Political Strategist and now Vice President, National Director of Campaign Strategy at Hill & Knowlton, Stephen Carter, was interviewed by Chris Plecash (@chrisplecash) of The Hill Times recently about his thoughts on the upcoming Calgary Centre by-election.
Stephen, coming off three high profile campaigns, felt that the by-election is a more open race than most would expect. With his renown perspective on branding in politics and how a great candidate brand can rise above the crowd, Carter states that “Joan Crockatt is not my idea of a great candidate.” This is akin to Carter labelling Crockatt as a weak brand, and not a brand that would connect with the voters of Calgary Centre. This is of interest to local politicos – Crockatt has been a regular poster on Twitter, and since winning the Conservative Party of Canada nomination, has been surprising quiet in this medium. Based on previous tight stage management on new candidates, the Conservative Party of Canada are carefully considering the Crockatt brand for the forthcoming by-election.
Plecash also quotes one of our founders Brian F. Singh from a previous interview, where he alludes to the foundational thinking behind 1CalgaryCentre.
The article was previously published by on September 3, 2012 and can be found here (note: subscription may be required). We thank the The Hill Times for their continued dedication for covering the forthcoming Calgary Centre by-election and bringing it to their national audience.
Tories aren’t guaranteed a win in Calgary Centre, say riding progressives
Star candidate Joan Crockatt won the Conservative nomination recently, but progressives in the Alberta riding say don’t count out the other parties.
By CHRIS PLECASH
Published: Monday, 09/03/2012 12:00 am EDT
Last Updated: Monday, 09/03/2012 1:03 pm EDT
The Conservatives will run a star candidate in the Calgary Centre, Alta., byelection, but progressives in the historically centre-right riding say it’s not a guaranteed win for the Tories who have held the seat for more than four decades.
“Everybody is assuming that it will go Conservative. The last poll that was done put the Conservatives at under 50 per cent in the riding before anyone knew any of the candidates,” said Stephen Carter, a former strategist on Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s spring election campaign. “I wouldn’t bet on any outcome.”
A poll conducted by Forum Research on Aug. 14 found support for the Conservatives at 44 per cent in Calgary Centre, while the Liberals, NDP and Greens trailed with 21 per cent, 14 per cent, and 12 per cent, respectively.
Calgary-based author and journalist Chris Turner, who penned the feature article “Calgary Reconsidered” for the June issue of The Walrus magazine, confirmed last week that he is seeking the nomination for the Green Party.
Mr. Carter said that “time was running out” for the parties to field candidates, but with the right candidate any party could have a shot at taking the riding—with the possible exception of the New Democrats.
“We got the message from Thomas Mulcair when he gave us a giant middle finger that he’s absolutely fine screwing Alberta,” said Mr. Carter, referring to the NDP leader’s criticisms of Alberta’s oil sands industry.
NDP national director Nathan Rotman said that his party’s message does resonate with Albertans, however, and his party is best positioned to take on the Conservatives in Calgary Centre.
“We believe that progressives in places like Alberta are looking at New Democrats and saying that this is the party that came in second in Alberta, and this is the party with the best chance of defeating Stephen Harper,” he said.
In the last federal election Conservatives took 67 per cent of the popular vote in Alberta, while the New Democrats and Liberals claimed 17 per cent and nine per cent, respectively.
Former Conservative MP Lee Richardson won Calgary Centre with 57 per cent of the vote in 2011. The Liberal, NDP and Green Party candidates claimed 17 per cent, 15 per cent, and 11 per cent of the vote, respectively.
Former Calgary Herald columnist and managing editor Joan Crockatt bested five other candidates for the Conservative nomination recently to compete in the byelection to replace Mr. Richardson, who stepped down on May 30 to become principal secretary to Ms. Redford.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) has yet to announce the date for the byelection, but under the Canada Elections Act it must be announced by Dec. 4.
Centre-right political parties have held the riding since it was established in 1966. The riding was a federal Progressive Conservative stronghold until the Reform/Canadian Alliance parties took it from 1993 until 2000.
The riding returned to the more moderate Progressive Conservatives in 2001 when former prime minister and then-leader Joe Clark won it back. Mr. Richardson won the seat in 2004 under a newly merged Conservative Party and was reelected three times, consistently garnering between 50 and 60 per cent of the vote.
Like Mr. Clark, Mr. Richardson appealed to socially liberal and fiscally conservative ‘Red Tories’ in the urban riding. Progressives in the riding are hoping that a candidate will emerge who will attract the support of Red Tories who see Ms. Crockatt as ideologically aligned with the province’s right wing Wildrose Alliance Party.
“I work for candidates, if the right candidate was to present themselves,” said Mr. Carter, now Hill and Knowlton’s national director of campaign strategy. “Joan Crockatt is not my idea of a great candidate.”
Mr. Carter and Ms. Crockatt sparred publicly over Twitter during the Alberta election campaign after he accused the columnist of being the source of a rumour that he’d been fired as campaign strategist by Alison Redford. Ms. Crockatt, who could not be reached for comment in the week following her victory, has denied the allegation.
Mr. Carter and local pollster Brian Singh both worked on strategy for Naheed Nenshi’s successful 2010 mayoral campaign in Calgary. Mr. Nenshi started out his campaign with single-digit public support in the polls, but emerged victorious with 40 per cent of the popular vote on election day.
In August Mr. Singh told The Hill Times that he was interested in working to unite Calgary Centre progressives behind one candidate to challenge Ms. Crockatt.
“People are looking for critical mass. They won’t believe in something happening until they see other people expressing a belief that something is going to happen,” said Mr. Singh, who helped develop the social media strategy behind the successful Nenshi campaign. “If [voters] are able to curate a single choice, regardless of how it happens, that gives them a sense of hope that this time it might make a difference.”
Calgary Centre Liberals and New Democrats have yet to select candidates to run in the forthcoming byelection.
Calgary Liberals Harvey Locke and Rahim Sajan will compete for their party’s nomination. The Calgary Centre Liberal riding association will hold its meeting on Sept. 15.
No names have been announced for the NDP nomination and the party has yet to schedule its nomination meeting.
Mr. Rotman would not comment on potential nominees, but said that a “number of people” were interested and he expected that the party’s Calgary Centre riding association would hold its nomination meeting before the end of September.
The Hill Times