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Calgary Centre Grits hope to benefit from Justin Trudeau's reflected glow

With the federal Liberals suddenly looking as if they have a little momentum courtesy of the media's incipient relapse of Trudeaumania, perhaps there's the vaguest possibility of a horserace in the eventual Calgary Centre by-election.

At any rate, the Liberals have a respectable Calgary Centre candidate in the person of conservationist and lawyer Harvey Locke, who may not have the highest profile around but at least can reflect some of the glow of media ardour for Justin Trudeau as he passed through Cowtown just before announcing his own grab for the brass ring.

Trudeau's high-profile Liberal Party leadership bid, in turn, has boosted his once-flagging Liberals' popularity into and beyond the territory occupied by the NDP, at least according to poll results published yesterday by the National Post.

The Greens also have a reasonably appealing Calgary Centre candidate in author Chris Turner, who writes about sustainability issues.

Alert readers will be aware that all of this matters because Prime Minister Stephen Harper must soon call a by-election in the downtown Calgary riding where his Conservative Party of Canada in late August chose as its standard bearer market-fundamentalist on-air talking head Joan Crockatt.

Alas, while the New Democrats are finally getting around to trying to nominate a local candidate after a few higher-profile names declined their party's proffered parachutes, it's hard to see how the likes of Brent Macklinson, Scott Payne or Matthew McMillan can use the contest to do much to raise the profile of Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair in the West.

Well, maybe the NDP have stirred the entrails and written Calgary Centre off, which wouldn't be unreasonable given the habits of that city's voters. Or maybe a bigger name is still waiting in the wings.

The riding was vacated back in May by former Conservative MP Lee Richardson, who had a reputation as a slightly pinkish Tory. Richardson went to work as Alberta Premier Alison Redford's principal secretary, a position for which a meaningful job description seems to be lacking. A by-election must be called by Nov. 18 if the vote is to take place before Christmas.

Why this has been taking Harper so long is a mystery to everyone, since in the normal course of events the Conservative candidate in a Calgary riding, Crockatt, should be a shoo-in. The longer the PM waits, the greater the chances Crockatt will slip her foot into her mouth, creating opportunities for her opponents.

Which brings us back to the matter of the suddenly lustrous Trudeau -- who is certain to adopt the standard and frequently effective Liberal practice of flashing left while preparing to turn right. Stating this axiom this is all very well, but it would be a terrible mistake -- as former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney suggested not so long ago -- to underestimate Trudeau.

The main knock against the Liberal leadership contender seems to be that he lacks legislative experience. But legislative experience is a commodity may in fact be the kiss of death for anyone campaigning nowadays on a claim they can reinvent politics -- which is very likely exactly why Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae decided to pull the plug on his own ambitions.

From an Alberta perspective, anyone inclined to laugh off the 2012 beneficiary of the Trudeaumania phenomenon would do well to remember two other politicians with limited legislative experience -- Alison Redford and Naheed Nenshi. The former is now the premier of Alberta and the latter the mayor of Calgary after each ran just the kind of "transformative" campaign Trudeau is bound to try.

Getting back to Calgary Centre, perhaps His Nibs the prime minister continues to temporize in hopes the Supreme Court will rule in his favour on the case of Etobicoke Centre and he'll only have to call three by-elections.

In Etobicoke Centre, the Conservative MP is appealing a ruling of an Ontario court that his election day victory is null and void because of campaign shenanigans. The court, like the prime minister, is taking its time. Two additional vacant ridings, one in Ontario and the other in B.C., also await by-election calls.

Meanwhile, back in Cowtown, it is said the word has gone out to the city's many Conservative MPs (and that would be all of them) that they are to behave themselves and campaign for Crockatt.

Calgary East MP Deepak Obrai obediently went door knocking with Crockatt last week, and other Calgary MPs can be expected to join her as their marching orders come through.

Harper, however, may want to make an exception of his neighbour, Calgary West MP Rob Anders, and demand instead that Anders stay home.

It's not that Anders doesn't support Crockatt -- au contraire, he shares her enthusiasm for the sort of nutty neoconservative economic nostrums that are apparently still popular in Calgary. It's just that, well, he is known to be Canada's Most Embarrassing MP, and it's entirely possible that he would not be a particular asset to Crockatt's election bid.

Then again, no matter what you may have read about the supposed sophistication of the downtown riding, it is in Calgary, and we all know what Calgary always does at election time.

With or without Anders' participation, it sounds as if Calgary Centre should brace for a Christmas by-election.

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