All posts tagged Green Party

The Amazing Race, Alberta Political Edition: can the Tories find their missing mojo?

Opposition party members prepare to run against the Progressive Conservative candidates, uncertain why they are being made to race with sacks on their feet while the Tories aren’t. Actual Alberta politicians may not appear exactly as illustrated. New faces below: The NDP’s Jennifer Burgess; the Tories’ Mike Ellis.

Premier Jim Prentice called a news conference yesterday morning in Calgary and announced, as widely expected, that he and his two likewise-unelected cabinet ministers will run in by-elections to be held within the shortest time frame legally possible.

Unexpected was that Mr. Prentice himself would run for the Progressive Conservative Party in the Calgary-Foothills riding in Cowtown’s northwest, not Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill in the same general part of town, where most of the educated speculation had him running.

Also unexpected was the fact that four by-elections would be held. In addition to a by-election in Edmonton-Whitemud (vacated by former premier pro tem Dave Hancock) for Health Minister Stephen Mandel, and in Calgary-Elbow (dramatically vacated in March by former premier Alison Redford) where Education Minister Gordon Dirks will run.

The fourth race will be in Calgary-West (just opened by the voluntary departure of former municipal affairs minister Ken Hughes). Calgary-West will be contested for the PCs by former police officer Mike Ellis, presumably no relation to the Arthur Ellis, notwithstanding the gravity of the Tories’ present troubles.

All four ridings have a history of being safe Tory seats – which means they are as safe as any Tory seat can be in Alberta nowadays.

Getting back to the race in Calgary-Foothills, MLA Len Webber made way for the premier. Mr. Webber had conveniently been nominated over the weekend to contest the federal Calgary-Confederation seat for the Conservative Party of Canada.

The goal of the tight campaign time window is obviously to help Mr. Prentice’s campaign in particular by keeping the opposition parties off balance as long as possible and giving them as little time to campaign as legally possible. The election will take place so quickly it will make our little heads spin – on Oct. 27.

The tight time frame also amplifies the advantages Mr. Prentice holds as head of the government, albeit as a leader who is still unelected.

Progressive Conservative strategists obviously hope ballots will have been counted long before anyone remembers that the premier was only chosen by 23,000 PC Party members and the honeymoon effect from his first few weeks in office lingers.

Notwithstanding public disillusionment with Ms. Redford’s catastrophic tenure, the Opposition parties will have to hustle to get credible candidates knocking on doors before Mr. Prentice’s campaign has all but wound up.

The Wildrose Opposition will name their antidote to Mr. Prentice this morning, and they need to have a high-profile challenger if their effort is to succeed. Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith was right to try to keep a lid on expectations Friday when she introduced the party’s candidate in Edmonton-Whitemud.

The New Democrats planned to run communications consultant Jennifer Burgess against Mr. Prentice in whichever riding he chose – but the Tories’ last-minute riding choice kept her from being able to get an early start on door knocking.

It goes without saying that if Mr. Prentice loses, it will be a disaster for the 43-year-old PC dynasty, so you can expect the party to throw everything it’s got in its commodious political tickle trunk at the campaign in Calgary-Foothills.

This will inevitably lead to some speculation this is a mini test election, a practice run for the big show whenever Mr. Prentice gets around to calling a general election – possibly even during the silly fixed-election-period in the spring of 2016 legislated by the Redford Government.

I see it more as an entertaining reality show for political nuts – the Amazing Race, Alberta Political Edition. Contestants from the government side will run all over Calgary and Edmonton, looking for what’s left of the PCs’ reputation as Alberta’s Natural Governing Party, which has been missing since the middle of 2012.

Perhaps it’ll turn up in an envelope near somewhere in the Hamptons!


Candidates List

Known candidates in the four by-elections announced by Premier Jim Prentice yesterday:


Progressive Conservatives: Jim Prentice, premier

Wildrose Party: TBA today

NDP: Jennifer Burgess, communications consultant

Alberta Liberals: TBA tomorrow

Alberta Party: Michelle Glavine, teacher

Greens: Polly Knowlton Cockett, environmental educator



Progressive Conservatives: Gordon Dirks, education minister

Wildrose Party: John Fletcher, armed forces officer

NDP: Stephanie McLean, lawyer

Alberta Liberals: Susan Wright, lawyer and blogger

Alberta Party: Greg Clark, party leader



Progressive Conservatives: Mike Ellis, former police officer

Wildrose Party: TBA

NDP: Brian Malkinson

Alberta Liberals: TBA

Alberta Party: Troy Millington, IT consultant



Progressive Conservatives: Stephen Mandel, health minister

Wildrose Party: Tim Grover, business owner

NDP: Bob Turner, cancer physician

Alberta Liberals: TBA

Alberta Party: William Munsey, berry farmer, blogger and party president

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Battles in the ’Burbs: Independent St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber eyes formation of party as fund-raising vehicle

Independent MP Brent Rathgeber with machine gun, looking as if he could use some closer supervision, takes aim at the CBC. (Joke.) And, yes, that is Jack Layton with the other one. Below: Teddy Roosevelt. (That’s enough politicians with firearms! – Ed.)

ST. ALBERT, Alberta

Edmonton-St. Albert Member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber – who since decamping from the federal Conservative Parliamentary caucus last June has become the Canadian media’s favourite Independent MP – has floated the idea of setting up his own political party.

When he’s not lecturing Canadians on the need to run the CBC as a charity or tilting at the prime minister’s incredible power-generation windmill, Mr. Rathgeber, 49, has taken to complaining locally about how hard it is for ambitious Independent candidates to raise money for their campaigns compared with members of national political parties.

No transfers of funds from party headquarters, dontcha know, when there’s no party headquarters to transfer funds!

Well, duh, one is tempted to say. Still, it’s news of a sort that Mr. Rathgeber, who seems determined to seek re-election, floated a party balloon a few days ago in the St. Albert Leader, a weekly newspaper in the riding.

While vowing never to join another established political party – the only ones in this part of the world available to a candidate with Mr. Rathgeber’s credentials and self esteem anyway being the Liberals and the New Democrats, who might not welcome a candidate of his views – the disaffected former Harper Tory suggested his local supporters were pondering the idea of “starting a local party purely for the purposes of fund-raising.”

“I will consult extensively with constituents before committing to a fledging political party,” Mr. Rathgeber promised cautiously, however.

Well, as one of Mr. Rathgeber’s constituents, here’s my two bits: Nobody’s had an idea quite this charming since Nova Scotia New Democrat Paul MacEwan got kicked out of the provincial Knee-Dip caucus in 1980 for calling the party’s leader a Trotskyite. (Or is that a Trotskyist, I can never remember.)

Anyway, Mr. MacEwan thereupon established the Cape Breton Labour Party in his hometown of Glace Bay and proceeded to thump the local NDP candidate and anyone else foolish enough to run against a local candidate who’d done his homework. Later, alas, Mr. MacEwan had to fold the CBLP, seeing as he was its only successful candidate. He ran, successfully once again, as an Independent.

Since 1990, Mr. MacEwan has been a Liberal, which I suppose is something to which Mr. Rathgeber could aspire, as there have always been lots of Liberals in St. Albert, which for years was almost French enough to support a candidate from the Bloc Quebecois!

Joining the Greens would be out of character, and the M-Party – readers know the one I mean – would be a problem for Alberta Diary, because every time I use that word this blog gets kicked off a bunch of corporate web browsers!

Anyway, if Mr. Rathgeber had asked me – which he never does, seeing as I don’t take him seriously enough – I would have encouraged this idea but advised him that, like an Internet domain, your party name is everything. It really needs appropriate political antecedents, a symbolic local touch, plus just a hint of ideology – which is why “Wildrose Party” is such a great name.

At the same time, one wants to avoid unintentionally hilarious acronyms – “Conservative-Reform Alliance Party,” springs to mind.

The only moose regularly spotted around here, unfortunately, is a cow, which would rule out the “Bull Moose Party,” which otherwise would be rather good even though it was already used before by a bunch of so-called progressives. Alas, about the only quality Mr. Rathgeber shares with Teddy Roosevelt is the thing about long guns.

Other animals seen regularly in these parts don’t led themselves as well to what Mr. Rathgeber seems to have in mind – all those coyotes in particular.

Political groups called Leagues always seem to end badly – Spartacus League, Social Credit League and the League of German Maidens, just for three examples. Worse, sooner or later, such groupings always seem to succumb to the temptation to wear matching shirts. (Red, green and white in the examples above, if memory serves.)

Personally, for Mr. Rathgeber, I lean toward something like the Big Lake And Sturgeon Ticket, which at least as a good acronym that won’t have to be changed two days later, and probably describes what’s going to happen to him in the next federal election.

I’m sure readers can do better, though, and I appeal to them to provide suggestions, which may be left here in the comments section for Mr. Rathgeber’s consideration.

Meanwhile, the race to replace Mr. Rathgeber as the Conservative MP for the renamed riding – which will henceforth be known as St. Albert-Edmonton – continues to generate mild interest locally.

Just today, declared candidate Ryan Hastman posted a blog designed to woo the ever-vocal St. Albert local business community away from lawyer and market fundamentalist ideologue Michael Cooper, who is the favourite of the entire local Tory party establishment, provincial and federal.

Provincial Tories seem to like Mr. Cooper because, unlike Mr. Hastman, he has never flirted with the Wildrose Party – although, these days, having the Wildrose vote in suburban Edmonton may turn out to be more useful if Mr. Hastman becomes the candidate.

Mr. Hastman, who ran for the federal Tories against unassailable New Democrat Linda Duncan in Edmonton-Strathcona in 2011, promised to set up a small business advisory council and, by implication, buy Chamber of Commerce members coffee and donuts a couple of times every month.

Other names mooted about in the St. Albert contest include Kevin Tam, a Conservative who worked for the Alberta Liberal Party, and Alex Tsang, who has a Facebook page.

Others are certain to surface soon, though, as the Conservative nomination hereabouts is assumed among party stalwarts, lulled by years of easy successes, to be a go-directly-to-Parliament ticket once the party cadres’ decision is sent to voters for a pro forma ratification


Calgary Conservative Ron Liepert makes attempt to knock off Rob Anders official

Well, the Calgary rumble on the right reported in Alberta Diary on Jan. 7 is on. Former AM radio disk jockey and Alberta Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Ron Liepert made it official yesterday by issuing a press release and launching a website saying he’ll challenge Calgary West MP Rob Anders for the Conservative Party of Canada nomination in the newly redistributed Calgary Signal Hill riding.

Mr. Liepert, an MLA in the PC governments of Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford, who served the latter two premiers in important cabinet posts, floated the trial balloon on a website called “,” which he said yesterday had had received 3,000 visits. He apparently judges that to be enough to go after the person best known as Canada’s Worst MP.

Both men are formidable campaigners with reputations for a lack of diplomacy that borders at times on outright crankiness – although, when it comes to being a crank, Mr. Anders has got to be the champ.

For this reason, the nomination fight promises to be highly entertaining, as long as non-Tory voters in the riding aren’t seduced by the notion Mr. Liepert’s fundamental economic views are really any different from Mr. Anders’.

Nevertheless, despite the fact Mr. Liepert is the toughest opponent Mr. Anders will have faced in his political career, the smart money should probably remain on Mr. Anders, the only Canadian MP to vote against honourary citizenship for Nelson Mandela. Mr. Anders appears to enjoy Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s quiet support and the backing of suburban Calgary’s obviously comatose electors.

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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.

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The Albertaliberals spawn Liberalberta … this is a joke, isn’t it?

Raj Sherman kills at Huckabay’s Comedy Club, which of course doesn’t exist. Actual Alberta comedians may not be exactly as illustrated. Below: The re-branded Liberalberta logo; the real Raj Sherman, with his real chief of staff, Jonathan Huckabay; former Alberta NDP Leader Raj Pannu; the Sherman Tank.

THE SCENE: A late fall night in Edmonton, cold. A smoky bar, a comedy club called Huckabay’s. A comedian walks on stage…


COMEDIAN: Hi there. Heard about the Alberta Liberals’ new brand? Raj Sherman, their leader? He’s re-branding them… Ouch!

AUDIENCE: [Feet shuffling, low conversations, sounds of glasses clinking]

COMEDIAN: Cute logo, new colours …  plus he’s renaming the party the …

VOICE: Alberta Party?

COMEDIAN: … Liberalberta Party!

AUDIENCE: [Muffled laughter]

VOICE: Thought they were the Rajbertans now!

SECOND VOICE: Rajtafarians!

THIRD VOICE: We’re livin’ in Rajtopia!

FOURTH VOICE: Geeze, get the hook! This isn’t funny…

COMEDIAN: So, take the Liberalbertans … Please!


COMEDIAN: If God had wanted us to vote… He wouldn’t have given us the Albertaliberals!


AUDIENCE: [More talking, glasses clink, sound of a plate breaking, some applause]

COMEDIAN: So, I hear Raj’s staff took him to the airport last night… His flight leaves on Thursday.


AUDIENCE: [Voices grow louder]

COMEDIAN: You know that look that people get when they’re going to vote Liberal? Neither does Raj!


VOICE: Shut up! You stink!

COMEDIAN: Hey, I think we’ve got an Liberalbertan in the crowd! Did ya hear about the Alberta Liberals’ leadership election? Two Liberals walk into a bar! You’d think one of them would have seen it!


AUDIENCE: [Groans]

COMEDIAN: Hey, a word to the wise ain’t needed. It’s the Liberalbertans who need the advice!


AUDIENCE: [Scattered laughs]

COMEDIAN: So… About Raj … the only guy he listens to is his chief of staff …

AUDIENCE: [Voices grow louder, glasses clinking, a cellphone rings]

COMEDIAN: …Or maybe his chief of staff is the only guy who listens to Raj! … S’cuse me? Drummer?

DRUMMER: Huh? His chief of staff is Jonathan Huckabay. What?… Oh, sorry… Ba-BAM!

AUDIENCE: [More coughing, foot shuffling]

COMEDIAN: The Liberalbertans? Their first slogan was Raj Against the Machine!


COMEDIAN: Except it turned out some other Raj owned that one. Anyone remember Raj Pannu? Any Knee-Dippers here tonight?

AUDIENCE: [Scattered cheers]

COMEDIAN: So… they call it re-branding … Ow!

AUDIENCE: [A few laughs]

VOICE: You already said that!

COMEDIAN: It can hurt… Especially if you’re a heifer! Any heifers here tonight?

AUDIENCE: [Scattered cheers]


COMEDIAN: Or if you’re a Liberal! Last time Rajberta had an idea this bad it was during the election …

DRUMMER: Drrrrrrrrrrrrrr….

COMEDIAN: … When he ran!


COMEDIAN: No. Seriously… When he had a contest to name his truck!

VOICE: The Crazy Train!

COMEDIAN: I think they decided to call it the Sherman Tank…


COMEDIAN: You know they used to call Sherman tanks Ronsons? … Because they lit up easily and you couldn’t put out the flame…

VOICE: I don’t get it!

COMEDIAN: Like Raj’s hair!


AUDIENCE: [Scattered laughs, another cellphone rings]

COMEDIAN: Hey! How about that email! The one Raj sent when he was still a Progressive Conservalbertan! Who knew that was the day the Liberals would be in trouble?


AUDIENCE: [Glasses tinkle, more voices]

COMEDIAN: Love those cowbells… That new Liberalberta name? I think the idea’s to distract people so they don’t notice … it has the word Liberal in it.

AUDIENCE: [One or two laughs]


VOICE: This is lame! Go home!

COMEDIAN: Who said that? The manager? Oh, Hi Raj!

AUDIENCE: [Scattered laughs]

COMEDIAN: C’mon, people! It’s hard to get a laugh when the stuff you’re making fun of is already funnier than your gag-writer!

VOICE: Hey, I like the little green flag on the logo…

COMEDIAN: So does the Green Party!


COMEDIAN: Thanks folks. That’s it. Gotta go. Now appearing on the pole to my right, Miss PEARL HARBOR!

VOICE: Gawd! That guy stunk. It’s about time!

COMEDIAN: That you Raj?

VOICE: No, you!

AUDIENCE: [Rising voices, glasses clink, the story dies]

By-election watch: Calgary Centre Grits hope to benefit from Justin Trudeau’s reflected glow

Justin Trudeau passes through the Calgary Centre riding, as seen by the media. Actual Liberal Party of Canada leadership candidates may not be exactly as illustrated. Below: Conservative Party candidate Joan Crockatt, still the front-runner in the by-election that hasn’t been called yet; Liberal candidate Harvey Locke looking outdoorsy; the real Mr. Trudeau.

With the federal Liberals suddenly looking as if they have a little momentum courtesy of the media’s incipient relapse of Trudeaumania, perhaps there’s the vaguest possibility of a horserace in the eventual Calgary Centre by-election.

At any rate, the Liberals have a respectable Calgary Centre candidate in the person of conservationist and lawyer Harvey Locke, who may not have the highest profile around but at least can reflect some of the glow of media ardour for Justin Trudeau as he passed through Cowtown just before announcing his own grab for the brass ring.

Mr. Trudeau’s high-profile Liberal Party leadership bid, in turn, has boosted his once-flagging Liberals’ popularity into and beyond the territory occupied by the NDP, at least according to poll results published yesterday by the National Post.

The Greens also have a reasonably appealing Calgary Centre candidate in author Chris Turner, who writes about sustainability issues.

Alert readers will be aware that all of this matters because Prime Minister Stephen Harper must soon call a by-election in the downtown Calgary riding where his Conservative Party of Canada in late August chose as its standard bearer market-fundamentalist on-air talking head Joan Crockatt.

Alas, while the New Democrats are finally getting around to trying to nominate a local candidate after a few higher-profile names declined their party’s proffered parachutes, it’s hard to see how the likes of Brent Macklinson, Scott Payne or Matthew McMillan can use the contest to do much to raise the profile of Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair in the West.

Well, maybe the NDP have stirred the entrails and written Calgary Centre off, which wouldn’t be unreasonable given the habits of that city’s voters. Or maybe a bigger name is still waiting in the wings.

The riding was vacated back in May by former Conservative MP Lee Richardson, who had a reputation as a slightly pinkish Tory. Mr. Richardson went to work as Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s principal secretary, a position for which a meaningful job description seems to be lacking. A by-election must be called by Nov. 18 if the vote is to take place before Christmas.

Why this has been taking Mr. Harper so long is a mystery to everyone, since in the normal course of events the Conservative candidate in a Calgary riding, Ms. Crockatt, should be a shoo-in. The longer the PM waits, the greater the chances Ms. Crockatt will slip her foot into her mouth, creating opportunities for her opponents.

Which brings us back to the matter of the suddenly lustrous Mr. Trudeau – who is certain to adopt the standard and frequently effective Liberal practice of flashing left while preparing to turn right. Stating this axiom is all very well, but it would be a terrible mistake – as former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney suggested not so long ago – to underestimate Mr. Trudeau.

The main knock against the Liberal leadership contender seems to be that he lacks legislative experience. But legislative experience is a commodity that may in fact be the kiss of death for anyone campaigning nowadays on a claim they can reinvent politics – which is very likely exactly why Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae decided to pull the plug on his own ambitions.

From an Alberta perspective, anyone inclined to laugh off the 2012 beneficiary of the Trudeaumania phenomenon would do well to remember two other politicians with limited legislative experience – Alison Redford and Naheed Nenshi. The former is now the premier of Alberta and the latter the mayor of Calgary after each ran just the kind of “transformative” campaign Mr. Trudeau is bound to try.

Getting back to Calgary Centre, perhaps His Nibs the prime minister continues to temporize in hopes the Supreme Court will rule in his favour on the case of Etobicoke Centre and he’ll only have to call three by-elections.

In Etobicoke Centre, the Conservative MP is appealing a ruling of an Ontario court that his election day victory is null and void because of campaign shenanigans. The court, like the prime minister, is taking its time. Two additional vacant ridings, one in Ontario and the other in B.C., also await by-election calls.

Meanwhile, back in Cowtown, it is said the word has gone out to the city’s many Conservative MPs (and that would be all of them) that they are to behave themselves and campaign for Ms. Crockatt.

Calgary East MP Deepak Obrai obediently went door knocking with Ms. Crockatt last week, and other Calgary MPs can be expected to join her as their marching orders come through.

Mr. Harper, however, may want to make an exception of his neighbour, Calgary West MP Rob Anders, and demand instead that Mr. Anders stay home.

It’s not that Mr. Anders doesn’t support Ms. Crockatt – au contraire, he shares her enthusiasm for the sort of nutty neoconservative economic nostrums that are apparently still popular in Calgary. It’s just that, well, he is known to be Canada’s Most Embarrassing MP, and it’s entirely possible that he would not be a particular asset to Ms. Crockatt’s election bid.

Then again, no matter what you may have read about the supposed sophistication of the downtown riding, it is in Calgary, and we all know what Calgary always does at election time.

With or without Mr. Anders’ participation, it sounds as if Calgary Centre should brace for a Christmas by-election.

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For the divisive, petty Harper Conservatives, no cause is too important for bickering

French-speaking troops of the Régiment de la Chaudière push inland from Juno Beach toward Bény-sur-Mer on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Below, Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney, Bloc MP Louis Plamondon.

Why did Stephen Harper’s Conservatives refuse to allow Members of Parliament from the Bloc Quebecois and Green Party to pay tribute to Canada’s war dead in the House of Commons?

On Nov. 2, Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney rose in the House of Commons to mark the start of Veterans Week, leading up to Remembrance Day. The Conservative MP for Lévis-Bellechasse gave a good speech in French and English that remarked on how Canada’s two founding nations were once enemies on the Plains of Abraham and later “united to fight for the common cause of peace and freedom.”

The francophone minister closed by asking his colleagues how they would remember Canada’s war dead, and thanking them for doing so.

Mr. Blaney’s generous remarks were followed in order of Parliamentary precedence by short speeches by Peter Stoffer, the NDP MP for Sackville-Eastern Shore, and Sean Casey, the Liberal MP for Charlottetown.

At this point, the Interim Bloc Leader Louis Plamondon, MP for Bas Richelieu-Nicolet-Becancour, rose and told the Speaker, “on behalf of the Bloc Québécois and all of its members, I would also like to pay tribute to our veterans. …”

Alas, this was the moment that the members of our majority government demonstrated the disgraceful pettiness and inexcusable divisiveness that characterizes Mr. Harper’s so-called Conservative Party.

Unfortunately in this particular circumstance, the Standing Orders of the House do not permit MPs who are not a member of an official party to speak on such occasions without the unanimous consent of all the MPs present. With four seats and just one seat in the House respectively, both the Bloc and Green caucuses are too small to be officially designated parties.

So went the debate, according to Hansard:

The Speaker: Does the House give unanimous consent?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Speaker: There is no consent.

I commend the rest of this short passage from Hansard to you, dear readers, because it illustrates so clearly how our great country is slipping off the tracks now that this small-minded Conservative majority has their hands on the throttle of the locomotive in Ottawa. Have we really come to a place where any Member of Parliament can’t give a heartfelt tribute to the Canadians who gave their lives in the service of their country? With Mr. Harper in charge, the answer is clearly yes.

Reading between the lines, one can hear the genuine shock at this pointless slight in Mr. Plamondon’s subsequent remarks. Yet, given the opportunity to grow up and act with a little decency, the Conservatives refused again.

This is another drip in what is starting to seem like a torrent of petty and not so petty slaps at Quebeckers and their representatives by this government, which loudly asserts a very American style of fake patriotism yet is incapable of putting genuine patriotism ahead of partisan gamesmanship even on the most non-partisan of occasions.

Naturally, our tame and cowardly English Canadian media didn’t bother to report this insult at all.

A couple of days ago, I asked my Conservative MP in writing if he could explain this. I also asked Edmonton-Centre MP Laurie Hawn, who seems to be the party’s main spokesman in this region nowadays. To me, it would have been useful to know even that these elected Alberta representatives disapproved of the calls of their caucus colleagues – after all, there is not much you can do to silence someone in a house of debate, and no one knows who shouted “No” beyond the fact they were “some hon. members.” Alas, neither Conservative MP has responded.

As long as his colleagues hold a majority in the House of Commons, I see little reason to hope that the openness of spirit Mr. Blaney showed in his speech can prevail. If it doesn’t, we should all fear for the future of our country.

I suggested in this space the other day that these Conservatives apparently see Quebec versus the rest of Canada as the biggest and most glorious wedge issue they’ve ever stumbled upon.

It almost seems, as other patriotic Canadians are coming to fear too, that these Tories would be happy to split Canada any which way to gain a partisan advantage.

This is no way to honour the men and women who sacrificed their lives for Canada, whether they spoke to one another in French or English.

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