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DebraW
12-06-2007, 10:51 PM
Liberals declare victory in Calgary-Elbow byelection
Conservatives win race in Drumheller-Stettler

Tony Seskus and Kelly Cryderman, Calgary Herald
Published: Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Calgary dealt Premier Ed Stelmach's Tory government a sobering blow Tuesday night, with voters electing a Liberal in the heart of the city.

Though the Conservatives re-captured the rural stronghold of Drumheller-Stettler in one byelection in the southeast of the province, Liberal Craig Cheffins seized victory in Calgary-Elbow -- a riding that had been Tory blue since 1971 and was last held by former premier Ralph Klein.

Liberal candidate Craig Cheffins was in a good mood Tuesday night. He declared a byelection victory in former premier Ralph Klein's old riding.

The new MLA for Calgary-Elbow took the stage at his campaign headquarters shortly after 9 p.m. to the strains of We Are the Champions, delivering a victory speech to more than 100 supporters.

"You know there's a message to be delivered to the Stelmach government," he said, as the crowd chanted his name. "We know we can have better government in this province."

After the address, Liberal leader Kevin Taft held Cheffins' hand above his head to declare victory. At the Heninger camp, the mood was significantly more subdued.

"We fought a good campaign," Heninger said. "And we didn't win.

"I have no regrets. I worked as hard as I could. I wouldn't have done anything different. The people chose someone else -- and I respect that."

Heninger rejected the suggestion that Calgarians were sending the Stelmach government a message. But in a statement, the premier said he heard what the voters were saying in Calgary-Elbow and would respond quickly.

"Calgarians have sent a message and I have heard that message clearly," Stelmach said. "Let me assure you, mine is a government with a clear plan for dealing with the growth pressures in Calgary."

The Calgary-Elbow race was billed as an early report card on the fledgling Stelmach government and the results will no doubt heighten concerns within the Conservative camp about a loosening grip on Calgary, once deemed a fortress for the Tories.

In the wake of a public infrastructure funding feud with Mayor Dave Bronconnier, what some say is an unchecked housing market, labour shortages and other boom-time stresses in the city, earlier opinion polls suggest Conservative-government support is dropping.

As of press time, 74 of 77 Calgary-Elbow polls were reporting -- with Cheffins winning 45 per cent of the votes and Heninger 38 per cent. The Greens had six per cent, the Alberta Alliance had won five per cent, the NDP had three per cent, and the independent candidate sat at one per cent.

Turnout appeared light in both byelections, with roughly a third of eligible voters casting ballots.

For the Liberals, which now control four of the city's 23 ridings, analysts said the victory fuels momentum for an eventual provincewide contest -- expected next year -- and provides a boost for the leadership of Taft, who's made frequent visits to the city in an attempt to raise his profile.

"It certainly is an important signal to the provincial government that the rumblings of discontent in Calgary are real, and they may have electoral consequences in the next election," said University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young, who also cautioned that "you can never make too much of" byelection results.

Young said since the governing Conservatives seemed focused on Edmonton and Northern Alberta, and Calgary is seen as the "spoiled brat" of the province, "it's not inconceivable that the Liberal stronghold in Alberta at some point may become Calgary."

Still, the Conservatives will be pleased to hold onto Drumheller-Stettler, which had previously been held by deputy premier Shirley McClellan.

Jack Hayden, a former reeve and councillor for the County of Stettler, defeated six rivals to capture the riding with easily more than half of all votes cast. It's thought that Hayden is a strong candidate for a cabinet post as he was Stelmach's rural lieutenant during the Tory leadership race last fall.

Hayden and his supporters celebrated in the tiny pioneer community of Rowley, about 40 kilometres north of Drumheller. Festivities spilt over onto the gravel street and into the early-1900s town hall and saloon.

"I absolutely believe this victory reflects the strong support our premier has," Hayden told the Herald. "Everyone in this riding wants to be part of the Alberta Advantage."

While recent opinion polls have shown support for the Stelmach government is dipping across the province, rural Alberta remains a stronghold -- particularly Drumheller-Stettler. McClellan held the deeply conservative riding for nearly 20 years prior to her January retirement, and captured nearly two-thirds of the vote in the 2004 provincial election.

Both ridings have been dominated by the ruling Progressive Conservatives since the 1970s, but the opposition parties were hoping perceived dissatisfaction with Stelmach would provide them with a breakthrough.

The Calgary-Elbow contest -- which pitted Tory candidate Heninger against Liberal Cheffins and host of rivals -- was thought to be particularly tight.

Joining Heninger and Cheffins in the race were Al Brown (NDP), Jane Greydanus (Alberta Alliance), Trevor Grover (Social Credit), George Read (Green Party of Alberta) and independent candidate Jeff Willerton.

Candidates heard many issues on Calgarians' doorsteps, but the urban agenda appeared to dominate with concerns raised about soaring rents, high inflation, aging infrastructure and health-care access.

Political analyst David Taras at the University of Calgary said the ongoing feud between Stelmach and the mayor over municipal funding overshadowed the local election.

"If there was background music, it was the mayor and premier in the sense of sending a message to Stelmach, or not sending a message," he said.

Heninger weighed in on the matter during the race by suggesting the mayor was whining a little bit too much about funding from the province.

However, Heninger also reportedly told one constituent that he would "choke" the premier, adding that Stelmach said it was OK for Heninger to distance himself from the premier if it helped round up voter support.

It stood in stark contrast to the days when Tory candidates would plaster their campaign literature with pictures of the popular Klein.

"(Heninger) almost became an opposition candidate," Taras said.

"When he started out, I don't think he was particularly onside with Edmonton, but then, by the end, it was kind of Send a message, elect me and I'll be the one who carries the mail to Ed.'"

Klein was noticably absent from the race in his own home riding, declining comment on the contest.

On the other hand, the leaders of nearly all the Alberta parties toured the riding with their respective candidates, including Stelmach, Taft, NDP leader Brian Mason and Alberta Alliance leader Paul Hinman.

With files from Jason Fekete, Calgary Herald.

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Wrecker
13-06-2007, 09:06 AM
Considering Klein was a liberal in conservative clothing, its no real surprise.

grish
13-06-2007, 09:24 AM
Considering Klein was a liberal in conservative clothing, its no real surprise. :shock: and :lol:

North Guy66
13-06-2007, 11:25 AM
So what does Ed Stelmach do now?

Is he going to bend over backwards to appease the Calgary vote?

RichardS
13-06-2007, 12:15 PM
Let's be real here. This is no big victory. The Libs are still minus a charasmatic leader. Taft is an intelligent man, but not one that will win "Martha and Henry's" heart. Until that changes, I see this as a protest vote. Ed probably knew the result anyway, and even with pc people staying home, the victory was not colossal.

This tells me more about Calgary angst than anything.

Chump
13-06-2007, 02:14 PM
Let's be real here. This is no big victory. The Libs are still minus a charasmatic leader. Taft is an intelligent man, but not one that will win "Martha and Henry's" heart. Until that changes, I see this as a protest vote. Ed probably knew the result anyway, and even with pc people staying home, the victory was not colossal.

This tells me more about Calgary angst than anything.

...as in, they don't waste time raising a fuss?

RichardS
13-06-2007, 03:36 PM
hahaha....sweet....

That, and they are as insecure as we are, no matter what the swagger says. They have been out of the premier's chair for 6 months, and they whine! :)

I am sure Ed knew he'd lose this seat. The real test is the general election. Ed and company will need to become more urban minded real soon.....