Analysts suggest Calgary byelection a litmus test for Alberta Tory survivability
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/03/2016 (2563 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
EDMONTON – Voters go to the polls Tuesday in an Alberta byelection that political observers describe as a barometer of whether the provincial Progressive Conservatives still got game.
“For the PCs it would be devastating if they didn’t hold on to something like this,” said Melanee Thomas, a political scientist with the University of Calgary.
“If they can’t hold seats that they have always held in Calgary, they’ve got some issues to work on.”
The Calgary Greenway seat became vacant last November when Tory legislature member Manmeet Bhullar was killed in a chain reaction highway crash after he got out of his vehicle to help a stranded motorist.
Bhullar was one of 10 PCs who were left after Rachel Notley and the NDP won a majority in last May’s election and ended more than four straight decades of Conservative governments.
The PC party and caucus are trying to pick up the pieces. They have yet to pick a new leader and are facing pressure from some circles to unite with Brian Jean’s right-of-centre Wildrose party.
The last leader, Jim Prentice, quit as his party went down to defeat on election night. The Tories lost Prentice’s Calgary Foothills seat, a longtime stronghold, to the Wildrose in a byelection last September.
Calgary Greenway, an ethnically diverse constituency on the city’s eastern boundary, has also been a Tory fortress and Bhullar had held it since he was first elected in 2008.
Political scientist Duane Bratt said this byelection has wider ramifications for PC fortunes.
“This is really about the PCs and whether they can hold it,” said Bratt, who is with Mount Royal University in Calgary. “If they don’t, then any discussion about mergers and the Wildrose are going to be even stronger.
“(But) if the PCs win, they’re going to be able to say, justifiably, ‘We’re not dead yet’ and that there’s a problem with Wildrose and their ability to win in the cities.”
Prab Gill, a real-estate appraiser, is running for the PCs, while businessman Devinder Toor is the Wildrose candidate. Roop Rai, a former radio host and producer, is the candidate for the NDP and property developer Khalil Karbani is carrying the Liberal banner.
The other candidates are Thana Boonlert of the Green party and Independents Larry Heather, Sukhi Rai and Said Abdulbaki. The Alberta Party is not fielding a candidate.
There are 28,298 registered voters in the constituency and 2,397 cast ballots in four days of advance polls. That’s 569 fewer than voted in advance in last spring’s provincial election.
The NDP took more seats than expected in Calgary last May by capturing 15 of 25. Overall, the New Democrats won 34 per cent of the votes cast in the city compared with 31 per cent for the PCs and 23 per cent for the Wildrose.
The outcome won’t change the balance of power in the legislature. The NDP currently has 54 of the 87 seats, the Wildrose party has 22 and the Tories have eight. The Liberals and the Alberta Party have one each.