Tory victory in Calgary-Greenway riding turns ‘unite the right’ merger on Wildrose terms into political roadkill

Posted on March 23, 2016, 2:10 am
7 mins

PHOTOS: Progressive Conservative candidate Prabhdeep Gill, centre, celebrates after last night’s results were announced in the Calgary-Greenway by-election. (CBC photo.) Below: The night’s biggest loser, arguably, was Opposition Leader Brian Jean. (Manning Centre photo.) Below Mr. Jean: Conservative Sandra Jansen and former Liberal MLA Hugh McDonald.

Last night’s clear victory by Progressive Conservative candidate Prabhdeep Gill in the Calgary-Greenway by-election may not completely eliminate the possibility of a merger of Alberta’s two major conservative parties, but it certainly means it is unlikely to occur on the terms desired by Wildrose Leader Brian Jean.

Just after 10:30 p.m., Elections Alberta posted online results for all 67 polls in the East Calgary riding showing Mr. Gill comfortably on top with 2,292 of the ballots cast, a hair under 30 per cent of the minuscule vote.

BRIAN_JEAN-JPGMr. Gill’s nearest competitor was Wildrose candidate Devinder Toor, who captured 1,957 votes, just under 24 per cent.

Presumably riding a wave generated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s popularity and Calgary-Skyview MP Darshan Kang’s electoral machine, Alberta Liberal Karbani Khalil edged out the NDP’s Roop Rai for third place, 1,870 votes or 22.6 per cent to 1,667 or 20 per cent, in the last half hour of vote counting.

However, notwithstanding the embarrassment to the government of coming fourth after the Liberals, arguably the night’s biggest political loser was the Opposition leader, Mr. Jean.

He’s been trying hard in the months since the death of Manmeet Bhullar, the riding’s previous MLA and an obvious PC leadership candidate who died in a highway crash last November, to press increasingly uncomfortable Tories to agree to “unite the right” under the umbrella of his Wildrose Party’s harsh and inflexible market fundamentalist ideology.

Chances of that happening are now negligible. And the chances of anything like it happening with Mr. Jean automatically appointed as the leader of the united party are virtually zero.

At the very least, he would have to face a runoff leadership contest with candidates from among the PC ranks who are considerably more credible and vastly more palatable to the kind of small-c conservative Alberta electors who have proved themselves capable of electing an NDP government. For example, former broadcaster and Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen.

JansenSo it’s said here the dream of the Wildrose brain trust and the master manipulators at the Manning Centre of pushing the political window in Alberta further back to the right through a Wildrose takeover is now on life support, even if it’s not quite dead.

Last night’s Tory victory on Calgary’s multi-ethnic East Side certainly goes to the PC Party’s recent narrative that only it can win for conservatives in urban Alberta, notwithstanding the Wildrose Party’s by-election victory Sept. 3 in Calgary-Foothills.

That Wildrose victory had electoral fluke written all over it – more the result of legitimate anger at former Tory MLA and premier Jim Prentice’s petulant decision to throw in the towel moments after he learned the extent of the PCs humiliation by the NDP in the May 5 general election.

So it should come as no surprise voters in the traditionally conservative West Calgary riding found it hard to vote PC … that time.

But given the size of the NDP’s election victory on May 5, the length of time till the next general election in 2019 and last night’s pathetically low voter turnout in Calgary-Greenway – less than 30 per cent of the riding’s 28,278 eligible voters could be bothered to vote – it’s risky to read too much into the latest tally.

McDonaldAlberta’s partisan mainstream media was already trying to spin this as a huge NDP defeat last night, which is baloney. Still, it can’t be a good sign for the NDP – at least in Calgary – that it could be bumped out of third place by an Alberta Liberal Party that not long ago appeared to be completely moribund. This is true with or without a Trudeau bounce to explain the results away.

Since interim Liberal Leader David Swann clearly doesn’t want the job, perhaps this will be enough to attract a dynamic leader with appeal in more than one riding who has the potential to get the Alberta Liberals back into the game. We’ll see, I guess. You have to ask: Where’s Hugh McDonald now that the party that rejected him in 2011 needs him again?

Speaking of moribund, what does this say about the one-MLA Alberta Party, which once tried to market itself as a potential political home for disaffected Liberals but in this race couldn’t even be troubled to test the waters?

Well, this way at least there will be no potential challengers to Alberta Party Leader and sole MLA Greg Clark, who continues the now lengthy tradition of a new party that does politics a new way … and as a result can barely get on the radar.

I’m sure the Alberta Party’s stalwarts will be having a big coffee party to talk about what to do next.

Finally, credit where credit is due, last night’s results show that Mainstreet Research, the Toronto-based pollster that has been playing a highly visible role in Alberta politics lately, did very well with its March 11 demon-dialler survey of voters in the riding.

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6 Comments to: Tory victory in Calgary-Greenway riding turns ‘unite the right’ merger on Wildrose terms into political roadkill

  1. ronmac

    March 23rd, 2016

    Not suprised. I was always of the opinion that any “unite the right” movement was going to merge under “PC” branding. It’s a trusted, part of our heritage, much like Eatons, Tim Hortons, Canadian Tire, etc. From time to time we may not like some of the products being offered by these institutions, but we always come back.

    Wildrose? It sounds like a weed that grows by the side of the road. You have to spray with chemicals to keep it at bay. And now we’re finding out these chemicals have been seeping into the water table and are leading to birth defects.

    • jay

      March 23rd, 2016


  2. Paula

    March 23rd, 2016

    The NDP will have to take these results seriously and make some important course corrections if they are to be more than a one shot deal. They have made too many serious mistakes. Some can be attributed to being novices in the political game at this level, but there is a suggestion of hubris and intractibility in recent mistakes – the ones that create the optics of hyperpartisanship such as the appointment of Kevin Davidiuk to lead labour negotiations.
    There are enough Wildrose, PC, and media knives at their backs already; they don’t need to help their opponents along by making poor politicial decisions. Much thought must be given to the potential consequences of every choice if the NDP strongly desire another opportunity to govern.

    • March 25th, 2016

      I agree with you that the NDP need to take the results of this by-election seriously because they reflect the feelings of voters like myself who believed that the Notley Team would make change happen in Alberta and have been so far, disappointed with the lack of action taken with reference to issues that matter to us.

      The NDP will have to do more than pray for increased oil prices. They will have to provide us with deliverables. When I voted NDP in the last provincial election, my expectation was that there would be meaningful action taken in continuing care and that we would get value for the money spent in government. So far I haven’t seen any sort of results by Team Notley.

      Sarah Hoffman has been a disappointment as Health Minister. I mean there are many issues in the mental health sector for example and yet all we get from the minister is a fentanyal campaign which is important but not the most important mental health issue.

      The intractable problems of under-serviced mental health patients suffering from chronic severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression– have been ignored for a trendy issue that is easily solved.

      The fentanyl crisis needs no real long term plan and can be brought out like a rabbit from a hat when needed by the health minister—unlike the other mental health issues that will require services, supports and psychiatrists found for a group of the most vulnerable and at risk folks in our society.

      Does the minister speak of these marginalized citizens? Nope. It’s all about the fentanyl crisis.

      This is just one failure on the part of the health minister. The entire crew at Alberta Health seem to be engaged in work that does not support the needs of citizens for the most part. The department should be working on the issues that matter to the families who elected the NDP to government. Instead Alberta Health is stagnant. Where for example are the improvements to the continuing care standards? I’ve heard zilch about these improvements.

      The failures of Alberta Health are ongoing and the problems in this department will not be resolved by fentanyl crisis chatter. Real deliverables include a change in culture at AHS, removal of Covenant Health as an equal partner with AHS, as well as immediate pruning of the excessive executive salaries and non-productive administrative layers at both public bodies.

      My feeling is that even with such modifications these public bodies won’t give us value for our money. As such, both these public bodies should be eliminated. There should be direct supervision of the health and continuing care systems by Alberta Health. The evasion of responsibility for these portfolios would thereby end.

      But of course, I don’t expect any of these proposed changes to occur. The NDP government does not seem to know how to do the work we want them to do. While some of this is due to inexperience this should not be an impediment to making legislative changes which are the real work of the MLAs. The MLAs have government staff that have been around for 44 years and surely do know how to make legislation since we have had ineffective laws made for us for ages that ensure that citizens are pretty much powerless. So if they have folks in government who know how to do this work why haven’t they done anything about introducing legislative changes in continuing care for example?

      Then there are the political appointments that aren’t right.
      The political appointments aren’t popular with citizens simply because we don’t think these are fair appointments. Besides the small matters of political appointments are the more grievous matters of ignoring constituents, not bothering to help us with issues we raise or solving these issues with political and bureaucratic expediency moves that do not impress us since we have long been inured to such moves with the PCs.

      The NDP have been a disappointment. The by election in Calgary Greenway is the future of the party in a present snapshot.
      The Alberta Party has a good leader but I don’t imagine it will become a major force any time soon.
      The PCs won’t be back. I doubt the PCs will come back as a dominant force in politics. Once Albertans are done with a party, we’re done.
      And don’t think this by election is the end of the Wildrose Party. They are a viable alternative to the PCs for voters who won’t vote NDP again.

      The only curious matter is the revival of the Liberals. I am interested in this matter. If the Liberals get a vivid leader, we might have an alternative to the Wildrose Party.

  3. Neil

    March 23rd, 2016

    I dare say that the Alberta Party as an idea is pretty dead. I supported them (and donated) as an alternative to the Liberals, but under Clark, they’ve been trying instead to attract PCs who aren’t at the Wildrose end of the spectrum. So, like most disaffected Alberta liberals, I’ve been more comfortable with the centrist approach of the NDP under Notley’s leadership, rather than teaming up with people whose idea of “centre” includes flat taxes and never-ending service cuts.

  4. Chris

    March 23rd, 2016

    One thing that strikes me about both the election results and the polling in Calgary-Greenway. Only 1% of undecided voters in the Mainstreet poll said they would consider voting for the NDP and that appears to be born out in the election results. An “Anybody But NDP” wave is forming. If it becomes ingrained like the federal ABC then strategic voting is going to increase and the NDP should not be counting on a right-wing split to maintain power.

    I guess Rachel and company have to pray for increased oil prices. Just like every other Alberta government in the past 60 years.


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