Battleground: Tories want Edmonton-Strathcona back
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper talks with Conservative candidate for Edmonton - Strathcona Ryan Hastman (right) and other parents during a roundtable in Beaumont, Alta., Monday, March 28, 2011. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Judy Embleton, Special to CTV.ca
Published Wednesday, April 20, 2011 8:03AM EDT
Described by one constituent as a blob of orange in a sea of Tory blue, Edmonton-Strathcona boasts the sole non-Tory seat of Alberta's 28 ridings. Stephen Harper wants to repaint the province solidly blue.
Second-time NDP candidate, Linda Duncan, first ran in 2004 against high-profile incumbent Conservative, Rahim Jaffer, husband of former Conservative junior cabinet minister, Helena Guergis. Two years later, Duncan, an environmental lawyer, bested him by only 463 votes, dashing Tory hopes for a sweep of the province. The race was so close that Jaffer prematurely gave a victory speech.
In the last federal election, to avoid splitting the vote and handing the riding back to the Conservatives, a grassroots "Liberals for Linda" campaign emerged in Edmonton-Strathcona to support Duncan. In 2006, Anne McLellan, then the Liberal deputy prime minister, had lost her nearby seat and Edmonton-Strathcona became the next best hope among "anyone but the Conservatives" voters for winning another non-Tory riding.
This year, with the Liberal candidate not expected to win, Duncan was in a tight race against her Conservative opponent, Ryan Hastman, a new candidate and founder of a successful interactive web development company. His campaign took an early stumble when it came to light that Sebastien Togneri, a former Tory aide being investigated by the RCMP, was spotted working on Hastman's team. At a news conference, Harper said of Togneri, "He volunteered for a campaign. My understanding is that he is no longer volunteering on that campaign." But the damage may already have been done in this battleground riding.
Hastman, in a news release, recently lashed out at his New Democrat opponent, saying her party would like to end the oilsands development that is so vital to the region. He was refuting a recent statement by Duncan that she and her party had no intention to shut down the oilsands.
"This is simply not true," Hastman said in his release. "When Jack Layton unveiled the NDP platform in Montreal, he called for a moratorium on oil sands development. This is a clear commitment to shut down oilsands development, which would cost jobs and damage our economy."
The Liberal contender in Edmonton-Strathcona is 20-year-old Matthew Sinclair, a political science student at Grant MacEwan University in the riding. It is his first election race.
Another youth candidate, Andrew Fehr, was nominated by the Green Party to carry their banner. He moved to Edmonton from the Northwest Territories in 2008 to complete his bachelor of science degree at the University of Alberta.
Christopher White has thrown his hat in the ring as an independent candidate. While studying anthropology at the University of Alberta, he organized "Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament," a Facebook-based movement in response to the Conservatives' controversial 2009 decision to shut down the House of Commons.
Edmonton-Strathcona stretches along the North Saskatchewan River, is urban in its centre and suburban on its outskirts. The diverse riding boasts the University of Alberta and 10 other post-secondary institutions and includes the city's arts district. The area along Whyte Avenue has been described as a left-leaning enclave in Canada's Conservative heartland. Many voters in the riding depend on the province's oil and gas industry.
Issues include jobs, the environment and arts funding.