Longtime Tory seat up for grabs in byelection

Voters in Calgary will decide today whether a provincial riding that has been Tory blue for four decades will be changing colours.

CALGARY — Voters in Calgary will decide today whether a provincial riding that has been Tory blue for four decades will be changing colours.

Calgary-Glenmore has been held by the governing Progressive Conservatives since the late 1960s. A byelection was called when former deputy premier Ron Stevens resigned prior to his appointment as an Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench justice.

The Tory candidate, former Calgary alderman Diane Colley-Urquhart, has boasted of her deep Conservative roots.

She is president of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Calgary-Southwest constituency association and also worked for Stevens as a volunteer.

The Opposition Alberta Liberals chose practising psychiatrist Avalon Roberts to represent them. Roberts, who challenged Stevens in the last two provincial elections, has served as the president of the Alberta Psychiatric Association and as provincial chairwoman for the Friends of Medicare.

Calgary-based political scientist Keith Brownsey says the riding will probably stay Tory blue, but bubbling discontent over the Alberta government’s handling of the economic crisis could lead to an upset.

Brownsey noted that although the seat has remained Tory for some time, it is not a particular stronghold.

Some of the past margins of victory over Liberal challengers have been fairly slim.

He also pointed out that there is some discontent in Calgary with Alberta’s rapid fall from boom to bust, but it’s not clear if that will translate to changes at the ballot box.

“I don’t think there’s much there to indicate that the Conservatives will lose.”

Paul Hinman, former leader of the Wildrose Alliance, represents his party.

Social Credit Leader Len Skowronski is also running in the byelection, while Eric Carpendale, a journeyman electrician and Habitat for Humanity volunteer, represents the NDP.

In the 2008 provincial election, Stevens took 51 per cent of the vote and Roberts took 33 per cent.

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach has visited Calgary several times in the last month to attend rallies with Colley-Urquhart.

Stevens’s departure left the Conservatives with 71 of Alberta’s 83 seats.

The Liberals have nine members and the New Democrats hold two seats.

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