I live in the federal riding of Calgary Centre. We are having a by-election on Monday November 26. Though I’m hardly a political commentator I do have a few thoughts on this election that I hope will be of interest, particularly to my fellow Calgarians living in this riding.
What is perhaps most interesting about this election is that this particular seat is even up for grabs in the first place. I have lived in Calgary for almost twenty years, having grown up in Saskatchewan and lived in Ontario before I came to Calgary. My first impression politically here was that it wouldn’t matter who ran in an election, as long as they had a blue sign with their name on it, they would win. (Which is still true to a certain extent – how else to explain the election of someone like Rob Anders in the riding north of here?)
If it was true elsewhere in Alberta, it was certainly true in this riding which includes the neighbourhood of Mount Royal, one of the wealthiest and most Conservative ridings in the country. One doesn’t expect to see any radical change up there on the mountain. I once wrote a play called Sitting on Paradise that actually takes place in a mythical house on one of those streets. The matron of that house, Dotty Beauchamps, says at one point in the play: “Change is never good. Nothing good ever comes of it.” No one who saw the play thought that line didn’t ring true coming out of her mouth.
And so wasn’t I surprised one day this summer when an acquaintance of mine who has been closely associated with the Conservative Party for decades came charging down the hill, mad as hell about the way the Conservative nomination was going? I don’t know all the details but it sounded to me like she thought their process of electing a candidate had been put off course by a decision from the Prime Minister’s Office to inject a candidate into the riding. The candidate who was chosen and is subsequently running was not acceptable to my friend and so she and many of her friends and family have jumped over to the Liberal Party, backing candidate Harvey Locke.
For a number of reasons, much of it going back to the days of Peter Lougheed and Pierre Trudeau and the battle for Alberta oil revenues, it is not easy for these folks to vote Liberal. Yet in their minds it was the only choice they had. In the telling of the story to me, my friend made me understand one critical issue. The old Progressive Conservative Party, the one she had always supported, the party of Peter Lougheed and Joe Clark, to name but a few, is no more. The current Conservative Party is nothing more than the old Reform Party thinly disguised, and to put it mildly, there is nothing progressive about the Reform Party.
What was wanted was a fiscally conservative candidate who was nonetheless progressive in his attitudes towards the environment, the arts, education etc etc, and so enter Harvey Locke.
I first met Harvey in the Auburn Saloon which is the official clubhouse of the theatre and broader artistic community of Calgary. He had with him a book of naturalist art which he himself edited, which is really a lovely published version of the art from a show he curated at a gallery in Banff. Harvey has been deeply involved in the establishment of a wildlife and nature preserve stretching from Yellowstone Park in the south to as far as the Yukon in the north. Not just the preserve, but artistic depictions of it.
To I say I was impressed would be an understatement. An other thing that I find impressive and just a bit surprising about Harvey Locke is that his undergraduate degree from U of C is in French (whoever heard of such a thing!). He is married to a francophone woman from Quebec, with French being the language of their household, so he is a rare example of a fluently bilingual Calgarian. Let me just say, the guy is for real. If you want to check out his resume, Google him. I hope I have made my point that he is a worthy candidate.
With the rejuvenation of the Liberal Party and the emergence of Justin Trudeau, it would seem that Harvey Locke and the Liberals could go far, so far as to form the next government. In the future, with Harvey Locke as our MP, this riding could actually have a strong voice in Ottawa.
For me, I guess because I have met the man and like him and what he stands for, it’s a clear decision whom I will vote for. For a change, I feel that the person I am voting for actually has a chance to win the election.
Had my story ended here, you might expect a big shakeup in Calgary Centre come Monday, but for one thing – the unexpected emergence of Chris Turner, the Green Party candidate.
In the past, a vote for the Greens in this riding, and in many others around the country, would register as little more than a protest vote. I know this, I have done it myself. And yet in this election, Chris Turner has clearly gathered critical momentum making this suddenly a three way race.
Looking at my Facebook, I see that most of my friends in the arts community are supporting Turner. It reminds me of the momentum Naheed Nenshi gathered in the last civic election. In fact, many of the same people who are behind Turner helped get Calgary the best mayor in Canada.
I would never suggest that anyone, even the Conservative Reformers, vote against their own conscience. That said, in my mind there are two very good candidates in this election. (There is also Dan Meades from the NDP who ventured into Caffe Beano one morning while I was there, brave soul, you have to give him credit for running in a riding where he has a snowball’s chance in hell.) Of the two viable candidates from the left, I think that Harvey and the Liberals have the best chance of creating an alternative to the present regime and so that in part is why he has my vote.
My fear is that the third candidate, the Reformer/Conservative, who isn’t so good, who can hardly be bothered to campaign, of whom I have never heard a good word spoken, and who will only be a semi-warm body taking up space on a back bench, will go to Ottawa. The opposing vote will once again be split, and for all the excitement, nothing will have changed after all.
Whatever happens, it’s been an interesting ride. Whatever the outcome, you can’t help but feel that things are changing in Canadian politics.
At his recent concert in Calgary, Leonard Cohen sang his song “Democracy is Coming to the USA.” Could it be coming to Calgary, as well? Let’s hope.
Sometimes change is a good thing, after all.
Thanks for reading.