The federal constituency of Calgary Centre may be a conservative place historically but that doesn’t mean the majority there favours the Conservative party, says the leader of an online campaign in the Nov. 26 byelection in the riding.
Brian Singh, the creator of 1CalgaryCentre.com, says that the result of the vote shows that change is coming to the inner city riding, and his group was part of helping make that change happen in the byelection.
“The whole idea of party-branding is wired into our culture,” said Singh in an interview after the election, which saw Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt win a narrow victory over candidates from the Liberal, Green and New Democratic parties.
“The purpose of our citizen-based initiative was to get people to see that there are other parties out there besides the Conservative party.”
Calgary Centre has been a Conservative stronghold since 1968, but 1CalgaryCentre is looking to change that. 1CalgaryCentre.com is a website and social media-based, privately founded and run project that sought to diversify voter options in the riding. Their vision was, “to have a progressive candidate in Calgary Centre who represents our unique identity and our political diversity.”
Singh said that this project was born out of frustration at the dominance of Calgary Centre by one party.
“We are frustrated with the party system,” said Singh.
“We want to be able to deal with our frustration and shift the focus away from the parties that have always had a hold on Calgary Centre.”
Despite the Conservative victory in the byelection, Singh said that he believes that his 1CalgaryCentre project helped to whittle away at the Tory support. Crockatt’s narrow 1,167-vote margin over Harvey Locke Liberals was in sharp contrast to past results in the inner city riding. In the 2011 general election, then Conservative candidate Lee Richardson won the riding by 20,000 votes.
The third-place Greens were just 4,000 votes behind the victor.
“I think that we contributed significantly in driving down the Conservative vote to where it was,” said Singh.
“On the success side, this turned out to be a great media channel for non-conservative voters.”
Duane Bratt, the chair for Political Science at Mount Royal University, thinks that 1CalgaryCentre did have a measurable impact on the result.
“They were successful, in at least, raising the issue of finding a progressive, non-conservative candidate for Calgary Centre,” said Bratt.
“But in the last byelection, there was significant vote-splitting in the Liberals and the Greens. So, from that point of view, 1CalgaryCentre was a failure because they did not unite the left as they had hoped to.”
Bratt said that although 1CalgaryCentre had an impact he suspects that it is “really a front for the Green Party.”
“In the south selection poll that they had, they had the Greens at the top of the list, stating their approval of 1CalgaryCentre,” he said.
Bratt said that if citizen projects like 1CalgaryCentre want to have a major impact on the conservative vote then it needs a much longer lead time ahead of the election to give people time to really ponder their political options.
“They (1CalgaryCentre) shouldn’t have waited so long before mobilizing, they should have been out there much earlier advertising their message,” he said.
1CalgaryCentre was launched on Aug. 26 of this year, and based most its message and mobilization from its Facebook page, which registered 832 “likes.”