Would Tories or Greens benefit if McGuinty’s words affect Calgary Centre?

John Geddes on the question of the hour


With the Calgary Centre by-election coming up Monday, the impact of Ottawa Liberal MP David McGuinty’s miserably maladroit “go back to Alberta” comment on his party’s chances there is the political question of the hour.

The Liberal candidate, Harvey Locke, has been running a strong campaign. But will Conservatives be able to use McGuinty’s choice of words to draw votes away from Locke and into the column of his Tory rival, Joan Crockatt?

Or is it more likely, as some are speculating, that any Calgary Centre voters thinking twice about supporting the Liberal will instead switch to Chris Turner, the Green candidate?

I called Lori Williams, a policy studies professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, for a quick reaction from close to the by-election action. (As it happens, Mount Royal hosted a by-election candidates’ debate today; Crockatt didn’t show, and not for the first time.)

Williams told me an Ontario MP’s far-away musings typically wouldn’t make much difference—except that this is a hard-fought three-way race, in which even a marginal shift in voter preferences might matter.

“The Conservatives are going to try to milk it for all it’s worth,” she said.  “If this does cost the Liberals votes, would those votes by more likely to go to Joan Crockatt or Chris Turner? I’d have to say Chris Turner.”

Her reasoning: “Turner has a lot in common with Locke. They’re both strong environmentalists.” As well, Williams doubts centrist voters—some of whom have swung from Conservative voting in the past to leaning Liberal this time—won’t see going Green as all that jarring a transition. “The Green party isn’t particularly left, it’s more centre.”

And Williams says Crockatt faces an uphill struggle in a last-ditch bid to coax back any voters impelled by McGuinty’s remark into abandoning Locke—if indeed he suffers as a result of McGuinty’s mistake, which remains a very big if.

That fact that Crockatt has drawn critical comment from Naheed Nenshi, Calgary’s popular mayor, has to hurt her with any voters who were already leaning toward other parties. “Mayor Nenshi won lots of support across the city,” Williams noted, “but one his strongest areas of support is the Calgary Centre territory.”


Would Tories or Greens benefit if McGuinty’s words affect Calgary Centre?

  1. Wouldn’t it still help Crockatt though, in the sense that it makes a split on the centre left now more likely…sigh.

    • Nothing is impossible but some things are highly improbable

      A Lib victory in Calgary has always been…in spite of media hype……highly improbable.

    • Yup, it will. The strategy behind CPC has been flawless (debate/forum is not an issue, if it was she would be there) but Joan is very polarizing figure just as PM that’s were the issue is has she been just as likeable as Turner or Locke, we wouldn’t be even talking about this.

      • Actually, the debate/forum *is* an issue.. not because of the forum itself, but because of the criticism non-attendance drew from Nenshi.

        • Not an issue, only for the people that won’t vote for her. In Calgary we have become used to Nenshi poking his nose, again, only the anti CPC listens to him. Joan will win, the day the left applies the campaign strategy the CPC does, that day they have a shot at winning.

          • And on that day democracy will die a little more in this country. You just don’t see it do you? Does how you win not matter at all? Does then the end always justify the tactics?

          • Democracy hasn’t died, we still are free to choose who we want as a leader, communication is what has changed.

          • Yeah, but I think Elections Canada is going to be on the lookout for that strategy next time around.

      • Yes, but what IS the strategy? Other than annoying the other candidates and showing contempt for the public i really can’t see one.

        • Canvassing as simple as that, Joan has knocked more than 10000 homes, one on one conversation between candidate/constituent does more than a forum/debate, which usually are only about one or two hundred people and most are partisans that will only cheer for their candidate.

          Talk to any veteran of local politics and you will hear a story about a challenger who used door-to-door to upset a complacent incumbent. Campaign professional will tell you “If your program is well targeted, going door-to-door is the surest way to win votes.”

          It’s no secret behind CPC’s madness and it works.

          • That seems sensible. But i don’t buy the candidate is simply too busy to attend a public forum. Let’s be honest here, usually it indicates a desire to duck tough questions. But that is – i was always led to believe – is what democracy is supposed to be about. Boy has the CPC set me straight on that.

          • Nope, it’s not necessary. In a perfect world democracy would be all that matters, but we live in a non-so perfect world and communication is so much different, believe me, Joan’s canvassing was 100% more useful than a forum and the fact that she still din’t attend last one shows you how well her internal polling is doing. Reading elections is quite easy by candidates actions. One of the big reasons LPC has lost over 2.5 million voters is because they don’t know how to campaign, NDP by the way, did this in last election and paid off.

          • Sorry Claudia but your last point is a non sequitor. There are any number of reasons why the libs lost 2.5 million votes…not all of them have to do with their canvassing strategy. Really, you’re asking me to believe that the party of Laurier,King, Trudeau et al., has simply lost the handle on how to run elections. That’s it! That little error explains the other parties success and the liberals failure?
            What you’re doing is rationalizing disrespect for democratic accountability merely because the Tories have found a tactic that allows them to successfully avoid it. Or are you going to tell me Crockatt will be her own worst critic at the door?
            Just because something works doesn’t make it right.

          • Of course not all of the are from lack of canvassing, is lack of strategy, period.

            Just because you don’t like Harper and the CPC doesn’t make it wrong.

          • BS. During the last election the NDP here in Calgary was a paper candidate. Look him up and you were as likely to find information about the candidate from the *previous* election. He didn’t attend forums, and if he or anybody in his campaign crew went door to door, they sure didn’t show up anywhere in my community.

            That candidate still received more votes than the Liberal candidate, who was *very* active in door-to-door as well various forums.

            So to say it’s because of a door to door strategy is complete and utter garbage.

          • You’re also implying none of the othe candidates have worked hard enough – not knocked on as many doors. I don’t see how you could possibly know that? Other candidates find time to knock on doors AND attend public debates.

          • They haven’t, and the only reason they attend these forums is to draw “this kind” of attention.

    • No. Remember that the easiest path in Alberta is to vote conservative. There’s a lot of peer pressure to do so. So anybody who was going to vote Liberal is already extremely unlikely to vote CPC in any event. Anything that depresses one of the non-CPC candidate’s chances in effect consolidates the vote around the other non-CPC candidates.

      McGuinty’s comments may well have helped the Green’s enough that it might actually be a race. Still not holding my breath though.

      • Still a lean toward splitting the vote, no?

        • No, you see, the vote split is already there. The liberals dropping will, if anything, lessen the vote split, because former liberal voters may consolidate around one of the other “progressive” candidates.

          If Candidates A, B, and C are running, A has 20, B has 16, C has 14, reductions that move votes from B to C *lessen* the split.

          • That looks omnimously like algebra to me…’ alergic you know.

  2. Ah, the Butterfly Effect…

    Nada. The chinook (soon to be renamed cnooc) winds will overwhelm.

    • local folklore: When Rob Anders blows into town, they are referred to schnook winds.

  3. People considering Locke but turned off by McGuinty’s comment would more likely go Green than CPC. There are a lot of people here who go to BC regularly, love BC, are against the pipeline that would threaten the beauty of the coast, so going Green wouldn’t be a stretch at all. McGuinty showed a massive lack of sensitivity, and ignorance about what his party is doing in Calgary, or anywhere.

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