Going into the by-election in Calgary-Centre, Liberal Party supporters repeatedly crowed that poll numbers for their candidate, Harvey Locke, were within the margin of error.
The problem for them, as it turned out, was that the NDP was the margin of error.
In polls taken on November 20, polling company Report on Insight suggested that support in the riding was as follows: Joan Crockatt (Conservative Party) 37%, Harvey Locke (Liberal Party) 32%, Chris Turner (Green Party) 17%, and Dan Meades (NDP) 12%. The poll had a margin of error of 4.8%. Polls taken closer to the election date found the candidates even closer than that.
According to Elections Canada preliminary results, here’s how the election actually turned out: Crockatt (CPC) 36.9%, Locke (LPC) 32.7%, Turner (GPC) 25.6%, and Meades (NDP) 3.8%.
In other words, the Conservatives and Liberals wound up pretty much where they were supposed to be. Meanwhile, a whopping 8% of NDP support migrated to the Green Party. With the Green Party and the NDP running nearly neck-and-neck into the late hours of the Victoria by-election, this has become something of a theme in these three by-elections.
It seems like bad news for the NDP, doesn’t it?
Dan Meades kicked off his campaign by insisting that Calgarians didn’t want to talk about NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and his bizarre ramblings on so-called “Dutch Disease” in Canada: the idea that Western Canadian energy exports drive up the value of Canada’s dollar and hurt Eastern Canadian manufacturing.
Meades later attempted to seize upon perceived internecine divisions between Progressive Conservative and Wildrose Alliance supporters within CPC ranks by questioning how Calgary-Centre voters could rely on Crockatt. “When you say you’ll do whatever Stephen Harper asks, how can we trust anything you say?” Meades asked.
And therein lay the rub. It turns out that the candidate voters in Calgary-Centre didn’t trust was Dan Meades. And with a federal leader attempting to single out Alberta’s success as the Albatross of the Canadian economy (in the words of Malcom Reynolds, Mulcair seems to have forgotten that an Albatross was a ship’s good luck until some fool killed it) is it any wonder that Meades was the least favoured candidate even among progressive voters?
In the end, it should have the NDP very worried about the Green Party. After all, with 79% voter certainty and only 21% voter uncertainty in the November 20 poll, it seems that Meades should have done no worse than 9.6%. Instead his votes didn’t crack even half of that.
Something that Green Party candidates did or said in these by-election campaigns — especially in Calgary-Centre — managed to bring a whopping 69% of certain NDP voters over to the Green side of the ledger.
It certainly doesn’t bode well for any hopes Thomas Mulcair and the NDP may have had to make gains in Alberta. And it should make them worry very much about their prospects federally. After a future federal election there may wind up being a good deal more Green Party MPs, and fewer NDP MPs.
It’s bad enough for the NDP that they were basically the margin of error in Calgary-Centre. If they keep on the way Thomas Mulcair has, they could be the margin of error across the country.