What is currently happening in Calgary Center is nothing new, in fact we are simply witnessing a tried and true Conservative election tactic. Joan Crockatt is skipping debates, just like pretty much every Conservative candidate has in recent elections. Perhaps the only difference, FINALLY someone- namely the popular mayor of Calgary- has cried foul and drawn much needed attention to an issue which truly impacts our democratic process. The resulting controversy has morphed a sleepy by-election in the strongest of Conservative strongholds into a referendum on accountability and our political debate.
This by-election will have profound national implications. One could argue, even a close result could reset certain assumptions. But, an outright upset in fortress Calgary, would rewrite the Conservative political playbook, to the betterment of democracy. Should we see Crockatt lose or win by a whisker, the Conservatives will be forced to rethink the standard practice of having their candidates shun most debates, participating in the bare minimum, secure in the knowledge that the practice has little real impact on voting preference. If Crockatt wins handily, cynical Conservatives will fall back on the idea that controversy is inflated, social media kerfuffle doesn't equate to real world consequence.
Debates are a primary vehicle to put candidates through their paces, articulate their philosophy and see how they perform relative to their opponents. Having attended many of these local debates- particularly ones with specific focus- you realize the inherent substance, people are forced to go beyond platitudes and talking points, at least if they wish to be effective in swaying voters. Whether these debates have real impact- outside of mostly engaged voters who actually attend- is debatable, and herein lies the potential importance of the Calgary Center result. Voters there have the opportunity to reject a playbook which actually gives the finger to accountability, further computes relative apathy and assumes the process can be manipulated with little impact.
If Crockatt actually manages to blow Calgary Center, voters will have fundamentally altered what is acceptable and expected from our political candidates. Not only will Calgary Center voters do their riding a favour, but impact the entire democratic process in this country, in a way that is clearly positive, if you actually believe accountability SHOULD be a given.