By all accounts, the contest at Calgary Centre should've been a sleeper event, a coronation of sorts - an election where the outcome was but a certainty.
Instead, the byelection to replace Calgary Tory MP Lee Richardson, who stepped down on May 30 of this year, turned into a partisan political battle in the heart of Canada's Conservative country.
It was a show that brought out the big guns and that was played out as much at the doorsteps of Calgary Centre residences, as it was in the halls of Ottawa. But when the curtain came down, nothing had really changed. The Conservatives retained their seat and the nearly half-century grip on the riding by the Tories continued, despite the high hopes and grand promises of the contenders.
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The Conservative Party of Canada names former journalist and political commentator Joan Crockatt as the CPC candidate for Calgary Centre. Some high-profile Conservatives in the city - such as Pat and Sherrold Moore - aren't happy with the selection process, oppose the choice and put their support behind the Liberal contender. In the end, a narrow margin gave the victory to Crockatt and the Conservatives
Sensing the possibility of seizing a parliamentary seat right in the heart of the Canadian Conservative heartland, Liberal Party of Canada leader Bob Rae flew in to Calgary to lend his support to Grit Candidate Harvey Locke.
Missing and not in action
Crockatt was heavily criticized by the other camps, as well as commentators, for missing most of the debates in the riding. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi call Crockatt, "the elephant not in the room," after she failed to appear at a debate he was hosting.
By many accounts, Green Party of Canada candidate Chris Turner ran the best campaign. He often re-iterated he was in it to win and that he had the full support of his party. Perhaps to prove the point, Elizabeth May made several stops in Calgary to support the riding's Green candidate.
He wasn't exactly welcomed with open arms, but NDP leader Thomas Mulcair also made his way to Calgary to support New Democrat contender Dan Meades.
The Liberal's momentum in Calgary Centre looked to have enough steam to steamroll over 40 years of continuous Conservative rule in Calgary Centre. But then, the Liberal leadership hopeful - the one with the less than respected family name, in Alberta anyway - as quoted in a two-year interview as saying, "Canada isn't doing well right now because it's Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda. It doesn't work."
One month ago, no watcher predicted a close match in Calgary Centre but events unfolded that eroded the Conservative's seemingly-insurmountable lead and buoyed the momentum of the progressive candidates, particularly the Liberals.
In a poll conducted by The Huffington Post In August, the Conservatives notched in a 44% support. The CPC hadn't even named a candidate then. Richardson originally won the riding with 58% of the votes.
That same survey gave the Liberals 21 per cent, the Greens a 14 per cent and the NDP 14 per cent.
Then, less than one month ago, those not invited to the coronation - the Grits, the Greens and the NDP - unleashed massive campaigns. But as the hopefuls door-knocked, conducted interviews and attended debates, the guest of honour at the coronation - Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt "the elephant not in the room," as described by Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, was seemingly absent from the process.
The next blow to the CPC's efforts came in the form of long-time, respected Calgary Conservatives, who did what only a few years ago would've seemed like the unthinkable and put their support behind Liberal candidate Harvey Locke. The move was prompted by their disillusionment in the way Crockatt was granted the party nomination.
Pat and Sherrold Moore are a family that have been at the core of progressive conservative politics in Calgary for decades. It was in Sherrold Moore's kitchen that Ralph Klein began his rise to the top of the Progressive Conservatives in the early 1990s. The Moore's have been tied to the Lougheed-type PCs since the PCs began their rise in the 1970s. These two individuals, their family, and their ties count for a lot. They are strong opinion leaders in the community, conservative or not.
Earlier this month, the Calgary Centre battleground also saw skirmishes between the provincial Conservatives and their federal cousins. The two parties seem to be heading more and more in different directions. Crockatt herself described what's happening between the two entities as, "a nasty divorce."
During the last provincial election, some federal Conservatives backed Wildrose candidates not PCs, while Crockatt herself, in her capacity as a Sun News Network commentator, has become an outspoken Wildrose booster.
The door to the Conservative heartland was now slightly ajar and opposition brass wanted to blow it wide open, as NDP leader and leader of the official opposition Thomas Mulcair, Liberal Leader Bob Rae and Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May, both made stops in Calgary to boost their respective candidates' chances.
The final endorsement for Locke came in the form of Liberal Party of Canada leadership hopeful Justin Trudeau but it was an endorsement that recently became a double-edged sword.
Polls one week ago cemented what the candidates had been saying when they claimed the Conservative lead had dwindled considerably. Those polls had Locke and Crockatt at a statistical dead-heat.
But last week, just as the momentum the Liberals and Locke had built could only snowball, a two-year-old interview of Trudeau delivered the only real blow to what was otherwise a tremendously successful campaign behind enemy lines.
In the interview, Trudeau tells the Tele-Quebec program Les francs-tireurs (The Sharp Shooters),"Canada isn't doing well right now because it's Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda. It doesn't work."
The reaction to the comments from Albertans was swift and pointed.
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Trudeau really stepped into it in Alberta eh? Quebec leader????
No one outside of Alberta cares that Trudeau dissed Alberta. But the appearance of favoritism for Quebec, that hits a nerve.
Trudeau said something bad about Alberta. Since when are cowboys so sensitive?
I'm from Alberta. Trudeau is right.
If anti-Alberta Justin Trudeau is elected, Western Canada should separate.
Anti-Alberta Trudeau interview reminds Canadians why the Liberals were voted out
Is Justin Trudeau still popular in Alberta today?
Part of me is offended by Trudeau’s anti-Alberta comments. Part of me wonders who are these nasty Albertans giving rest of us a bad name.
Justin Trudeau just keeps bashing #alberta. If you live in Western Canada and vote for Trudeau,hit yourself with a frying pan. #yeg #yyc
Hey to break it to the tories but if they attack justin trudeau as "anti alberta" it may work for him
Justin Trudeau found out what it's really like to play in the big leagues today. And Andrew Chantal and Bruce are eager to talk about it.
If I were Trudeau I would get out in front of this thing and challenge anyone to a boxing match.
I've watched a lot of TV on Trudeau's comments tonight but with rare exceptions, only non-Liberals speaking. What's that about? #cdnpoli
btw, it's comments like those from Justin Trudeau that convince me Alberta is better off as it's own country.
@petermansbridge all the dirty secrets will come out now. It's not even election time! Are the Cons threatened?
Long history of English reporters ignoring what happens across the river, my guess. MT @aaronwherry: How did Trudeau comments escape notice
I said it earlier and I'll say again. Justin Trudeau makes Thomas Mulcair appear sane. #cdnpoli #shinypony #tcot
To those upset by Trudeau's Alberta comments remember we have a Prime Minister who said Atlantic Canada has a "culture of defeat". #cdnpoli
Hold the phones everyone; a Liberal spoke out against western focused political interests. Honestly, I am stunned. http://t.co/VnTCtcJP
Let us all learn a valuable PR lesson: Tape never dies. #justintrudeau http://t.co/hwGkTe6a
Cause most LPC agree with western bigotry sentiments MT @SusanDelacourt: .only non-Liberals speaking Trudeau's comments. What's that about?
Aghhhhh Trudeau *palm face* CTV News: Conservatives seize on Trudeau's Alberta remarks as byelection fight heats up http://t.co/7KgYhFRB
Justin Trudeau caught on video with anti Albertan slant. SUN NEWS journalists will take turns masterbating to the video for the next week.
So Trudeau controversy asks if Laurier, St-Laurent, Trudeau, Mulroney, Chrétien were better for Canada than Bennett, Clark and Harper...
Trudeau should just come out and back the stamps in the grey cup. Problem solved.
#nevervoteliberal Ahhh...the old #Trudeau #Liberal #Quebec arrogance comes out again. Justin's comments on AB in 2010 http://t.co/vBtx30Xy
The govt now wants #LPC to fire Trudeau from his portfolio as critic for amateur sport, suggests 2010 comments were "anti-Alberta" #cdnpoli
TOstar headline: "Justin Trudeau faces uproar for alleged anti-Alberta comments" Alleged?! He said it! via @PartyOfSunshine cc: @shephardm
The NDP is jumping on the Trudeau Alberta comments, too. @nathancullen speaks to how great Alberta is #hoc
Trudeau anti-alberta bias- hardly believe he has changed his tune since 2010. He was raised by his father after all. http://t.co/7W1QPQF4
Wonder if Harvey Locke knows no good Liberals come from Alberta, according to J Trudeau. #tcot #yyccentre #yyc #abpoli #ShinyPony
Anti Alberta comments "Taken out of context" Justin Trudeau? Proves he is arrogant and delusional. #cdnpoli #abpoli #qcpoli
At first, Trudeau called the digging up of the old interview, 'a smear campaign,' by Conservatives afraid of losing Calgary Centre.
A day later, he apologized.
"I'm sorry I said what I said," The Globe and Mail reported him as saying Friday. "I'm here to serve."
The latest polls, conducted over the weekend, had Crockatt with a bit more of a buffer, as she led with five per cent.
But the Liberal momentum was such that despite the reversal in fortune in the Calgary Grit camp the days leading up to the byelection, not even the fact the Greens had ran a strong campaign that propelled them to within shooting distance of the Liberals and the Conservatives, concerned Locke Monday afternoon.
With mere hours left in the polls, Locke was confident that even with the vote splitting among progressives, he was still optimistic he could lock down a win. He didn't but if what happened in Calgary Centre on Monday is the proverbial parrot in the mine of Canadian politics, the next federal election may be a very interesting contest.
Related on HuffPost:
Harvey Locke 32.6%
Liberal Party Of Canada.
Joan Crockatt 36.9%
Conservative Party Of Canada
Antoni Grochowski 0.5%
Tony Prashad 0.4%
Dan Meades 3.9%
Chris Turner 25.7%