Constituents of Calgary Centre are getting ready to head to the byelection polls today to choose a new MP, and at this point there is no clear favourite to win the seat.
The candidates spent the weekend, including Grey Cup Sunday, throwing down their final campaign strategies and hoping to capture last minute voters.
The by-election buzz has taken many by surprise. This is certainly one of the most interesting byelections in Calgary history and for the first time since the riding's inception in 1968 there are candidates who threaten to weaken the Conservative stronghold on the riding.
"This is the closest race of any Calgary riding in a federal election in a very, very long time," said Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University told the Calgary Sun.
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Recent polls show Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt has lost her early lead. Liberal candidate Harvey Locke is running a close second to Crockatt in many polls and Green Party candidate Chris Turner, who is especially popular with young, social media-savvy voters, is posting a strong third place.
According to the Calgary Herald, all camps have expressed concern about vote splitting. After Joan Crockatt implied support for the Wildrose party in April's provincial election, she may be seen as too conservative for some voters.
There is also worry about a split of the "progressive" vote, with Locke, Turner and NDP candidate Dan Meades all running strong campaigns.
"If Crockatt wins because of vote splits, does this become the case study?" David Taras, a Mount Royal University political analyst, asked in an interview with the Calgary Herald. "Can the Liberals and the NDP ever win a national election if this vote-splitting continues?"
Looking at the historical record, Crockatt is certainly the favourite to win, but does that mean she deserves it? Crockatt was largely absent from community forums and debates during the campaign and the appearances she did make were weak, said Keith Brownsey, an associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University, to the National Post.
"Joan Crockatt is an awful candidate. She's refused to debate. She's toed the party line. She's campaigned with Rob Anders and she has a history with the [provincial opposition] Wildrose Party, which would anger any number of Progressive Conservatives in the riding," he said.
The Liberals will also be watching for fallout after several missteps by members of their party last week. MP David McGuinty and leadership hopeful Justin Trudeau were both accused of making anti-Alberta comments.
McGuinty said Alberta MPs should "go back to" their home province if they weren't prepared to work for the national interest when energy is involved. The next day he apologized and resigned his role as natural resources critic.
Trudeau came under fire after footage surfaced from a Quebec TV program from two years ago. He told the show that Canada was not doing well because "it's Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda." Trudeau also apologized.
Despite the Liberal gaffes, Bratt says all eyes will be on Turner today. A split of the progressive vote on Turner's end would mean the greatest likelihood for Crockatt to claim the seat.
"Chris Turner would be the spoiler. The higher the Turner vote, the more likely it is for Crockatt to win," Bratt told the CBC.
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