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Hurricane Isaac makes landfall in New Orleans; Hurricane Joan hits Calgary

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Joan Crockatt

At the risk of going all Old Testament on readers, when Hurricane Isaac slammed into New Orleans last night, it could be taken as a warning to North Americans on both sides of the 49th Parallel that You-Know-Who doesn't want us electing any more far-right governments on this continent.

If this warning from on high is ignored, well, you've got to know what happens next, as surely as Lamentations follows Jeremiah or, more significantly, J follows I: Hurricane Joan.

Speaking of whom, while your blogger was enjoying a well-deserved vacation in the Storm-toss'd States of America, a microscopic minority of Conservative voters in Calgary Centre were behaving entirely as predicted and picking right-wing commentator Joan Crockatt as their standard bearer in the upcoming by-election to replace former MP Lee Richardson.

Crockatt, who must be thought of hereinafter as Hurricane Joan, was once a competitive figure skater and later managing editor of the Calgary Herald. She was quite capable of spinning like a tropical storm in either role, although she was in a position to do considerably more damage in the latter during the late Nineties and early Zeros. There, Hurricane Joan's fierce determination to change stories in the final moments before deadline earned her the bitter sobriquet "drive-by editor" from her frustrated underlings, one of whom now writes this blog.

God only knows what might happen if the citizens of Calgary Centre ignore His hints and, as seems likely, march on to elect the tempestuous Crockatt to the House of Commons, where she is certain to be welcomed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a sympathetic neo-conservative, if not quite a social conservative in the Old Testament mold nowadays preferred in Ottawa. (She has stated she is in favour of gay marriage and pro-choice. Her economic views, however, are very hard edged.)

But with each moment that passes without a high-profile candidate capable of appealing to voters in this perpetually conservative riding being named by either of the principal opposition parties, the less likely it seems that anyone can successfully challenge Crockatt.

This is not necessarily because she is a terrific candidate, although she will surely campaign with characteristic energy, but because this is a riding in which non-Conservative candidates start the race with a significant handicap, no matter how much they outshine the anointed local Tory.

Yet so far there is little but silence from the New Democratic Official Opposition and only a couple of decent but uninspiring local candidates put forward by the Liberals. There’s no sign of someone like Dave Bronconnier, former Liberal mayor of Calgary, Chima Nkemdirim, chief of staff to the current one, Olympian Mark Tewksbury, or such well regarded former NDP Calgary aldermen as Bob Hawkseworth of Joe Ceci. Former provincial Liberal leader David Swann, touted here as a possible NDP candidate, has said, Nope, not me.

Much is made of the fact that Richardson, who quit as MP last May to serve as Alberta Premier Alison Redford's principal secretary, had a reputation as a Red Tory, as did former Prime Minister Joe Clark, who also once served as the riding’s MP. What’s more, a lot of people there are known to live in apartment buildings and talk on cellular telephones. But really, people, don't forget that both the previous incumbents were conservatives nonetheless and too much can be made of progressive tendencies among an otherwise disengaged electorate.

Much is also made of the divisions among social conservatives, old-time Conservatives, neo-conservatives, Wildrose conservatives, and pinkishly Progressive Conservatives in the Calgary Centre nomination race, but it is also likely that most of these sub-species of conservative will heed Crockatt's plea for Tory unity.

So anyone who is going to get out there and defeat Hurricane Joan needs to have started spinning themselves, like, yesterday! Oh well, we live in hope. There’s nothing more optimistic than an Alberta New Democrat, unless it's an Alberta New Democrat who lives in Calgary. You need to be hardy to survive in this political climate!

And it is true, the numbers that nominated Crockatt were pathetically small -- fewer than half the 1,956 eligible Conservative Party members managed to show up on Aug. 25 to vote!

It was really all over by the first ballot, in which Ms. Crockatt received about 350 votes to 225 for stock salesman Greg McLean, who had Richardson's endorsement, 111 for former provincial politician Jon Lord, 90 for lawyer Richard Billington, about 50 for "Calgary Joe" Soares of Gatineau, Que., occupation not clearly defined, and 30 for Stefan Spargo, whose occupation escapes me at the moment but who was well known for flying an Alberta flag over his house.

Crockatt raised her vote by about 100 on the second ballot, although it took two more ballots for her to get the 51 per cent she required. According to the Calgary Herald, Crockatt had 445 votes on the fourth and final ballot, compared with 283 for McLean and 119 for Lord. The party has neither published nor confirmed the results.

Meanwhile, according to last night's news reports, power cuts have been reported across low-lying parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, affecting more than 200,000 homes and business. U.S. President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has declared an emergency in Louisiana and Mississippi, allowing federal funds to flow to local authorities.

Thus endeth the lesson.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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