Any spots open for the next semester.

  6. Pretty quiet in Calgary today with pmsh around. Hope the sweetgrass burning covers the strong smell of sulfur.

  7. Watched p and p seemed that at least one chief got a good wiff of Sulphur, those tidings might be tired of the CRAP.

  8. I think trying to win in Calgary or Alberta in general is about as likely as the Democrats chances of winning in the deep south-which is unlikely and something Democrats have finally understood with the election of Obama in 2008 and 2012. While it might be possible to win a few ridings, Calgary Centre for example, it is wishful thinking to believe that Alberta will change very much. That doesn’t mean that Liberals, NDPS and Greens shouldn’t campaign(they have to if they want to govern)but there expectations should be tempered with reality. Ontario will be battleground and perhaps Quebec will be as well if the New Democrats lose their grip on that province. What will be telling is if Liberals increase their voter turnout as they did in one of Manitoba by-elections. Having said that, I know Matt and he wouldn’t be a bad MP if he were to win and even if I didn’t vote for him(I am a NDP voting Green since 2004). The one flaw in the candidacy of Mr. Trudeau is that whenever I see him being interviews(and I followed the campaign a little bit)is that the criticism of him being light with policy. He is also not very good in question period either. The one advantage he is is that isn’t Stephen Harper which maybe a big factor in 2015 especially if the mood is ready for a change.

  9. The con mp john Williamson is making up justin’s policies for him. Should be pretty popular, mj for sale in every corner store. People should be more concerned with how harper is planning to steal the next election. Read chantel Hebert article in today’s paper.

  10. I don’t recall harper answering a question in qp or anywhere else. Ask Justin a question you will get an honest answer. Askpaulcalandra.com. See what you get.

  11. Tomorrow we will be discussing liberal policy as I see it not like some wonk ie tough on crime (dean del fatso). Don’t beatup veterans etc stuff like that. Creating jobs for foreign workers. War on drugs (more blow for Rob). How to piss away tax dollars on jet and ships. Lots of interesting stuff

  12. NOTICE

    I have been preempted by a major policy statement by the Liberal Party according to HP Can.
    Go to Askpaulcalandra.com for further details.

  13. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen him give an honest answer but he does come across as a light-weight. Whatever you think of Mr. Mulcair, he does seem to give more detailed answers than Mr. Trudeau. The problem that Mr. Mulcair is that he has some difficulties within his party(something that isn’t unique to the NDP but to all parties). He isn’t very charismatic, a quality Mr. Trudeau has. When compared to his father, he had a vision and ideas and had lived. By Justin’s age he was the Justice Minister. Now I am sure that Justin is very sincere and wants to serve. I just don’t know if would be the kind of prime minister we need. We have had prime minsters in the past few years which have any real vision(something also we haven’t in the premier’s office since Peter Lougheed). Hopefully, I will be proven wrong and he has some time between now and 2015 or 2016.

  14. Don’t get me wrong but if think the NDP will take seats than they did in 2011 I don’t think so. Look at the polls for the last 12 months more the LPC is leading consistently. Canadians have stopped drinking Harpers koolaid. Don’t take any stock in what is happening in Alberta, the people there for not know when to change their dirty underwear. We have changed more governments in the Maritime in the last year than happy been changed in Alberta in say 75 years in Alberta

  15. In regards o Herringchoker, it is possible that the NDP could take more seats but if you look at the last few by-elections, they haven’t done that well. The Liberals have done a little better but it is difficult to see how many seats they can win. It is possible that they will do better in the west than is thought, but it is still unlikely that this will change much even with the addition of new ridings. Ontario is still the battleground and I believe that you will see a lot of three way races. Keep in mind that polls are deceptive all you have to do is ask Premier Adrian Dik and Premier Allison Smith.

  16. Guess what it’s Canadian made. I still love it. And I would prefer mulair to harper and his talking seals like wait for it. Askpaulcalandra.com.

  17. My mp is John Williamson, he made headlines last week on Cbc.news he was dropped in our riding by Harper. Not only is he a talking seal he is a bobblehead. Google him and pray your riding isn’t stuck with his clone

  18. David it appears we are the only people here so I have one last thing to say it is pretty hard to debate someone who can’t give an honest answer. I’m heading home we have an election coming soon in nb its going to be fun but not for the tories. Maybe after the sona trial the harper koolaid won’t taste so sweet. By by.

  19. Herringchocker, I don’t know about New Brunswick but you in fact might be right. I can’t really speak to the situation out there, and the only information I rely is from historians and academics who take the time to study it. What I do know is that New Brunswick does change its politicians on both levels fairly regularly which is good. I would love that to be true here in the Wild Rose Province.

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