The byelection in Calgary-Elbow this week will be a very interesting one indeed.
I've found myself driving through parts of the riding at various times, and doing an informal "sign poll" as I go.
My general rules for such a poll are this:
- A sign on somebody's lawn counts
- Signs on either public or commercial properties don't count
Basically, what I noticed is that in areas like Riverdale Ave., you see what has been a familiar sight in Alberta - lots of Conservative campaign signs and little else.
Get out of that area, and into areas like Altadore and Lakeview, and the picture changes quite dramatically. The Liberals have been blitzing the area, and it shows. There are a lot of Liberal signs on people's lawns. There is also a fair sized number of Social Credit and Alberta Alliance signs out there as well. The NDP's showing in the area is fairly weak - which doesn't come as a big surprise. It's a relatively affluent riding overall and that isn't where the NDP line traditionally plays well.
Informal reports I've heard about the campaigning have boiled down to two basic statements at the doorstep:
1. I don't know who I'm voting for, but it damned well isn't the PC's
2. I'm leaning towards the Liberals
The PC Candidate, Brian Heninger, is trying to put a little distance between himself and Ed Stelmach, but I don't think it's playing all that effectively - especially given the spat between City Hall and Edmonton. (Remember, this is the riding that has the Glenmore-Elbow (G-5) interchange project right smack in the middle of it - people are sick and tired of half-baked construction projects that go on for years and disrupt everything from the commute to their home lives) Although I don't like Bronconnier's handling the situation particularly, it happens to be ensuring that the byelection in Calgary Elbow isn't a coronation for the PC's.
I'm guessing right now that what we will see is that the traditional PC vote splits between the PCs, Alberta Alliance and Social Credit parties, and the Liberals may well "run up the middle" as a result. It's not likely to be by a large margin, either - people in Alberta are so used to putting an 'X' beside the PC candidate that they have to break a thirty year habit to vote for someone else. That's not going to be easy for a lot of people.
Whatever the outcome on Tuesday (and I will be watching it closely!), this is possibly one of the most interesting electoral races Alberta has seen since the late 1960s.