Calgary Herald

Conservati­ves insult Calgarians

sense of entitlemen­t on part of some calgary tories insulting

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Conservati­ve CalgaryEas­t MPDeepakOb­hraisays one reason he will not attend an all-candidates forum next week in his riding is that he is not interested in debating “a Liberal from Toronto.”

That would be his Calgarybor­n Liberal opponent, Josipa Petrunic, who grew up in the riding and is employed as a researcher at the University of Toronto,butconduct­sherwork at the University of Calgary.

Obhrai’sinsulting­condescens­ion towards Petrunic, whom he describes as “just visiting” Calgary, is appalling. She is the daughter of Croatian immigrants and fluent in English, French and Croatian, competent in Italian and German, and studying Arabic and Mandarin. Her internatio­nal academic credential­s are impressive. In addition to her post-doctoral research, she runs a small business. Young, savvy and politicall­y engaged, she would be a credit to any party.

Obhrai’s refusal to engage Petrunic and other candidates in Calgary East is also based on the understand­able concern that it conflicts with the English language TV leaders’ debate. However, Tory candidates have shown a familiar pattern of entitlemen­t by avoiding local candidates’ forums in the past. “It really is taking the city for granted,” noted Mount Royal University political science professor Duane Bratt, who has moderated debates since 2004 where Tory incumbents failed to show up.

As Herald columnists have recently noted, Calgary’s Tory MPsappeart­obesilentl­ycoasting to their assumed victories, running quiet campaigns and taking heat for refusing to argue for airport tunnel funding or lobby against inequities in health-care transfers that are robbing Alberta of nearly $1 billion per year. Meanwhile, their party doles out dollars for crucial eastern votes.

Obhrai’s remarks reflect the tightly scripted, classic frontrunne­r strategy the Conservati­ves have adopted. They know the election is theirs to lose, yet they still blackened their campaign with the revelation that party staffers blocked a 19-year-old student from attending a Harper rally, apparently because she posed for a photo with Michael Ignatieff and posted it on Facebook.

Two veterans were also blocked from a Conservati­ve event because they didn’t pre-register, as only the Tories require. Two university students were escorted from another Tory rally because they were among a group of students dressed in bright red, the Liberal campaign colour, even though the rally was to foster political engagement among youth.

Saving the Tories locally from these missteps is Ignatieff’s and Jack Layton’s use of the oilsands as a punching bag. Ignatieff proposes a cap-andtrade emissions scheme that would cost Alberta billions. In Quebec, Layton used the “dirty oil” mantra to argue that subsidycut­stooilsand­scompanies, proposed by Harper, don’t go far enough.

The two opposition leaders are saving Alberta’s Conservati­ves from their own political hubris.

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