OurWindsor with Melanee Thomas 17 September 2019
CALGARY—Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer brought echoes of Alberta’s provincial campaign to Calgary on Monday, promising “job No. 1” of a Conservative government would be repealing the federal carbon tax and vowing to scrap the contentious Bill C-69.
Scheer hosted a rally with the Conservative party’s Calgary Skyview candidate Jag Sahota as the second week of the federal campaign began. He underlined the message that a Conservative government would “champion” Canada’s resource sector, a message that the hundreds gathered in the northeast riding greeted enthusiastically.
The talking points were virtually identical to many of the lines Alberta Premier Jason Kenney used during his successful campaign to unseat former NDP premier Rachel Notley. Scheer directly compared Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s government to Alberta’s NDP, saying they had been “following the same playbook” by running deficits, raising taxes and “being embarrassed about our natural resource sector.”
“Canadians and Albertans deserve a government and a prime minister that is proud of our oil and gas sector,” Scheer said.
While the party leader is on solidly supportive political ground in Calgary, the Liberals won the riding where he was campaigning Monday by about 2,500 votes in 2015.
But the northeast seat has become a sore spot for the Liberals since. It’s currently held by Independent MP Darshan Kang, who resigned from the Liberal caucus in 2017 after being accused of sexual harassment. A House of Commons investigation later concluded that Kang violated Parliament’s harassment rules, and Kang apologized, but maintained his intentions and conduct were “proper and honourable.”
It’s unclear whether Kang is seeking re-election — recent media reports say he’s still undecided — but the Liberal candidate vying for the seat is Nirmala Naidoo. The NDP candidate is Gurinder Singh Gill, and the People’s Party of Canada is running Harry Dhillon.
Scheer repeatedly hit Trudeau for what he called a “scandal-plagued government,” starting off the speech by inviting the crowd to join him in the “good news” that the Liberal government would fall in less than six weeks.
Experts say Alberta isn’t typically a priority campaign stop for federal leaders, since the majority of the ridings are virtually guaranteed Conservative wins. But Scheer is the second federal leader to come to Alberta since last Wednesday’s election kickoff, following Trudeau’s Edmonton stop.
University of Calgary political scientist Melanee Thomas said it’s unusual to see Scheer coming to either of the Calgary ridings the Liberals took in 2015. (Liberal MP Kent Hehr also won Calgary Centre that year.)
Even though Kang won Calgary Skyview as a Liberal four years ago, she thinks the party will need “one hell of a local campaign” to take the seat again.
But the Conservatives have an interest in ensuring a solid win, Thomas added. She cautions against promoting the idea that voters made a “mistake” in the past, but a big Conservative victory in Calgary Skyview would help support the idea that the loss in 2015 was just a hiccup.
“The narrative exists that 2015 is a blip so that it really bolsters this idea that the natural governing party for Alberta is the Conservatives in whatever form,” Thomas said.
Questions have been raised about whether Kenney will give Scheer a hand on the federal campaign trail, but Kenney is travelling until Sept. 22, promoting investment in Alberta.
Melanee Thomas is a political science professor at the University of Calgary.