Joe Soares

Wherever are the Conservative Party of Canada’s Calgary Centre candidates?

Or, more to the point, whoever are they?

Nominations closed Thursday afternoon. According to a report published that day by the Calgary Herald, party officials indicated they expected their internal vetting process could take until this week to figure out who could officially join the race to replace former MP Lee Richardson, who quit in May to become principal Secretary to Alberta Premier Alison Redford.

Still, that long time frame was mainly fudge factor in case of complications, and party insiders had expected to know by now, after which the word would have leaked instantly to various sources in the blogosphere.

All we’re hearing, though, candidates and bloggers alike, is echoing silence.

The delay suggests some of the nomination papers filed are proving problematic.

Conventional wisdom at this point seems to be that there will be six candidates, listed here in alphabetical order:

–    Richard Billington

–    Joan Crockatt

–    Jon Lord

–    Greg McLean

–    Joe Soares

–    Stefan Spargo

Of those, it is said here, Billington, a lawyer and past riding insider, Crockatt, a former journalist and well-known conservative on-air personality, and Lord, a businessman and former municipal and provincial politician, all residents of Calgary, are serious contenders. All three continued selling party memberships on riding doorsteps while it mattered. (It doesn’t so much any more, because anyone who joined after last Friday won’t be able to vote.)

The others don’t sound all that serious to me, although Soares, who is said to live somewhere in Gatineau, Que., has entertainingly tried to define himself as the most Albertan candidate of all, at least in spirit, as well as the Conservative who hates Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair with the passion of a true right-wing Quebecker.

Soares (or someone) has obviously identified Crockatt as a frontrunner, devoting a page of his colourful website to attacking her for a mild criticism of Prime Minister Stephen Harper made seven years ago in a story about MP Belinda Stronach, who had not long before defected from the Conservatives to the Liberal government of prime minister Paul Martin. Oh well, just goes to show that in the digital age, information can be created, but it can never be destroyed…

Soares is repeatedly identified in the media as a former Quebec advisor to the Prime Minister’s Office, which must be true since nobody’s denied it. No one from his campaign, however, has responded to my queries about his role, whether he was paid for it, how long he advised the PM, what the nature of his advice was, and why he stopped providing it.

Spargo is best known for flying an Alberta flag over his Calgary house, and McLean, who is some species of investment advisor in Cowtown, was back in the day president of the federal Conservative youth wing.

Meanwhile, while everyone who is not a Conservative agrees it would be best if New Democrats, Liberals and Greens all supported a single candidate, that pretty clearly remains a political impossibility.

The Liberals are still holding with two approved candidates — conservationist Harvey Locke and teacher Rahim Sajan. Two others were considering running but decided not to, Liberal riding president Arthur McComish informed me last week. It was incorrectly reported here that they had not been given the green light by the party — whoops … sorry! The Liberal nomination vote is scheduled for Sept. 15.

The Greens too have a candidate, with Calgary author Chris Turner and communications consultant William Hamilton named as possibilities.

The only hope for any of the opposition parties would be to find a high-profile candidate that could appeal to supporters of the other two. It was speculated here that for the New Democrats that candidate might turn out to be former Alberta Liberal leader David Swann.

Alas, Swann, still sitting as an Alberta Liberal MLA for Calgary-Mountain View in the Alberta Legislature, appears to have scotched that suggestion, despite having turned up at a Calgary nursing picket line with a case of Orange Crush for the strikers.

This likely means that whoever wins the Conservative nomination some time during the last week of August is a shoo-in for the seat in the House of Commons, no matter how terrible a candidate that winner proves to be. Ah well, this is Alberta, after all.

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

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...