A virtual Conservative stronghold, Calgary gets little love from leaders in election

Calgary is getting very little attention in this election campaign.

To date, the Green party's Elizabeth May is the only federal leader to visit Canada's fourth-largest city.

Alberta has historically been a Tory stronghold. In fact, the last time any one of the eight Calgary area ridings elected a non-Conservative/Reform MP was in 1968, when the 'Trudeaumania' frenzy swept across the country.

Conservatives see winning Calgary ridings as a "slam-dunk" while the NDP and Liberals don't think they have a chance. As a result, so-called 'Cowtown' is being ignored.

A Metro News column noted Harper, who is running in Calgary-Southwest, hasn't officially visited his riding during the campaign. The NDP's Jack Layton and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff haven't visited Calgary either and seem to have weak organizations on the ground.

The New Democrats are fielding two Edmontonians for seats in Calgary, a Post Media article stated.

Their candidate for Calgary-West, Shawna Knowles, says she's not even planning to campaign in her riding. In Calgary-NorthWest, the Liberals are running Cam Stewart, who moved out of the city three years ago and now lives 40-plus kilometres away in Bragg Creek.

Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, told Yahoo! Canada News the opposition parties have trouble recruiting candidates.

"There are some lazy (Conservative) campaigners," he said. "Opposition parties could take advantage of that, but few people are willing to run for the Liberals, Greens and NDP."

University of Calgary professor, David Stewart, told Yahoo! Canada News that while a visit from a party leader wouldn't necessarily influence outcomes, it would definitely make a positive statement and garner media attention.

Stewart also believes the opposition should take a page from the 'Nenshi' mayoral campaign of 2010.

Naheed Nenshi was a little-known, left-of-centre candidate who used social media and ethnic outreach strategies to woo young voters and immigrants to become mayor of what is often referred to as Canada's most conservative city.

Stewart says the lesson from that campaign is the "importance of expanding the electorate."

It seems, however, the NDP and Liberals have already made the decision to focus their efforts elsewhere. Stephen Harper is expected to visit his home riding on election day.

(Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae in Calgary: CP Photo)