Ev­ery vote will count in this too-close-to-call elec­tion, ex­perts say

Metro Canada (Calgary) - - FRONT PAGE - He­len pike Metro | Calgary

With this elec­tion’s cast of can­di­dates bat­tling it out for votes, Metro turned to ex­perts ahead of Mon­day’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion to help you make sense of the past month. It’s been a blur. While a Calgary Flames arena or scin­til­lat­ing scan­dals about can­di­dates’ pasts and cur­rent trans­gres­sions may seem a dis­trac­tion from the task ahead: Elect­ing 15 faces around one coun­cil cham­ber table to run Cow­town through this tough eco­nomic time.

But in re­al­ity, what read­ers have seen over the past four weeks (or more), is just a re­flec- tion of a high stakes, tight race — or so the ex­perts tell us.

“Come Mon­day you’re go­ing to see a very dif­fer­ent look­ing city coun­cil,” said Mount Royal Univer­sity po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Duane Bratt.

“At the may­oral level you don’t nor­mally see a ma­jor bat­tle against an in­cum­bent mayor.” And a bat­tle it is. As Jack Lu­cas, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at the Univer­sity of Calgary, puts it, this elec­tion has fol­lowed an over­whelm­ing turn of events. At the be­gin­ning, he and oth­ers thought it was go­ing to be a typ­i­cal civic elec­tion.

As the weeks pro­gressed, sud­denly the race had mor­phed into any­thing but.

“You would have one or two se­ri­ous chal­lengers to Na­heed Nen­shi, but prob­a­bly not a par­tic­u­larly com­pet­i­tive may­oral race. You had a num­ber of open ward races that would be in­ter­est­ing,” said Lu­cas. “I think that was the gen­eral idea, and that wasn’t that long ago. And so be­tween that first de­bate and the last one ... it re­ally sort of felt like the stakes were high.”

Bratt said this is just a taste of things to come in the provin­cial elec­tion.

“All you have to do is look at Brian Ma­son’s in­ter­ven­tion on the LRT and the full sup­port of con­ser­va­tives,” said Bratt.

“Vol­un­teers, ac­tivists, donors, even some old can­di­dates, in not just the Smith cam­paign, but many of the ward cam­paigns as well ... they’re not in power in Ottawa or Ed­mon­ton with time on their hands.”

As for is­sues and pol­icy, Lori Wil­liams, as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor of Pol­icy Stud­ies at MRU, said this elec­tion’s can­di­dates are com­ing up thin, es­pe­cially when look­ing at Smith’s cam­paign.

“We’ve seen a sim­i­lar cam­paign con­ducted by Ja­son Ken­ney where he’s say­ing he’s go­ing to lis­ten to the grass­roots,” said Wil­liams.

“Cal­gar­i­ans should look at as much in­for­ma­tion as they can for them­selves on each of the can­di­dates.”

But Bratt said that’s the de­sign of Bill Smith’s cam­paign. He said where Nen­shi is bound to suc­ceed is in a head-to-head pol­icy dis­cus­sion. He’s a self­pro­claimed pol­icy wonk, An­dre Chabot as well, and from where Smith stood his strong­est at­tack was on char­ac­ter.

“It was a care­fully crafted strat­egy to get un­der Na­heed’s skin,” said Bratt. “The Nen­shi team, I think were caught off-guard by this.”

And vot­ers don’t of­ten vote strictly on pol­icy, Bratt said.

As the days have pro­gressed, vot­ers are get­ting a hint of pol­icy talks about the Green Line, the SW BRT, fight­ing taxes, weath­er­ing the eco­nomic storm and sell­ing Calgary, and as Lu­cas pointed out a time-hog­ging arena de­bate that may have taken at­ten­tion away from other is­sues like the Olympics.

“This was not an elec­tion where there were no is­sues to talk about,” Lu­cas said. “Most is­sues have come up a bit in the end, some of them more than oth­ers.”

Wil­liams pointed out that in these fi­nal days that ap­proach could bite Smith, who’s now facing sto­ries about his own past trans­gres­sions and char­ac­ter.

“Bill Smith has not pro­vided much in­for­ma­tion in terms of ex­pe­ri­ence, his ex­per­tise, his char­ac­ter and in­deed even his policies,” said Wil­liams. “There’s noth­ing to off­set the lat­est ... ques­tions on his pro­fes­sion­al­ism. He took a gam­ble.”

One thing our ex­perts agree on is that in this race, es­pe­cially, ev­ery vote counts on Oct. 16.

“I re­ally do think that this is a com­pet­i­tive may­oral race and that these blowout polls on ei­ther side are prob­a­bly over­stat­ing the lead,” Lu­cas said. “Ev­ery vote is go­ing to count in this thing.”


calgary may­oral can­di­date Bill Smith speaks at a town hall­style fo­rum on aug. 28.

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