Voters for the federal board of Calgary Heritage will go to the polls today to decide who will fill a seat previously held by Conservative MP Bob Benzen.
Benzen was first elected in 2017 in a by-election following the resignation of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Benzen resigned and vacated the position late last year, citing a desire to return to private business and family life.
Calgary Heritage has traditionally been a safe seat for the Conservative Party, having been taken by the Tories by comfortable margins each of the four times it has been contested since 2015, three times by Benzen and once by Harper.
The electoral district, formerly named Calgary Southwest, was established following federal electoral redistricting in 2012. However, the district occupies largely the same area as its predecessor, which Harper held from 2003 to 2015.
Calgary Southwest was also the headquarters of Preston Manning, who led the old Reform Party.
Still, political analysts and party officials will be keeping an eye on things like voter turnout, momentum, or changes in vote share, looking for trends or whether certain messages resonate with people.
Polls are open Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Early voting took place July 14-17, and the estimated number of voters who cast early ballots at the polls was 8,966, according to Elections Canada.
That number will be updated after the election once the results are verified.
Shuvaloy Majumdar is a longtime Conservative staffer who has worked at Harper & Associates, the consulting firm of former Prime Minister Harper, since 2016. Before that, he worked in foreign affairs in Harper’s government. He won the party’s nomination in March.
In several videos posted to his YouTube channel, Majumdar advocated for changes to Canada’s energy policies, admonished what he called a “wave of tyranny” in the country and vowed that his party would work to reduce the cost of living.
“I am running because I am inspired by our leadership, by Pierre Poilievre, a man I have known for 25 years,” Majumdar he said in a video.
A Majumdar spokesman said the candidate would not hold interviews until July 25.
Knocking on doors with common sense Conservative candidate Shuv Majumdar & our great team of volunteers at Calgary Heritage.
Workers & Seniors in my hometown are ready to eliminate the Trudeau tax.
Let’s take it home. pic.twitter.com/05yZP3xvwy
Elliot Weinstein, the federal candidate for the Liberal Party, suggested that his small business experience could draw undecided voters to his side.
Weinstein is the owner of a Calgary-based indoor beach recreation facility, The Beach YYC, and was previously a project manager at consultancy Golder Associates. He said the people he has spoken to at the door often raise concerns about affordable housing, health care and energy policy.
“We offer a positive vision, a positive candidate, someone who is not an expert, who has business experience and wants to be a positive new voice in government,” Weinstein said.
Federal NDP candidate Gurmit Bhachu has been an elementary school teacher for many years and is the communications chair for Calgary Public Teachers Association Local 38.
Bhachu said he was focused on the issues he was hearing on the doorstep, including affordability and inflation.
Although Calgary Heritage has long complied with the Conservative Party, Bhachu said he felt the NDP shared a perspective on voter issues he met while knocking on doors.
“Well, the challenge is culture, right? A lot of people here at Calgary Heritage vote conservative because that’s how their grandparents voted, that’s how their parents voted, that’s how they’re going to vote,” Bhachu said.
In addition to Majumdar, Weinstein, and Bhachum, other candidates in the riding include:
- Ravenmoon Crocker, Green Party of Canada.
- Dan Irving, Maverick Party.
- Kelly Lorencz, People’s Party of Canada.
- Larry Heather, Christian Heritage Party of Canada.
Earlier this year, four by-elections were held across Canada, with the Liberals and Conservatives holding two seats each. The four seats were considered safe districts for the parties that had held them, but still provided much to scrutinize despite the status quo being returned to the House of Commons.
Although Monday’s contest may seem like a dream, there are “tea leaves” to read, according to Lori Williams, a professor of political science at Mount Royal University in Calgary.
“It’s important to remember that this is Stephen Harper’s old drive. He has a long list of fairly high-profile conservatives who have represented her at the federal level,” he said.
“But it also overlaps with a riding, Calgary-Glenmore, which right now is represented at the provincial level by an NDP candidate, a very strong NDP candidate. [Nagwan Al-Guneid], which he won by a squeak, but nonetheless won in this riding. So there’s a lot of diversity here.”
Information on where to vote available here of Elections Canada.