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Rising Tory interest in St. Albert-Edmonton nomination could set stage for something different!

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Ryan Hastman

ST. ALBERT, Alberta

There's a new candidate in the race for the Conservative Party of Canada's nomination in the St. Albert-Edmonton riding: Ryan Hastman, who carried the Conservative banner in the last federal election in Edmonton-Strathcona.

This isn't quite official, but it's official enough, seeing as business cards were being circulated at last weekend's federal Conservative convention in Calgary saying "Ryan Hastman for St. Albert-Edmonton" on one side, and "Coming on November 20 @RyanHastman" on the other.

So it's presumably pretty safe to take it from this verifiable factoid, which was noticed by the Globe and Mail although only reported behind its You-Must-Pay Wall, that something official is going to be announced on Twitter on Nov. 20 and that it'll be that Hastman intends to throw his hat in the ring to represent the riding for the Harper Tories.

Hastman, 34, joins Michael Cooper, 29, in seeking the Conservative nomination in the riding -- which confusingly is still legally known as Edmonton-St. Albert, but is due for a change in nominal polarity, if not political philosophy, momentarily.

The need for a Tory candidate for the expected 2015 election was created by the still-not-fully-explained decision of the current office holder, now-Independent MP Brent Rathgeber, to quit the Harper Caucus.

As is well known, Rathgeber created a huge brouhaha when he unexpectedly Tweeted out his intention to sit as an Independent last June.

He said at the time he was motivated by the lack of transparency in the Harper government, which we all agree is a real enough phenomenon. Nevertheless, certain cynical commentators suspect he was as much motivated because his fellow Conservatives fiddled with his private member's bill to force disclosure of more CBC and government salaries than his prime minister obviously wanted to talk about just then.

Regardless, Rathgeber was much lauded for his stand at the time by the national media and has since become a regular commentator about whatever it is Harper is up to at the moment a TV producer calls the MP's cell phone.

So my current theory is that, notwithstanding the recent announcement he intends to run again in St. Albert-Edmonton as an Independent, Rathgeber is really angling for a permanent job as a political commentator -- possibly on the CBC.

Well, whatever, lest we forget, this post is supposed to be about Hastman, so let's get back to him.

Actually, biographical material about Hastman is a little thin on the ground at the moment, although presumably that will be remedied by the 20th. All it says in his official biography is that he attended the University of Alberta, graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce in 2002, played a role in a local web development company and spent three years in Ottawa "working for the federal government."

Just in case you wondered, Hastman's federal roles were all of the political variety. He worked as a legislative assistant to the MP for Peace River, then did special assistant and like duties for the public safety minister and the prime minister. He currently works in an administrative job for the University of Alberta.

Hastman has a wife and two young sons, and they all live together in Edmonton. But like Cooper, he has roots in St. Albert -- having lived here in the past and being a third-generation member of a local evangelical church.

Unlike Cooper, it must be said here, Hastman doesn't seem to be a "Conservative activist," at least in the sense that the phrase usually means a market fundamentalist loon. I'd place Hastman more in the middle of the Tory pack, ideologically speaking, which would certainly make him more helpful to ordinary people living in the riding -- although I recognize my saying this here probably constitutes the kiss of death!

Since for as long as anyone can remember, a Conservative victory in the area has been pretty much a foregone conclusion, the Tory nomination is a bone worth fighting over, and it's therefore quite possible there will be more candidates yet.

For his part, Rathgeber wants you to believe the Conservative candidate can be defeated. "There is a real groundswell of support for what I did," he told the reporter from the Globe's super-exclusive behind-the-paywall club. "There’s going to be intense media interest, I suspect, and that's going to help the Independent incumbent get his message out that democracy is not working."

However, I have an even better idea! Why not elect a candidate with a political philosophy that's actually committed to democracy and Canadian values? You know, like a New Democrat!

Which brings us to a final interesting coincidence about Hastman and Rathgeber: both of them have been defeated recently by New Democrats!

You have to live here in Alberta to fully understand why that last sentence rates an exclamation point.

Rathgeber achieved this rare accomplishment first, when he was knocked off in the 2004 provincial election by New Democrat David Eggen in the nearby Edmonton-Calder electoral district.

Hastman accomplished the same thing in 2011 federal election, when he was handily beaten in Edmonton-Strathcona by New Democrat Linda Duncan, despite a river of subsidized mail, manpower and money poured into the riding by the Tories to eliminate of the annoying Orange dot on Alberta's electoral map.

So it's said here that if a New Democrat at once beats both Hastman and Rathgeber, each for a second time, in 2015, it'll be one for the Guinness Book of World Records!

If you can think of a good NDP candidate for the riding, don't hesitate to drop me a line.

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

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