Monday, June 30, 2014

June 30 Federal by-election profiles: Macleod

Location in Alberta
Federal by-elections will be held in four ridings today: two in Ontario (Scarborough—Agincourt and Trinity—Spadina) and two in Alberta (Fort McMurray—Athabasca and Macleod). I have been doing profiles of each of the four ridings in the run-up to by-election day. Today I will be profiling Macleod.

Macleod is a rural riding located in the southwestern part of Alberta. It contains many small towns south of Calgary, and includes a number of the city's western and southern exurbs. The riding is one of the safest seats in the country for the Conservatives – it was their fourth best seat in the 2011 election. The riding has been vacant since last November, when its Member of Parliament, Ted Menzies, a junior cabinet minister, resigned to become a lobbyist. Menzies, a farmer from Claresholm, has represented the riding since 2004.


Macleod is a fairly large riding, located in the foothills of southern Alberta. It runs from a line roughly following the Bow River in the north, to Waterton Lakes National Park in the south. The western boundary is the provincial border with British Columbia. In the southeast, the border follows the Old Man and St. Mary Rivers, while its northeastern boundary wraps around Vulcan County. In the north, the riding follows the Calgary city limits as they were in the last redistribution in 2003. Since then, the City of Calgary has annexed some territory in its south and west, which means Macleod also covers a small part of the city of Calgary. While Macleod is mostly a rural riding, much of its population lives in exurban Calgary communities on the city's west and south sides.

The riding's largest city is Okotoks (actually still incorporated as a town), which is a fast growing exurb south of Calgary. Other Calgary exurbs in the riding include the towns of Turner Valley, Black Diamond and High River. Also, a small part of the Town of Cochrane is in the riding (an area that has been annexed since the last redistribution). Other major communities in the riding include Vulcan, Claresholm, Crowsnest Pass, Pincher Creek, and the riding's namesake, Fort Macleod (which was originally named Macleod). The riding also includes a number of large Indian Reserves, including the largest reseve in Canada (by area), Blood 148. It is also the second most populous Indian Reserve in the country. Other reseves include Peigan 146, Siksika 146, Eden Valley 216 and Tsuu T'ina 145.

The riding includes a number of protected areas, mostly along the western boundary with British Columbia, in the Rocky Mountains. The largest of these protected areas is the Elbow-Sheep Wildland in Kananaskis. Other major protected areas include the Don Getty Wildland, the Bluerock Wildland and the Bob Creek Wildland. Outside of these protected areas, most of the land in the riding is covered by Agricultural lands, including many cattle ranches.


Macleod is mostly White (84%), but has a sizable (12%) Aboriginal population. Most of the Aboriginal population in the riding is Blackfoot, but there are also Sarcee and Stoney populations as well. The only Sarcee Reserve (Tsuu T'ina Nation) in Canada is in Macleod. Christianity is the religion of two-thirds (67%) of the riding. One third of Christians in the riding are Catholics, while one in six Christians belong to the United Church. 6% of the riding is Anglican. The largest non Christian religion is Traditional Aboriginal spirituality, at 2%. 29% of the riding is irreligious. The riding is one of the poorest in the province, but considering Alberta's wealth, it is not among the poorest in the country. Its median individual income is $33,000 while it's median household income is $77,000.

Owing to Calgary's growing exurban communities, Macleod is seeing a large population increase. It grew 15% between the last two censuses, which is above the Alberta average of 11%. Half of all homes in the riding have been built since 1991. Construction is the largest industry in the riding, at 10% of the labour force. 

Most common language after English by municipality (or Census Tract)
88% of the riding has English as its mother tongue. The next largest mother tongue is German at just 4%. Blackfoot is the mother tongue of 2% of the population. German is the largest non-English language in most of the riding, especially in rural areas. There is an especially large German concentration in Cardston County (40%) and Vulcan County (31%). The Villages of Carmangay (36%) and Arrowwood (30%), which are surrounded by Vulcan County also have large German populations. French is the largest non-English language in a number of municipalities as well, especially areas along the BC-border in the Rockies. The largest French population in the riding is in Kananaskis, where 8% of residents have it as a mother tongue. Blackfoot is the main non-English language on the three Blackfoot reserves in the riding: the Blood Tribe, the Piikani (Peigan) Nation and the Siksika Nation. Stoney is the largest language (55%) on the Eden Valley Reserve while Sarcee is the largest native tongue in the Tsuu T'ina Nation.


The most recent iteration of Macleod was created for the 1988 election out of Bow River and Lethbridge ridings. The only close-ish race since then was 1988, when the up-start Reform Party gave businessman Ken Hughes a run for his money. Hughes, a Progressive Conservative won with 51% of the vote, to Reform's Ken Copithorne who won 31%. It was Reform's third best riding in the country in an election where they won no seats. In 1993, when Reform became a mainstream party, its candidate was Grant Hill, a doctor, who defeated Hughes in a landslide – by over 17,000 votes. Hill won again in 1997 and in 2000 (for the Canadian Alliance), increasing his popular vote total in each election. In all three of his electoral victories, the Progressive Conservatives finished a distant second.

In 2004, Hill did not run again. The newly merged Conservative Party ran Ted Menzies, who won a massive three-quarters of the vote. He won the seat over Liberal candidate Chris Shade by over 27,000 votes. Menzies slightly increased his share of the vote in 2006, defeating Liberal Bernie Kennedy by nearly 33,000 votes. In 2008, Menzies increased his share of the vote once again, winning 77.4%. The next best candidate was from the Green Party this time, Jared McCollum who won 9%, over 31,000 votes behind Menzies. In 2011, Menzies increased his vote share for his third straight election, winning 77.5%. This time the NDP finished second place. Menzies defeated their candidate, Janine Giles by nearly 35,000 votes.

Macleod is a very, very, very safe Conservative seat. Opposition parties are lucky to break even 10% here. All three opposition parties have had their chance at second place. Since 1988, the best showing for the Liberals was in 1993 when they won 16%. Their worst showing was in 2011 when they won less than 4% of the vote. For the NDP, their best showing was in 2011 when they won 10%, and their worst was in 1993 when they won less than 2%. The Greens had their best showing in 2008 when they finished in 2nd place with 9%.

Members of Parliament

Alberta (Provisional District)

Before Alberta became a province in 1905, it was the District of Alberta in the Northwest Territories. It was represented by one MP.

- D.W. Davis, Cons. (1887-1896)
- F. Oliver, Liberal (1896-1904)


For the 1904 election, the southern part of the District of Alberta was divided into two ridings: Calgary and Alberta. The border between the two ridings would run between Vulcan and Nanton. Calgary was the northern of these two ridings, containing not only the City of Calgary, but also Vulcan, Okotoks, High River, Black Diamond and Turner Valley. Nanton, Stavely, Claresholm, Pincher Creek and Fort Macleod would be in the Alberta riding.

- M.S. McCarthy, Cons. (1904-1908)


The first iteration of Macleod was carved from the southwestern corner of the Calgary riding and the western half of the riding of Alberta. The riding covered a similar territory as today. It ran from Calgary in the north up to Lethbridge in the east. In 1914, its eastern boundary was shifted, lobbing the Vulcan area off, removing it from the riding. In 1924 the boundaries were only altered slightly, and in 1933 the Vulcan area rejoined the riding at the expense of Okotoks, Black Diamond and Turner Valley which were removed. In 1952, the northern boundary was shifted back northwards to include these communities again.

- Jn. Herron, Lib.-Cons. (1908-1911)
- D. Warnock, Liberal (1911-1917)
- H.M. Shaw, Unionist (1917-1921)
- G.G. Coote, Prog. (1921-1926); U.F.A. (1926-1935)
- E.G. Hansell, Soc. Cred. (1935-1958)
- L.E. Kindt, Prog. Cons. (1958-1968)


In the 1966 redistribution, the western half of Macleod was transferred to the riding of Rocky Mountain, while the rest of the riding was mostly redistributed between Crowfoot and Lethbridge. Rocky Mountain was a huge riding running from the US border in the south along the western border with BC northward, almost as far as Grande Prairie. Black Diamond and Turner Valley would be redistributed into Rocky Mountain. The Okotoks, Nanton, High River, Vulcan, Stavely and Claresholm areas would be redistributed into Crowfoot (which extended as far eastward as the Saskatchewan border). The Fort Macleod and Pincher Creek areas were redistributed into Lethbridge.

- J.H. Horner, Prog. Cons. (1968-1979)

Bow River

In the 1976 redistribution, Crowfoot's western boundary was shifted far to the east, excluding almost all of what is now in Macleod. The Fort Macleod and Pincher Creek areas joined the riding of Lethbridge—Foothills. Everything else in what is now Macleod could be found in the new riding of Bow River, which encircled the City of Calgary, and also included Banff National Park and Drumheller.

- G.E. Taylor, Prog. Cons. (1979-1988)


Macleod was re-created for the 1988 election. It covered much of the same territory as the previous Macleod riding. Its boundaries did not change much between then and now.

- K.G. Hughes, Prog. Cons. (1988-1993)
- Grant Hill, Reform (1993-2000); Cdn. Alliance (2000-2003); Prog. Cons. (2003-2004); Cons. (2004)
- T. Menzies, Cons. (2004-2013)


The next election will see Macleod disappear once again. 86% of the riding will be redistributed into the new riding of Foothills. In turn, almost all of Foothills will be carved solely from Macleod. The remaining 14% of Macleod will be redistributed into other ridings. Vulcan County and the Siksika Nation will be removed, joining the new riding of Bow River. Some exurban Calgary communities south of Cochrane will join the riding of Branff—Ardrie, the Blood Tribe will join the riding of Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, while the newly annexed portions of Calgary will join Calgary Midnapore and Calgary Signal Hill.

Removing the Blood Tribe and the Siksika Nation is the main reason why the new riding of Foothills will be ever so slightly more Conservative than Macleod. The changes also make Foothills less NDP and Liberal friendly.

Political geography

Results of the 2011 election by polling division

Despite the fact that the Conservatives typically win every poll in the riding, there is a large degree of polarization in the riding. White areas vote heavily Conservative, while areas with a large First Nations population do not (at least nowhere close to the same degree). In 2011, there were 13 polls where the Conservatives won less than 38% of the vote, while in all the rest of the polls, the Conservatives won at least 60%. In not one single poll did they win anything between 38% and 60%. Of those 13 polls where the Conservatives won less than 38%, just one was not a First Nations community, Kananaskis. Kananaskis is a resort village in the Rocky Mountains in the northwest corner of the riding.

In 2011, the only opposition party to win any polls was the NDP. The NDP won 10 polls, all on Indian Reserves. In 2008, when the Greens finished 2nd, they won one poll: Kananaskis. The NDP won 12 polls and once again, they were all on reserves. In 2004 and 2006 it was the Liberals that benefited from the First Nations vote, as every single opposition poll was a Liberal poll on an Indian Reserve. In 2000, both the Liberals and NDP won Indian Reserve polls, and in 1997 the Progressive Conservatives also won some Indian Reserve polls. Provincially, the Progressive Conservatives also do well in Indian Reserves, due to strategic voting against the right wing Wild Rose Party, which is very popular in this part of the province.

2011 election results by regions, towns and Indian reserves of the riding

For the Conservatives, they seem to do the best in areas with large German populations. In 2011, their best region in the riding was Cardston County where they won 87% of the vote. This is followed by Vulcan County where they won 86%. Both of these regions have large German populations. Their weakest region was the Blood Tribe, where they won 13%. The NDP's best region was the Blood Tribe, where they won 57% of the vote. They also won 57% in the Peigan Nation. For the Greens, their best Region was Kananaskis, a poll which they won in 2008. For the Liberals, their best region was also the Blood Tribe, where they won 23%. They did poorly in German regions, winning less than 1% in both Cardston and Vulcan Counties.

Strongest and weakest polls (2011)

(I've included the Green Party this time, because they finished ahead of the Liberals)

Strongest polls:

-Conservatives: Poll #5-2 (94%). This poll covers a new subdivision in the Town of Cochrane, and some rural areas south of the town. The subdivision, known as the Willows of River Heights, was annexed by Cochrane since the last redistribution.

-NDP: Poll #17 (79%). This poll covers most of the Tsuu T'ina First Nation. The reserve contains two other polls, which cover the Redwood Meadows Townsite, which is actually a White community on the reseve, but with its own administration. However, poll #17 covers the rest of the territory on the reseve, controlled by Tsuu T'ina Nation Council.

-Greens: Poll #1 (24%). This poll covers the resort village of Kanananskis, known for being the location of the 2002 G8 Summit. The Greens actually won the poll in 2008, but the Tories won it in 2011.

-Liberals: Poll #163 (35%). This poll covers one of the six polls on the Blood Tribe Indian Reserve. The Liberals came within 2 votes of winning the poll, which the NDP won. The poll is located east of the main community on the reserve, Standoff.

Weakest polls:

-Conservatives: Poll #161 (3%). This poll is one of six polls located on the Blood Tribe Indian reserve. This poll in particular is the furthest eastern poll on the reserve, and is located adjacent to the City of Lethbridge.

-NDP: Poll #66-1 (1%). This poll covers a rural area east of Okotoks in the Municipal District of Foothills. The poll contains a couple of new subdivisions, including Ravencrest Village.

-Greens: The Greens won 0 votes in five polls. Four of the five polls were on Indian Reserves (#35, #136, #161, #164) and one was poll #5-2 south of Cochrane.

-Liberals: The Liberals won 0 votes in three polls: Poll #157 east of Fort Macleod, Poll #95 in Vulcan and Poll #101 in Carmangay.

2008-2001 Swing

Two party (Conservative vs. NDP) swing (2008-2011) by polling division

Despite Ted Menzies increasing his vote share in 2011 (+0.1%), the two-party swing was against him, as the NDP increased its vote share by 3.6%. The average two-party swing was thus 1.8% from the Conservatives to the NDP. This would explain why most of the NDP saw a swing towards them in most of the riding. One poll in particular stands out in terms of swing to the NDP: poll #17 (Tsuu T'ina First Nation), which was also their best poll in 2011. A huge increase in turnout (almost three-fold) from 2008 to 2011 helped the NDP gain a 41.6% swing in this poll, which they lost in 2008. Interestingly, other reserves in the riding saw a swing to the Conservatives, against the NDP. This is particularly observable in the Siksika Nation and in the Piikani Nation. Outside the reserves, most of the areas that swung Conservative were in rural areas in the central part of the riding. Meanwhile, the Calgary exurbs saw a swing to the NDP, for the most part.


Barring some sort of miracle (if you're not Conservative), the next MP for Macleod will be the Conservative candidate, John Barlow who is a newspaper editor from Okotoks. Barlow won the Tory nomination in a hotly contested race in which the National Firearms Association (Canada's NRA) endorsed his opponents. Barlow was also the Progressive Conservative candidate in the riding of Highwood (Okotoks and High River) in the last Alberta election. He had the pleasure of running (and losing) against Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith.

The sacrificial lambs running against Barlow include Lethbridge resident Aileen Burke who is running for the NDP, former Alberta Evergreen Party leader Larry Ashmore who is running for the Greens and Okotoks regulatory technician Dustin Fuller who is running for the Liberals. The interim leader of the Christian Heritage Party, David J. Reimer is also running. One would expect the CHP to do better in rural southern Alberta, but they have had little success in the past. Perhaps they will get some protest vote, as some conservatives may think Barlow is not right wing enough for the riding.

Forum Research released their final poll of the riding last night. The result shows Barlow at 54%, which would be the worst showing for the Tories in this riding since the party was created before the 2004 election. The Liberals were second in the poll at 15%, which would be their best result since 1993. “Other” was third in the poll at 11% (the CHP is the only “other” party running), indicating that there could be a high right wing protest vote. Both the NDP and the Greens were tied at 6%. For the Tories, anything less than 60% can be seen as a loss in such a safe seat. For the other parties, the big race is for second place, considering the NDP, Greens and Liberals have all held that honour in recent elections.

Update and expectations

That same Forum poll showed some updates for the other ridings as well:

- Trinity—Spadina: Liberal 45%, NDP 35%, Conservative 11%, Green 9%. The NDP has narrowed the gap in this riding, but it still looks as though the Liberals will win it.
- Scarborough—Agincourt: Liberal 48%, Conservative 37%, NDP 10%, Green 4%. The Conservatives have narrowed the gap here as well, but the Liberals should still win this safe seat.
- Fort McMurray—Athabasca: Liberal 41%, Conservative 33%, NDP 13%, Other (Libertarian) 8%, Green 5%. This is the first poll Forum was able to do in this riding that has been very difficult to reliably poll due to its transient population. If this result holds true, it would be a huge upset, as this riding was the 14th best Conservative seat in the country in the last federal election. However, a huge caveat must be put on that poll, and I'm not sure if I quite believe it.

For the Liberals a “win” tonight would mean picking up Trinity—Spadina, but also finishing at least second in Fort McMurray—Athabasca and Macleod (winning the former would be a “huge win”). With Adam Vaughan expected to win in Trinity—Spadina, just picking it up won't be enough to “win the night”. For the Conservatives, a “win” would be to make inroads in Scarborough—Agincourt and also defend their two Alberta seats. And for the NDP, it's going to be a tough night, where a “win” looks to be impossible. At this point keeping Trinity—Spadina would be huge, but just keeping it close would be a win. But losing their 2nd place finishes in Alberta would negate that.

Well, that's it for this round of by-elections. Polls close in all four by-elections at 9:30 Eastern.


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