For the first time since 1993, a large number of federal seats in Alberta are up for grabs. Polling suggests that support in the province for the federal Conservatives has decreased by more than 15 percentage points since the previous election. These Conservative polling woes closely follow the shock NDP provincial win in May. The results of the most recent Globe Election Forecast, as well as some riding-specific factors, show four Alberta constituencies look most likely to change hands in October.
History and context might suggest that Calgary Centre should be a safe Conservative seat. The home to many oil and gas corporate headquarters, this riding has been solely the domain of various flavours of conservative parties since its creation in 1968. The possibility of change has only recently become apparent. In a 2012 by-election, Conservative Joan Crockatt won with 37 per cent of the vote against two strong left-of-centre candidates, who split 59 per cent of the vote between them.
If the riding is to finally change hands, it would likely be to Liberal candidate Kent Hehr. He recently stepped down as the MLA for the downtown riding of Calgary-Buffalo after serving two terms, and was a popular local figure and vigorous campaigner. The riding's recently changed boundaries will help the Liberal cause, with the constituency losing some of the more conservative areas to the west of downtown, while picking up more left-leaning areas east of the core.
In the past few federal and provincial election cycles, Lethbridge's electorate has become notably less conservative. In the 2011 federal vote, the Conservatives held the seat with new candidate Jim Hillyer, but lost 10 percentage points of their vote share. The New Democrats picked up all of that, winning 27 per cent in the riding.
Similarly, in the recent provincial election, the New Democrats won 48 per cent and 60 per cent of the vote for Lethbridge's two provincial seats, after a close race in one of them in 2012.
The riding will be a tough fight between the NDP and the Conservatives, who are running a brand new candidate yet again, as Mr. Hillyer, the incumbent MP, is running in a neighbouring riding.
This newly created riding in the city's airport area takes up much of what used to be called Calgary Northeast. That riding was most recently an aberration in the national context: The Liberal candidate performed seven percentage points better in 2011 than the party's candidate in 2008. This was very much against the nationwide pattern, with the Liberals turning in their worst performance ever.
Causing difficulty for Conservative incumbent Devinder Shory will be the Liberal candidate, recently retired two-term MLA Darshan Kang. In 2008, Mr. Kang was able to wrestle control of his Northeast Calgary provincial seat from the incumbent Progressive Conservative. In his first provincial run in 2004, Mr. Kang lost by six percentage points; when he won four years later, he was narrowly victorious, winning by just one percentage point. It is easy to imagine a similarly close race between Mr. Kang and Mr. Shory in a few months.
Edmonton Mill Woods
While many of the capital's constituencies will be competitive, one of the more interesting races will be in Edmonton Mill Woods. Here, the Liberals are presenting a strong candidate, current Edmonton City Councillor Amarjeet Sohi. Mr. Sohi is challenging the Minister of State (Multiculturalism), Tim Uppal. While the Conservatives swept all but one of the city's federal ridings in 2011, the defeat of every Progressive Conservative incumbent in the May provincial election will give the city's non-Conservatives hope for electoral gains.