All aboard the election train

The train wants to go apparently. Some Central Alberta federal election candidates are already on it, some have their tickets in hand, but some haven’t quite got to the wicket yet.

The train wants to go apparently. Some Central Alberta federal election candidates are already on it, some have their tickets in hand, but some haven’t quite got to the wicket yet.

This would be the train to Canada’s 42nd federal election, tracked so far for Oct. 19. When precisely the election call will come is Stephen Harper’s secret, although there are reports he will do so on Sunday — in the middle of the long weekend.

If the Oct. 19 date is the day, it would mean an 11-week campaign that would be one of the lengthiest campaigns in recent history.

The known Central Alberta federal election candidates and those who are seeking party nominations in newly defined ridings so far include:

Red Deer-Lacombe: Conservative Blaine Calkins (currently MP for Wetaskiwin riding); Jeff Rock — Liberals. The NDP have not set a nomination date yet, and so far Doug Hart and Katherine Swampy have declared they are seeking the nomination.

Red Deer-Mountain View: Conservative Earl Dreeshen (currently MP for Red Deer riding); James Walper — Libertarian. The NDP have not set a nomination date yet, but Evan Bedford and Dianne Macaulay so far are seeking the nomination.

Battle River-Crowfoot: Conservative Kevin Sorenson (currently MP for Crowfoot); Gary Kelly — Green.

Yellowhead: Jim Eglinski — Conservative MP (the riding has the same name but also has new boundaries); Cory Lystang — Libertarian; Ryan Maguhn — Liberal.

Red Deer MP Conservative Earl Dreeshen, 62, will be running in the new Red Deer-Mountain View riding.

Running for his third term, Dreeshen was in his riding on Thursday.

He said he wouldn’t speculate about when the election will be called, but he has been out in the new riding meeting people and doing some door knocking.

“We do have a campaign team struck and they are preparing all aspects of what we anticipate we would have to do once the writ is dropped.”

Dreeshen, who has made a number of federal funding announcements in the past week, said the government has provided $60 million in funding during the current term.

“When it gets closer to an election, of course people are going to look differently at it, but the reality is that our government has been supporting our communities constantly throughout the entire time. I can’t really say much more than that.”

Dreeshen doesn’t see a long campaign as a problem. “In the summer we get out and speak with people … it’s always part of what you do in the summer. We will continue along that same vein.”

He said he’s always been busy in the summer so an election campaign won’t be a problem.

“We’ve had people saying there’s going to be an election call six months ago too, so if you listen to everything you hear, it drives you crazy.”

On Sunday, Dreeshen will be at a family reunion in Saskatchewan.

Jeff Rock, 31, who will be the Liberal candidate in the new Red Deer-Lacombe riding, was in British Columbia on Thursday enjoying a brief holiday before an anticipated election call and an intense couple of months.

“We’ve had some warning calls. … We knew it would be a very early and long election period,” said Rock.

An early election call is “completely intentional. To create as little media splash as possible. … If you were to think of the entire year, what is the day that is going to get the least media attention, ever? The middle of summer. The long weekend. It’s pretty ridiculous. But it is what it is.”

A full-time United Church minister in Red Deer, Rock said a campaign of more than a month is a real challenge.

“No one can afford to take a 75-day leave of absence unless you’re a sitting MP or someone who is independently wealthy. … They are doing everything they can do to stack the cards in their favour. I don’t necessarily blame them but I don’t think it’s very gentlemanly.”

“I think they’re banking everything on the national campaign and not the local campaigns, and we’re banking everything on the local campaign in Red Deer-Lacombe.”

Rock was nominated on Jan. 11, and a lot of preparation work has been done, he said. “We’re ready to go anytime.”

He said he has found a lot of undecided voters during recent door knocking.

Stephen Merredew, reached in Waterton on vacation, is president of the Red Deer — Mountain View NDP constituency.

The nomination date for a candidate has not been set yet.

All an early call does is move up the official start of the campaign period, he said. Strategically a long campaign period means more work for the candidates and volunteers.

“We’re not too concerned about not having a candidate on Day 1, especially if we have over two months.”

They could call the nomination date within 14 days if there is an imminent election call, but normally it would be a 30-day period, Merredew said.

At this point they could be setting it by early next week, although he is inclined to lean toward the 30 days, he said.

“We have a lot off stuff locked and loaded. We wouldn’t be flying with nothing for very long. … August will be a good month for us to build steam.”

Merredew, who was also actively involved in the recent provincial election, said people are happy with the way things turned out provincially and he believes voters are looking for change at the federal level.

Attempts to contact several other Central Alberta candidates in time for this article were not successful.