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federal election 2015

Calgary Centre Liberal candidate Kent Hehr participates in the 2015 Calgary Gay Pride Parade on Sunday.Chris Bolin/The Globe and Mail

On Monday night, the Liberal candidate in Calgary Centre, Kent Hehr, was going door-knocking with provincial MLA Sandra Jansen. They know each other because both sat in the Alberta legislature. But they weren't on the same side. Ms. Jansen is a Progressive Conservative.

There have always been centrists in the provincial PCs, but four years ago, it might have seemed unthinkable for a provincial Tory to endorse anyone but a federal Conservative.

"Even six months ago," said Mount Royal University political science professor Duane Bratt.

Things have changed. Alberta's stolid politics have been unglued in spots, including Calgary, the capital of Harper conservatism.

There's no Orange Chinook like the one that swept Rachel Notley's NDP into the provincial legislature in May. Outside of Edmonton and Calgary, the Conservatives appear headed for the usual sweep. But the NDP is vying to add Edmonton seats to the one it holds, and in Calgary, Prof. Bratt said, the Liberals have a shot at picking up two or three.

One change is that considering another party is now normal, Mr. Hehr argued. People considering taking a Liberal lawn sign used to wonder what neighbours would think, he said, but not now. "The election of the NDP opened up a lot of people's minds," he said at his Calgary office.

Of course, the federal election isn't the provincial vote. There was pent-up desire to boot the provincial PCs after 44 years, and, Prof. Bratt said, voters in places like Lethbridge were choosing between the NDP and the Wildrose Party to the PC's right. There's only one conservative party in this election.

And the cities are different. Edmonton has always leaned a little more left. Urban Calgary has changed.

People have poured into Alberta, more than 80,000 a year before the oil-price collapse. Most came from provinces and countries that weren't solidly conservative, and many go to cities. They're more multicultural and often young. In 2010, Calgarians elected a centre-left mayor, Naheed Nenshi.

In this election, Conservatives face a fight in three Calgary ridings, where the Liberals have strong candidates, and the NDP was slow to get going, Prof. Bratt said.

In Calgary Skyview, a multicultural riding in the northeast, former Liberal MLA Darshan Kang is trying to unseat Conservative MP Devinder Shory.

In Calgary Centre, which includes the downtown core, Mr. Hehr is trying to oust Tory MP Joan Crockatt. It's the riding then-Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark won in 2000 by wooing Liberal and NDP voters to team up against the Canadian Alliance. It's the first stop for many immigrants coming to Calgary. The riding's voters are "progressive," Mr. Hehr said, but also concerned about the oil-and-gas industry.

Across the river, in the northern half of central Calgary, Liberals think they're in luck. The new Calgary Confederation riding doesn't have many of the solidly Conservative suburban neighbourhoods that were in the north of the old Calgary Centre-North riding. Calgary Confederation has upscale professionals near the Bow River and less affluent, more multicultural neighbourhoods to the northeast. And Calgary Centre-North's incumbent, Conservative minister Michelle Rempel, a party star, chose to run in the safer riding to the north, leaving Calgary Confederation more vulnerable.

Lawyer Matt Grant, 32, appears to be mounting a challenge for the Liberals, headquartered in a leaky former bar on Centre Street North. A Mainstreet Technologies poll two weeks ago had him running neck and neck with Conservative Len Webber – fuelled by support from young voters in a riding with three college campuses.

The catch is young people aren't as likely to vote. "They did in the provincial election," Mr. Grant insisted. "They voted for Nenshi." At any rate, his young volunteers knock on doors: they've tallied 19,000 conversations with voters, who, Mr. Grant said, talk about the soft economy, and change.

That leaves Mr. Webber, the Conservative, warning against change, targeting seniors and paycheque-earners. Many now worry about the NDP government they elected, the former PC MLA said: "I see a lot of remorse at the doors." His warning, like Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's, is it's risky to change government in a fragile economy. Whether that argument works or not, what's new is that it could go either way.