Several Calgary Centre candidates hint at improprieties
By Christopher Walsh
The crowd has narrowed for the Conservative nomination in the Calgary Centre riding, a crowd that will be in for a tight race, leading up to a by-election later this year.
The nomination vote is expected to take place sometime around the end of August and could include six contenders.
Presumed front-runners are former Tory MLA and failed mayoral candidate Jon Lord and media mouthpiece and former Calgary Herald editor Joan Crockett, for whom the party waived the usual six month limit Conservative Party of Canada membership.
Whispers from various camps circulated earlier this week that the party was favouring Crockatt by cutting off membership sales on Friday, a date that would put the nomination vote in August instead of the later date this year that a number of candidates were expecting. That would have provided more time for the candidates to sell memberships.
“The change in the timing of the nomination date placed considerable stress on our campaign plan,” said withdrawn Calgary Centre nomination candidate Jordan Katz in a statement. “Unfortunately, we were not able to fully implement that plan in the greatly reduced timeline.”
Although the number of memberships handed in this week from the candidates is not known, Lord’s team says they will continue to campaign party members to switch sides.
“We expect to win despite all the odds against us,” said Lord’s campaign strategist Craig Chandler. “When we get a hold of the list, we will be calling people up and converting them over to Jon. So far, they’ve been exposed to one candidate and … now they’re going to be exposed to another – somebody who’s not a Red Tory. The party wants to choose somebody who’s a real conservative.”
Other Calgary Centre nomination candidates include Calgary venture capitalist and equity fund manager Greg MacLean, Calgary lawyer and national party policy committee member Rick Billington, riding executive and businessman Stefan Spargo and Gatineau, Quebec native Joe Soares, a former adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office who may or may not live in the riding.
Soares’ website promises a fight against NDP Leader Thomas Mulclair and states that Joe is too busy campaigning to talk to the media.
Rick Billington, who announced his intent to run last week, already has the support of former MP Harvie Andre and former Conservative Party president Don Plett. Billington says senior party members approached him about running a couple of weeks ago because of his experience with the party and as a litigator.
“They came to me and drafted me,” he said.
He refused to speculate on why the party would do that with so many other candidates announcing their intentions.
“They were looking for another candidate,” Billington said. “They felt they wanted a candidate that brought something else into the picture. That’s why they came to me.”
Local businessman Stefan Spargo, who worked with former MP Lee Richardson in the riding, says he’s the more centrist candidate out of the pack.
“That’s who I am. I like to take the best of the right and the best of the left and I think that’s where most people live their lives anyway,” he said. “People like that I’m the youngest in the campaign, that I’m energetic and I don’t have anyone pulling my strings.
“I’m not extremist in any sense.”
Joan Crockatt’s camp did not return repeated requests for an interview. The Conservative Party of Canada also ignored repeated requests for information.
Calgary Alderman John Mar dropped out of the race last month.
An official list of nominated candidates is expected next week, after an internal vetting process. The by-election is expected to be called this fall.