CALGARY — There’s more to the Calgary Stampede than a rodeo, cowboy hats and horses — it’s also a major opportunity for politicians.
Regardless of their political stripe, they ride into the city looking to lasso partisan support in the form of votes.
The 10-day festival celebrating the cowboy way of life has attracted all federal leaders, who often take on the persona of duelling gunslingers looking for votes in a game of political one-upmanship.
Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been a regular visitor to the Stampede, as have the leaders of the federal Conservatives, NDP and Green Party.
Most of the attention this year will be on the federal Conservative party leadership race, with all five remaining candidates attending a local party barbecue Saturday evening as well as many provincial politicians looking to replace Alberta Premier Jason Kenney as leader of the province’s United Conservative Party.
“It isn’t just Conservatives that do this. I think somehow it evolved,” said Lori Williams, a political science professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University.
“There was enough media attention and enough people coming from outside of Calgary that it became a magnet for leaders across the country to come and engage in sort of feel-good political connections that would be seen by people across the country.”
She said there’s some “star power” associated with the Stampede too.
“Seeing someone they have viewed online or on television and they want to sort of see and connect — and that’s a great opportunity for politicians, because sometimes those connections can change hearts and minds.”
The federal Conservatives are scheduled to elect a new leader in September.
Interim leader Candice Bergen was scheduled to address the crowd at the Conservative barbecue, as well as leadership candidates Pierre Poilievre, Jean Charest, Leslyn Lewis, Scott Aitchison and Roman Baber.
“It’s an opportunity for politicians to be in more of a relaxed and different setting, looking a bit different, engaging in different activities, a bit of a friendlier, more positive vibe to things,” Williams said.
Former Calgary Conservative MP Joan Crockatt said politicians get a chance to see a lot of people during the Stampede, which makes it very efficient.
“I think what people have kind of come to expect from the Stampede is that there’s going to be some star quality, you get to wear your rhinestones and your cowboy hat and your cowboy boots,” said Crockatt, who represented Calgary Centre from 2012 to 2015.
“That’s a way more fun way to meet a politician than events or going door knocking.”
The Stampede runs through July 17.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 9, 2022.
Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
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OTTAWA — When three Conservative leadership hopefuls met this past week for a debate, the same word kept getting repeated.
Unity. Or more precisely, the need for it.
In a contest largely seen as a battle for the party’s soul, which has put decades-old fissures on display between groups that make up its very coalition, what might it take to achieve unity after results are revealed Sept. 10?
As that question lingers, many in the party and beyond are preparing for a scenario in which Pierre Poilievre takes victory.
Much of that thinking is based on the longtime MP’s popularity with the existing grassroots, coupled with his ability to draw big crowds and sell what his campaign claims to have been more than 300,000 memberships.
But after winning comes the challenge of leading.
“Somebody has to give some thought to the morning after,” said Garry Keller, former chief of staff to Rona Ambrose, who served as the party’s interim leader after it lost government in 2015.
Of the 118 other members in caucus, a whopping 62 endorsed Poilievre. That’s compared to the party’s 2020 leadership race when the caucus was more evenly split between Peter MacKay and the eventual winner, Erin O’Toole.
O’Toole’s inability to manage caucus after losing the 2021 election to the Liberals ultimately led to his downfall. He was forced out by a vote from his MPs under provisions in the Reform Act, measures which will remain in place for the next leader.
Poilievre has said his campaign message of “freedom” serves as a great unifier among Conservatives. However, Keller said if some in caucus are taking that to mean they will be able to say whatever they want on social media, they shouldn’t.
“I think people will be solely disabused of that notion.”
Poilievre and his supporters have throughout the race been accused of sowing disunity in the party by instigating personal attacks against rivals, namely ex-Quebec premier Jean Charest.
Most recently, MPs endorsing Poilievre — along with Scott Aitchison, a rural Ontario representative and fellow leadership competitor — have called into question whether Charest, who has spent the past 20 years out of federal politics, plans to stick around the party after the race is over.
Longtime British Columbia MP Ed Fast, a co-chair on Charest’s campaign, tweeted “the purity tests must stop” and cautioned party members that when Conservatives are divided, Liberals win.
Fast himself resigned from his role as finance critic after criticizing Poilievre’s vow to fire the Bank of Canada governor, which ruffled some feathers inside caucus.
“It’s a sad situation that Jean Charest, a patriot and champion of Canadian unity, continues to have his loyalty questioned by party members looking to stoke division,” said Michelle Coates Mather, a spokeswoman for his campaign.
“What’s the endgame here exactly? Lose the next federal election by alienating Conservative members who support Charest? Seems a poor strategy for a party looking to expand their base and win a federal election.”
While Poilievre enjoys the majority support of the party’s caucus, most of the party’s 10 Quebec MPs are backing Charest, opening the question of what happens next if he is not successful.
Asked recently about that possibility, MP Alain Rayes, who is organizing on Charest’s campaign, expressed confidence in the former Quebec premier’s chances, saying the party doesn’t need “American-style divisive politics.”
“I’m deeply convinced that our members will make the right choice,” he said in a statement.
The group Centre Ice Conservatives, a centre-right advocacy group formed during the leadership race, contends the party has room to grow if it leaves the fringes and concentrates on issues that matter in the mainstream.
Director Michael Stuart says both Charest and Poilievre have policies that speak to the centrists, and what they’re hearing from supporters of their group is a desire for more focus on “dinner table issues,” such as economic growth and jobs.
“There’s a lot of distraction with noise around vaccines and the convoy and those sorts of things.”
Not only did Poilievre support the “Freedom Convoy,” he used his message of “freedom” to campaign on the anger and frustration people felt because of government-imposed COVID-19 rules, like vaccine and mask mandates.
How he will handle social conservatives also remains an open question.
Poilievre has pledged no government led by him would introduce or pass legislation restricting abortion access.
Jack Fonseca, director of political operations for the anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition, said many of those who strongly oppose vaccine mandates also share values with social conservatives.
“They are largely pro-freedom, pro-family, and yes, even pro-life and pro-faith,” he said.
Social conservatives have traditionally been a well-mobilized part of the party’s base during leadership contests and helped deliver wins for O’Toole and former leader Andrew Scheer, who is now helping Poilievre in the race.
While Fonseca and other anti-abortion groups are encouraging members to pick social conservative candidate Leslyn Lewis as their first choice, he said the “freedom conservatives” Poilievre recruited will expect results.
That includes giving Lewis a critic role, he said.
“He will be forced to face that reality and to deliver policy commitments to the freedom conservatives and social conservatives that are his base.”
“If it doesn’t, the peril is you become a flip-flopper like Erin O’Toole,” he said, referring to walk-backs the former leader made on promises after winning the leadership.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 7, 2022.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
Former B.C. solicitor-general Rich Coleman is returning to politics – Terrace Standard
Two years after he retired, former B.C. Solicitor-General Rich Coleman is returning to politics, this time at the municipal level, with the “Elevate Langley Voters Association” civic party in the Township of Langley, according to an Elections B.C. register of elector organizations.
The register lists former Langley East MLA Coleman as the “authorized principal official” for the party.
While he has registered a civic party, whether Coleman will be running in the Oct. 15 election himself remains to be seen.
In a response to a Langley Advance Times query on Saturday, Aug. 6, Coleman confirmed he has been approached about running for mayor, but hasn’t decided yet.
“A lot of people have been on me to run for mayor,” Coleman told the Langley Advance Times.
“I’m seriously considering it.”
Coleman said he registered the Elevate Langley party when he did, because the Election B.C. deadline to register elector organizations for the pending municipal elections was Aug. 2, and he wanted to provide a vehicle for some potential Township candidates he has been mentoring.
“I’ve got some young folks who want to run,” Coleman said.
In the Elections B.C. register entry, Elevate Langley listed a contact phone number that turned out to be the office number for current Langley East MLA Megan Dykeman, who said she has no involvement with the party, calling it “absolutely an error.”
Coleman said he would check into it.
In 2018, Coleman was considering a run for Surrey mayor, but decided against it.
Coleman spent 24 years in provincial politics before he retired in 2020, including four years as provincial Solicitor-General.
Langley Township councillors Eric Woodward and Blair Whitmarsh have also announced mayoralty bids. So has former councillor Michelle Sparrow.
Elections B.C.’s register of civic parties listed Woodward as the principal official for the “Contract with Langley Association” party, which, the filing indicates, will be fielding candidates for council and school board.
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