As Calgary Stampede returns, politicians hope to lasso support in Alberta
The Calgary Stampede is more than a rodeo, cowboy hats and horses — it’s also a major opportunity for politicians.
Regardless of their political allegiance, they travel to the city in search of partisan support to lasso in the form of votes.
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The 10-day festival celebrating the cowboy way of life has drawn all federal leaders, who often take on the persona of dueling gunmen seeking votes in a game of political one-upmanship.
Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a regular visitor to the Stampede, as are the leaders of the federal Conservatives, NDP and Green Party.
The main focus this year will be on the federal Conservative Party leadership race, with the five remaining candidates attending a local party barbecue on Saturday night as well as numerous provincial politicians seeking to replace Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, leader of the province’s United Conservative Party.
“It’s not just conservatives who do this. I think it evolved one way or another,” said Lori Williams, a professor of political science at Mount Royal University in Calgary.
“There was enough media attention and enough people coming from outside Calgary that it became a magnet for leaders across the country to come and engage in some sort of feel-good political relationship that would be seen by people across the country. »
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She said there’s also « star power » associated with the Stampede.
« To see someone they’ve seen online or on TV that they kind of want to see and connect with – and that’s a great opportunity for politicians because sometimes those connections can change hearts and spirits. »
The federal Conservatives are due to elect a new leader in September.
Interim leader Candice Bergen was due to address the crowd at the Tory barbecue, along with leadership candidates Pierre Poilievre, Jean Charest, Leslyn Lewis, Scott Aitchison and Roman Baber.
« It’s an opportunity for politicians to be in a more relaxed and different setting, to look a little different, to engage in different activities, to have a little friendlier and more positive vibe. « Williams said.
Former Calgary Conservative MP Joan Crockatt said politicians get to see a lot of people during the Stampede, which makes it very effective.
« I think what people expect from the Stampede is that there will be a star quality, you can wear your rhinestones, your cowboy hat and your cowboy boots, » Crockatt said, who represented Calgary Center from 2012 to 2015.
« It’s a much more fun way to meet a politician than attending events or going door-to-door. »
The Stampede runs until July 17.
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