Calgary

Message from the doorstep: What Albertans are telling the candidates

It can be difficult for a candidate to make a breakthrough and start a conversation during their brief encounters with voters on the doorstep.

A full day on the campaign trail with three candidates in southwest Calgary

Ghada Alatrash, the Liberal candidate in Calgary Signal Hill, heads out door-knocking in the riding on Wednesday. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

It's not just about convincing someone to vote for you.

For some candidates in Calgary, they can't finish introducing themselves before being told in not so many words that the resident is not interested in engaging.

It's the ground game, voter engagement, face-to-face meetings that can sometimes end abruptly soon after the candidate reveals which party they're representing.

Ghada Alatrash, the Liberal candidate in Calgary Signal Hill, encountered some resistance to her message during a recent door-knocking trip through one of the riding's southwest neighbourhoods.

"I'm going to stop you right there," said one voter who wouldn't even give Alatrash a chance to start her pitch.

At another house, a woman told Alatrash she was in the middle of watching a TV show and didn't have time to chat, but she did ask for a brochure.

"People here are voicing all sorts of sentiments and that's what makes our country what it is. We have opposition and we have all sorts of narratives, all sorts of voices," said Alatrash, who didn't want to repeat any of the negative comments she's heard at the door. 

Afraid to put up signs

It's been a steep uphill climb for the NDP's Khalis Ahmed, who is running again in Calgary Signal Hill.

"It's very difficult," he said.

A woman who answered her door told Ahmed before he finished his introduction: "Thank you, but I vote Conservative."  End of discussion. Door closed. 

Ahmed, who is a geologist in the oil and gas sector, said campaigning is a challenge because so many people in the riding vote Conservative. 

In 2015, nearly 38,000 people voted for Conservative Ron Liepert. The Liberal candidate received half of that, while Ahmed, who ran four years ago, picked up about 3,100 votes, or just five per cent of the vote.

Ahmed said some of his supporters are reluctant to campaign with him or join him at campaign events — and they're also afraid to show their support publicly for his party.

"Many of our supporters are scared to be exposed, so they don't agree to put a sign on their lawn," said Ahmed.

He said if a sign does go up, in some cases it ends up being vandalized.

Ahmed said that for this election, he's cut back on the amount of time he's spent door-knocking and he's also going to spend less money on the campaign, likely just a few thousand dollars. But he's not giving up.

"Spreading the message is very important. And I think we're doing it."

Anti-Trudeau sentiment

The Conservative incumbent in the riding was literally running door-to-door during a recent last minute blitz through Bowness, which is in Calgary Signal Hill.

Liepert, who just turned 70, has been involved in provincial and federal politics for 40 years. He's been a provincial cabinet minister and is a former press secretary to former premier Peter Lougheed.

A number of people he encountered had already voted — and the majority of them said they voted for Liepert.

From Left: Khalis Ahmed (NDP), Ghada Alatrash (Liberal) and Ron Liepert (Conservative) are three of the seven candidates in Calgary Signal Hill. The others are Christina Bassett (Rhinoceros Party), Garry Dirk (Christian Heritage Party of Canada), Marco Reid (Green Party of Canada) and Gord Squire (People's Party of Canada). (Supplied)

Some were eager to share their thoughts on Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. 

Asked how to describe Trudeau, Ike Wolfe said it wouldn't be appropriate to use such language. 

"He's just a spoiled boy, in my opinion," he said.

Wolfe said the Liberals are spending too much money and he's worried about the federal debt.

The Conservatives have steamrolled through Alberta for decades, but in 2015, Calgarians elected two Liberals for the first time in nearly half a century.

According to Elections Canada, 22,050 people voted in the recent advance polls in Signal Hill — that's a third of the votes cast in 2015. More than 175,000 votes were cast in Calgary's 10 electoral districts during the four days of advance polling.

A few doors down, Russ Beatty took a break from his yard work to greet Liepert and said that he also voted for the Conservatives. 

Ron Liepert is the Conservative Party of Canada candidate in Calgary Signal Hill. He was first elected in 2015 and is seeking re-election on Oct. 21. More than 22,000 people voted in advance polls in the riding. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

"We believe in conservatives, always have and always will," he said.

Beatty's message for Liepert was a simple one: "Go get 'em!" 

Another voter, who didn't want to be identified, told Liepert she plans to vote Conservative on Monday. 

"I'm tired of that young pup," she said, referring to Trudeau.

One vote at a time

There was perhaps one small victory for Alatrash, who met a voter who was thinking of supporting the NDP.

She started her pitch about how the Liberal government is going to build the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, but the man interrupted her.

"I don't give a damn about oil and gas," he said.

"I think that all oil and gas companies should be forced to move into renewables," he said.

Ghada Alatrash, left, won the support of at least one voter in Calgary Signal Hill toward the end of her door-knocking on Wednesday. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

Alatrash quickly pivoted to what the Liberals are doing to address climate change, health care and post-secondary education.

After a four-minute chat, the man said he would be voting for the Liberals.

"I know the Liberals have a way better chance [than the NDP]," he said.

"Meeting you in person and talking to you, hearing what you have to say, knowing you're a teacher, you got my vote," he said.

About the Author

Bryan Labby

Enterprise reporter

Bryan Labby is an enterprise reporter with CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach him at bryan.labby@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.

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