Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The New Challengers

Lewis Cardinal, Ryan Hastman hope to unseat incumbents in Edmonton

A fall election wasn't plan A for Lewis Cardinal. Far from it.

But if the NDP's candidate in Edmonton Centre has to fight an election against Conservative MP Lawrie Hawn in a few weeks' time, he's prepared to do it.

Cardinal would have much preferred to contest the election in the spring of 2010. But with Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff rattling the election sabre and no one willing to cross party lines to keep Canada's minority parliament going, it seems he'll need to be ready.

A 200-vote defeat in a 2007 Edmonton civic election hasn't deterred Cardinal. Even though he would have liked more time, he's been working hard on setting the stage for a victory in Edmonton Centre.

"I'm in for the long haul. This is what I want to do, I want to work at the federal level," said Cardinal.

"If we would have had a few more days, it would have been a different story," Cardinal said about his 2007 defeat. "We captured the imaginations of a lot of people."

But according to Grant MacEwan College political scientist Chaldeans Mensah, Cardinal may be hard-pressed to match Hawn's energy.

"The difficulty for Mr. Cardinal is that riding has an incumbent ... who's going to be difficult to defeat," Mensah explained. "By all accounts, Laurie Hawn is one of these candidates who will go to as many doors as possible, a very tireless campaigner."

Cardinal is certainly looking to replicate the success of Linda Duncan, who defeated Rahim Jaffer and averted the Conservative sweep of Alberta in 2008. But Duncan herself is far from a shoo-in to win.

"She's got the power of incumbency, (and) name recognition," Mensah said, but it may not be enough. "The Tories are going to throw everything at her just to get that seat back."

Duncan herself doesn't consider an election to be plan A -- but if there's going to be one, she's ready to contest it.

"I think people would like Parliament to work," Duncan recently said. "If the government won't co-operate, what are the alternatives?"

Duncan's Conservative challenger, Ryan Hastman, has already been working hard in the riding, and is carrying the Conservative nomination in the riding with confidence.

Like his competitors, Hastman doesn't consider an election to be the best option, but is simply concentrating on being ready.

"Most people are shocked that the opposition is talking about an election," Hastman mused. "Probably the No. 1 thing they ask me is, 'Are we really going to have another election?'"

Looking forward to the campaign, Hastman is expecting that strategic voting could be a factor. "I think that people have all sorts of reasons for voting. Obviously there was a bit of a strategic campaign," he said. "We don't worry too much about last time. ...Rahim still managed to get, I believe, 42 per cent of the vote."

Considering that Duncan's margin of victory was less than 500 votes despite the strategic vote in the riding, a Conservative party surge in the riding may deliver it back into their hands.

Ryan Hastman and Lewis Cardinal are both carrying the hopes of their parties into what very much looks like it will be a November 2008 election. Either can deliver on those hopes, but both will have to fight hard to accomplish that task.

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