All posts tagged Dan Meades

On Monday in Calgary, will the Tories come second … or third?

Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt campaigns in Calgary while a supporter covers his face in embarrassment. (Joke.) Below: The winner of Monday’s by-election, as forecast by Perfesser Dave, Chris Turner.

The great political minds of Alberta are pondering today where Conservative Party candidate Joan Crockatt will place in Monday’s Calgary Centre by-election.

Will she come second? … Or third?

You think I’m joking? This is no joke – especially for Prime Minister Stephen Harper!

Face it, people, if the Conservatives lose the safest seat of safe seats – in downtown Cowtown, for crying out loud – it is not going to tell a happy story about where Canadians are at when it comes to Mr. Harper’s angry neoconservative caucus, a government so cranky it can’t even stay on the same page as its provincial cousins who run the government in Edmonton!

But the contest now as it’s coming to be seen here in Alberta is that by election day each of the Liberals, Greens and Conservatives will own about 30 per cent of the committed vote in the riding, and the NDP will have the remainder.

So the race could go any of three ways, and in normal times there’s just enough of an edge from old habits that die hard for the Tories to win it easily.

But these, as they say, are not normal times. The Harper Conservatives, so focused on ideology they couldn’t see the dangers of their alliance with the far-right Wildrose Party, which they enthusiastically backed in last spring’s Alberta provincial election, have upset their own political applecart.

They have so alienated the riding’s traditional Tories – the kind of people who are comfortable backing Red Tories like their neighbour Alison Redford, the Progressive Conservative premier of Alberta, and former federal PC leader Joe Clark, who once represented the riding – that many of them are determined to teach their no-longer-comfortable federal political party a lesson by voting for someone else.

What’s more, despite her ability to articulately present her thoughts, Ms. Crockatt has turned out to be a far-from-ideal candidate.

Apparently thoroughly controlled by her Wildrose/Harperite advisers, the former journalist and right-wing commentator has avoided all-candidates’ forums, earned the wrath of Calgary’s popular mayor and run away from the media she’s supposed to understand. In economic terms a harsh, far-right ideological candidate, Ms. Crockatt seems to have assumed she could count on the riding’s traditionally reliable Tory vote without thinking too deeply about what kind of Tories many of those voters are.

But a lot of them, it’s turning out, are Red Tories just as disturbed as other Canadians about the authoritarian tone the country has taken on under Mr. Harper’s heavy hand.

Yes, Ms. Crockatt is a good door-to-door campaigner. But a lot of Calgary Centre voters, it is said here, are paying attention for once to the issues, and as a result we have a real race.

So what’s going to happen? Well, I’ve been wrong before and I will be again, but it’s said here Green candidate Chris Turner, an author, will win by a whisker.

The logic behind this speculation?

Easy. Liberal Harvey Locke, a lawyer, may hold most of his 30 per cent of the vote, shown in two recent Forum Research polls, helped a little by the recent visit of the undeniably charismatic Justin Trudeau and hindered a bit by the Albertans Go Home ejaculation Wednesday of former federal Liberal Energy Critic David McGuinty.

The bogus two-year-old “exclusive” about supposedly anti-Alberta remarks by Mr. Trudeau, dredged up by the Sun News Network in an attempt to resuscitate Ms. Crockatt’s flagging campaign, will likely have little impact – or at least not the impact its generators intend.

Mr. Turner, meanwhile, will hold the quarter of voters committed to voting Green who were identified in the last Forum poll and look to gain more support from other anti-Tory camps.

NDP candidate Dan Meades will lose a few more of his remaining 8 per cent, as soft Knee-Dips continue to migrate to the next-best anti-Tory candidate. They will go to the Green because it’s just too hard for a New Democrat to vote for a Liberal.

Then there are the Tories – deeply split now in the riding between the Wildrose rightists and ideological hardliners who dominate Ms. Crockatt’s campaign and the Redford-style Red Tories who were happy with their softer-edged former Tory MP, Lee Richardson, who is now Ms. Redford’s principal secretary.

But if it’s hard for NDPers to vote Liberal, it’s even harder for Conservatives – and that would be true even if the former Liberal natural resources critic hadn’t shot off his mouth about Tory Albertan MPs. That’s why, it’s said here, Mr. McGuinty’s ill-timed commentary and Mr. Trudeau’s long-ago remarks won’t have much impact on the outcome Monday. Many disaffected Red Tories have already made up their minds to go Green, rather than Liberal or NDP, and as usual Mr. Harper’s brain trust has concentrated its fire on the wrong opposition candidate.

So what’s the risk to these unhappy Conservatives of teaching the Harper-Wildrose crowd a lesson by voting for a Green? Virtually none. Heck, everyone’s pretty green nowadays anyway!

So Mr. Turner will pick up a few strategic NDP votes and lot of strategic Red Tory votes. At the last minute, he’ll even pick up some extra strategic Liberal votes, cast by electors either unhappy about Mr. McGuinty’s blathering or following those soft New Democrats to the strongest anti-Tory candidate.

Then the patented Alberta come from No. 3 strategy will have worked again! Indeed, a fourth Forum Research poll is said to be about to be released within hours that will confirm this predicted flow of votes toward Mr. Turner.

So Monday’s vote will be really close, I predict, but it’ll shake out in this order:

  1. Greens
  2. Liberals
  3. Tories
  4. NDP

Then again, I may be out to lunch. Maybe the NDP will come third. We’ll see on Monday.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Latest Calgary poll results – perhaps aided by party’s sophisticated moves – show Green Wave developing

Calgary Centre Greens get ready to surf the Green Wave, expected momentarily. Actual Green Party supporters may not be exactly as illustrated. Below: Chris Turner, Joan Crockatt and Naheed Nenshi.

The latest poll of residents of the Calgary Centre riding shows a Green Wave developing among opponents of the Conservative Party in the Nov. 26 federal by-election.

Organizers for Green Party candidate Chris Turner are taking a highly sophisticated approach to polling in the Calgary Centre by-election, tipping their supporters when they get wind of opinion polls in the riding and instructing them to be sure to pick up their phones and answer the questions.

Nothing wrong with this, of course – but it should serve as a warning to undecided voters and other observers, especially journalists, that the “narrative” candidates’ campaigns try to spin around small-sample polls like those being conducted in Calgary Centre can be easily manipulated by smart efforts to game the polling process.

In the case of the Calgary centre by-election, the narrative being developed by Mr. Turner’s supporters is that their candidate is the only one with momentum after he appeared unexpectedly in third place among respondents to a Nov. 12 poll of riding voters conducted by Forum Research Inc.

And it may well now be true, as Mr. Turner told the Globe and Mail yesterday after another Forum research poll appeared to confirm the results of the Nov. 12 survey, “we’ve got the momentum now. I know for sure we can win it. This is the most vulnerable Conservative campaign in Calgary in decades.”

The Nov. 12 poll showed Mr. Turner in a strong position to vault into the lead among the riding’s many voters who are opposed to front-running Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt. This would be an important consideration for strategic voters opposed to Ms. Crockatt and looking for the best candidate to whom to give their anti-Conservative vote.

The Nov. 12 Forum poll put Ms. Crockatt in the lead, barely, with 32 per cent of committed supporters. Liberal Harvey Locke was in second place with 30 per cent of those surveyed and Mr. Turner – at that time surprisingly – was in the key No. 3 spot with 23 per cent. NDP candidate Dan Meades had 12 per cent, according to that Forum survey.

The Forum Research poll released last night appeared to reinforce the narrative. In the survey conducted Saturday, Ms. Crockatt was back up a little at 35 per cent, but well below the 48 per cent she recorded in the first poll on Oct. 26. Mr. Locke was holding at 30 per cent. Mr. Turner had moved up again to 25 per cent. Mr. Meades’ support slipped to 8 per cent.

If this narrative sounds familiar to Alberta political observers, it ought to. It was exactly the strategy used to catapult Naheed Nenshi into the lead in the October 2010 Calgary municipal election and Alison Redford to victory in the 2011 Progressive Conservative leadership race. Both really got on the radar when a poll unexpectedly placed them in the No. 3 spot in their respective contests. Mr. Nenshi is now mayor of Calgary and Ms. Redford, of course, is the premier of Alberta.

It is likely no coincidence that many of the same people backing Mr. Turner were also involved in the Nenshi campaign, and possibly in the Redford campaign as well. Indeed, Mr. Nenshi stepped into the fray last week, slamming Ms. Crockatt for not showing up at some all-candidates’ forums.

So journalists and citizens interpreting the various Forum Research poll results ought to take note of the fact that the survey samples are very small – the Nov. 12 poll had only 376 respondents and the Nov. 17 poll had 403, which means that approximately four responses could move the level of support for any given candidate by a full percentage point.

Interactive voice response surveys like these Forum polls (which is pollster talk for robocall push-button polls) tend to have lower response rates than other polling methodologies, further increasing the impact of individual respondents.

After the Nov. 12 results, media quickly picked up on the fact Ms. Crockatt’s support appeared to be dramatically lower than it was on Oct. 26, when she recorded the backing of 48-per-cent of respondents. Journalists also quickly ran with the idea Mr. Turner was the candidate whose support was showing the most upward movement.

So it is significant – though impossible to criticize – that a Green Party organizer emailed committed supporters a note headed “There is another poll tonight – be sure to pick up,” not long before the latest survey.

“Word from Chris Turner’s Head Quarters is that another poll is being conducted at this very moment,” said the email from Green Party Volunteer Co-ordinator Natalie Odd to committed Turner supporters. “Please be sure to pick up any calls your receive this evening!”

The emails were followed up with phone calls to supporters, although the pollster actually appears to have called a day later than the party expected.

In addition to such emails and calls, Mr. Turner’s supporters posted similar messages on Facebook and some people distributed the call-display number the polling company was using.

As previously noted, there’s nothing wrong with this, any more than it would be wrong for a politician to encourage supporters to show up at all-candidates meetings and cheer loudly. Other campaigns may also be doing the same thing.

But as citizens we need to be aware that this method of polling can produce results that do not precisely reflect the true distribution of public support at the time the survey was taken. Furthermore, we would be naïve not to realize that poll results influence voter preferences during campaigns, especially among undecided voters pondering a strategic vote against a particular candidate.

Advance polls in the Calgary Centre by-election are scheduled to open today.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Will the Tories meet their Waterloo on the field at Calgary Centre? One can only hope!

Napoleon after the Battle of Waterloo. Events in the Calgary Centre by-election may not turn out to be exactly as illustrated. Below: Liberal Harvey Locke, Conservative Joan Crockatt and Green Chris Turner.

Is Joan Crockatt about to meet her Waterloo?

As reported first by Dave Cournoyer of the Daveberta blog and moments later by the Globe and Mail, a new poll released yesterday shows the by-election campaign in Calgary-Centre tightening into a three-way race among Ms. Crockatt, who is the Conservative Party’s standard bearer, and Harvey Locke of the Liberals and Chris Turner of the Greens.

Ms. Crockatt has been described by many commentators, with some justice, as a polarizing candidate. Even so, it would be a shocker if an electorate in a dependable Calgary riding were to send a brisk message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper about the way he runs the government by electing either one of the two environmentalists who showed well in the Nov. 12 robopoll by Forum Research.

The survey, of 376 randomly selected residents of the downtown Calgary federal electoral district, showed Ms. Crockatt, a former journalist and right-wing commentator, in the lead – but barely so, at 32 per cent. Nipping at here heels were Mr. Locke, with 30 per cent of the respondents, and Mr. Turner, with 23 per cent.

Forum says the margin of error for the poll is five percentage points, which would certainly appear to put Ms. Crockatt and Mr. Locke, a lawyer and prominent conservationist, within spitting distance of one another.

The NDP candidate, Dan Meades, who was nominated late and whose party for some reason only recently made much of an effort in the riding, trailed distantly with 12 per cent.

The idea that a robocall poll – called an interactive voice response, or IVR, in pollster talk – with a tiny sample to boot, could call it right when I’ve said repeatedly I thought Ms. Crockatt would be a shoo-in because of the way Calgary voters historically behave leaves this blogger torn.

I’ve called ’em wrong before and will no doubt call ’em wrong again, but it still makes me cringe when it happens. On the other hand, given Ms. Crockatt’s hard-right economic views, nothing could delight me more than to see Calgary Centre’s voters coalesce around any more progressive opposition candidate, Mr. Locke looking like the most likely at the moment, to give Mr. Harper and his unconservative neoconservatives a sound and much deserved spanking on their home turf.

Given the choice I’m going to plump for the horserace and pray that progressive voters in the riding rally ’round the best placed non-Conservative.

The Calgary vote will take place on Nov. 26.

After the Battle of Waterloo, which was fought on Sunday, June 18, 1815, in present-day Belgium, Napoleon Bonaparte wrote to the British: “Exposed to the factions which divide my country, and to the enmity of the great Powers of Europe, I have terminated my political career.” One can only hope for a repeat of history.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.