Joan Crockatt reflects on Calgary Centre byelection win

Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt came out on top after what she calls a "nail-biting evening" in the Calgary Centre byelection on Monday.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford says Liberal members' anti-Alberta comments probably played a role in the Tory win

Calgary's 3-way race

9 years ago
Conservative Joan Crockatt came out on top in one of the closest byelections Calgary has seen in a long time. 3:51

It was a close race, but in the end the Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt came out on top in Monday's Calgary Centre byelection.

Crockatt won by a margin of just over a thousand votes — 36.9 per cent of the vote to Liberal Harvey Locke's 32.7 per cent — after being neck-and-neck with the Liberal challenger for most of the evening.

"I mean it was a nail-biting evening, but I think I'm a new candidate, I'm not an incumbent, and byelections are always challenging for a majority government," she said.

The combined conservative vote in Calgary Centre hadn't fallen below 50 per cent since 1972.

The Conservative candidate kept a low profile during the campaign, preferring door knocking to debates — she even acknowledged that strategy in her acceptance speech.

"That's why I've been out on the doorsteps and I've been knocking on doors to engage people in conversations about what things really matter to them," said Crockatt.

But Mount Royal University political science professor Lori Williams says Crockatt didn't pick up the momentum that other candidates did during the campaign.

"Crockatt's campaign got into a lot of trouble early on and she never really pulled out of that," she said. 

Williams says people vote differently in byelections, and voter turnout was just 29.4 per cent.

"I think there might have been enough gone on in this race that it will provide a foundation for perhaps a little bit more competitive races in this riding than are typical in Calgary for federal races," she said.

But Williams doubts there will be a major shift in the next federal election

Anti-Alberta comments played a role, says premier

Alberta Premier Alison Redford says anti-Alberta comments made by two prominent Liberals probably had an impact on a tight byelection race in Calgary.

Liberal leadership contender Justin Trudeau apologized last week for comments he made in a 2010 interview, where he blamed Canada's problems on Albertans controlling the "socio-economic" agenda.

Liberal MP David McGuinty was quoted calling Alberta MPs "shills" for the oil industry and suggested they "go home."

The Tory premier says anyone seeking a national leadership role shouldn't be promoting divisions among Canadians. But Redford says that doesn't necessarily mean that the Liberals are moribund in Western Canada.

However, she says she's glad the Conservatives won in her home riding of Calgary Centre.

Strategic voting?

Liberal candidate Harvey Locke knows he missed an opportunity, as he was just four per cent behind Crockatt, but still sees the silver lining.

"The question for me as a Liberal that has been answered tonight is whether a Liberal can run competitively in Calgary. And the answer is unquestionably, yes," he said. 

But he says there was some teamwork behind the progressive vote, but not towards his campaign.

"When you look at the outcome tonight it seems pretty clear to me that the Greens and NDs talked to each other, but they don't want to talk to us," said Locke.

In third place was Chris Turner of the Green Party, with 25 per cent support.

He's optimistic about the party's fortunes in the future, wanting this to be a building block.

"There was a clear message sent," said Turner. "Calgarians are in fact not completely satisfied with the way this government is going."

He said the three parties need to join forces to topple the Conservatives.

"We need to come together on this and we need to do this before we get to the point where a whole bunch of really, really proud, ambitious campaigns are in their homestretch," said Turner.

He said the co-operation needs to happen at the start of the campaign, and be clearly discussed by top party officials in Ottawa.

Coming in fourth was Dan Meades of the NDP, with roughly four per cent of the vote.

Calgary pollster surprised by Green shift

"The NDP, I think, thought it would be better to have the Greens, or even Joan Crockatt as the MP, than to see a Liberal win because the Liberals and NDP are locked in a battle across the country for this second voice," said Calgary pollster Bruce Cameron.

"If some of that vote, half of that vote, had gone to the Liberals, the Liberals would have won," he said.

But it didn't happen and Calgary Centre stayed Conservative, a riding that's been painted Tory blue since the riding was formed in 1968.

Brian Singh spent $3,942 on a website, flyers and other materials to promote "1 for Calgary Centre" - his attempt to rally the Liberal, NDP and Green voters behind one candidate.

Singh calls Monday night's result bittersweet after those efforts failed.

Singh does take some pride in seeing the New Democrats, in his view, moving to the stronger campaigns of the Liberals and Greens.

"I think it worked well for them because they started to realize that there were only two candidates," he said.

With files from The Canadian Press