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Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae talks to reporters while campaigning in Calgary on April 11, 2011. (Bill Graveland/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae talks to reporters while campaigning in Calgary on April 11, 2011. (Bill Graveland/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Tory to the core, Calgary gets little attention from party leaders Add to ...

The election campaign is into its third week and there have been more tumbleweeds rolling through the streets of the Conservative bastion of Calgary than federal leaders.

The city has been a Tory stronghold for decades, no matter what the political climate. The same can be said for Alberta as a whole, with only a few exceptions.

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In the 2008 vote, the Conservatives took 27 of the province's 28 available seats. Edmonton-Strathcona went to New Democrat Linda Duncan.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Jack Layton both made stops in the Alberta capital early in the campaign for the May 2 election. But no leader, including Mr. Harper, who represents Calgary Southwest, has visited the southern Alberta city so far.

Even Conservative candidates in Calgary have been fanning out to campaign in key ridings elsewhere.

The biggest name to drop into the city thus far has been Bob Rae, foreign affairs critic for the Liberals, who showed up Monday to campaign with a local candidate. He said Leader Michael Ignatieff intends to stop in Calgary at some point.

"I know that Mr. Ignatieff wants to come here and I know it's something that we are working on his schedule to make sure he does get here," Mr. Rae said. "The most important point is we're here. I'm here now.

"We're working hard. We're campaigning on the issues and happy to talk about those issues with Albertans any time. We take them very seriously and this is a very critical part of the country for all of us."

Mr. Rae said the Liberals are running a 308-seat campaign - a candidate for every riding in the country - and even if Albertans don't see that much of Mr. Ignatieff, there will be "senior leadership of the party" dropping in on an ongoing basis until election day.

A political scientist at the University of Calgary said there's no real surprise here. "Elections for Albertans are essentially spectator sports," said David Stewart. "It's normal for leaders to make at least a token appearance in the province, but really the parties want to expend their leader resources where there are chances of them making a difference. To some degree we've brought it on ourselves by the solidarity that we've elected nothing but Conservatives."

Prof. Stewart said there's also nothing unusual about shipping Conservatives from safe Alberta seats to areas where their efforts can make a difference.

"There's not a lot of incentive for the Conservatives to put their resources in here, since it's likely they'll win no matter what happens," he said. "If those MPs can make a difference in close ridings, then it makes sense for them to be there."

Prof. Stewart predicted there will probably be at least a token visit by both Mr. Harper and Mr. Ignatieff to Calgary prior to election day. Since Calgary is Canada's fourth-largest city, it would "look a bit bad" if they didn't stop by at least once, he suggested.

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