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'Crowdsourcing our confidence'? Don’t bet on 1CalgaryCentre, whoever is behind it, having much impact

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Brian Singh

"Crowdsourcing our confidence" will get a progressive candidate elected in Calgary Centre? Just asking…

A few days ago a website appeared called 1CalgaryCentre.ca that asks voters in the central Calgary federal riding where there will soon be a by-election to take part in an "innovative and evolutionary approach to democracy."

The by-election, whenever Prime Minister Stephen Harper gets around to calling it, is widely expected to be a coronation of Conservative nominee Joan Crockatt, the former journalist and right-wing commentator who is anything but progressive. Crockatt beat five other candidates on Aug. 24 for the federal Conservative nomination to replace department MP Lee Richardson, who quit in May to become Alberta Premier Alison Redford's principal secretary.

The goal of 1CalgaryCentre.ca, according to the man behind the website, is to select and then elect a progressive Member of Parliament for the riding, thereby changing the face of Calgary.

Well, so far, so good, but progressive voters -- and especially those progressive voters who support the New Democratic Party -- have good reasons to be suspicious of this effort, which is almost certain to end up with the endorsement of a non-New Democrat candidate as the "progressive choice" for Calgary Centre.

1CalgaryCentre.ca is saturated with the vague, feel-good rhetoric of several recent political efforts of varying success associated with the mooshy middle of Alberta politics -- Re-Boot Alberta, the failed Alberta Party that grew out of the Re-Boot and Renew Alberta conferences, and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi's successful 2010 campaign.

From this it would be reasonable to assume the same group of people involved in all those efforts may have something to do with this one. However, that's quite hard to say for sure after talking with Brian Singh, the Calgary pollster whose company Zinc Research was associated with the Nenshi campaign and whose name is one of only two that actually appears on the website. (The other name belongs to the guy who developed the website, which makes sense because the site is pretty good.)

For his part, Singh isn't saying who, other than himself, is involved in 1CalgaryCentre, other than to promise that, eventually, more will be revealed. (If you think this sounds a lot like the pre-election Alberta Party policy dance of the thousand veils, you'd be right.)

Singh sees himself, I have been told, as something of a political provocateur and social media guru, so it's possible he’s doing this to be provocative and generate some media coverage.

"I know it sounds cryptic," he told me, somewhat apologetically, "but as they come forward we'll be putting them up on the website." Whoever they are, he added, there are is core of about eight people currently involved in this effort at this point, but there has been input from many more, including supporters of all political parties.

Other than that, though, we are on our own for the time being -- although there is plenty of speculation about who these people may be among the politically obsessed.

It's safe to state categorically, for starters, that this effort has nothing to do with the Democratic Renewal Project, Athabasca University history professor Alvin Finkel's longstanding campaign to get progressive Albertans to vote strategically against this province's conservative juggernaut.

And it's also reasonably safe to conclude that not much will come from it, since, Singh's wide circle of friends notwithstanding, no one in any of the major political parties likely to run a candidate seems very interested in 1CalgaryCentre.ca.

From the New Democrat and Green perspectives in particular, I think it’s safe to conclude that whomever those parties nominate, their candidates will not be the choice of the participants in the 1CalgaryCentre process, whatever it may be and whoever they may be.

It is predicted here that 1CalgaryCentre will ultimately endorse someone with ties to Alberta Party/federal Liberal/Nenshi campaign circles -- say, Calgary lawyer Chima Nkemdirim, Mayor Nenshi's chief of staff and still a potential Liberal contender despite his best efforts to avoid that fate, or former Alberta Liberal/Independent/Alberta Party MLA Dave Taylor.

Beyond that, at least as things appear from here, it seems quite unlikely 1CalgaryCentre will have much impact at all on the outcome of the Calgary Centre by-election.

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

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