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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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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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.
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