As the Calgary Stampede returns, politicians hope to garner support in Alberta |

The Calgary Stampede is more than rodeo, cowboy hats and horses: it’s also a great opportunity for politicians.

Regardless of their political line, they enter the city looking for partisan support in the form of votes.

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The 10-day festival celebrating the cowboy lifestyle has attracted all federal leaders, who often take on the persona of dueling gunmen hunting for votes in a game of political superiority.

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been a regular visitor to the Stampede, as have the leaders of the Federal Conservatives, the NDP and the Green Party.

Most of the attention this year will be on the federal Conservative Party leadership race, with the remaining five candidates attending a local party barbecue on Saturday night, as well as many provincial politicians seeking to replace the prime minister of Alberta, Jason Kenney, as leader of the province’s United Conservative Party.

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“It’s not just conservatives doing this. I think it kind of evolved,” said Lori Williams, a political science professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University.

“There was enough media attention and enough people coming from outside of Calgary that it became a magnet for leaders from all over the country to come and engage in feel-good political connections that would be seen by people all over the country.”

Click to play video: 'Calgary Stampede Parade entertains crowds for the first time in 3 years'

Calgary Stampede Parade entertains crowds for the first time in 3 years

Calgary Stampede Parade entertains crowds for the first time in 3 years

She said there is also some “star power” associated with the Stampede.

“Seeing someone that they’ve seen online or on TV and they want to watch and connect, and that’s a great opportunity for politicians, because sometimes those connections can change hearts and minds.”

The Federal Conservatives are scheduled to elect a new leader in September.

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Caretaker leader Candice Bergen was scheduled to address the crowd at the Conservative barbecue, as well as 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 environment, looking a little bit different, engaging in different activities, a little bit more friendly and positive,” Williams said.

Former Calgary Conservative MP Joan Crockatt said politicians get to see a lot of people during the Stampede, which makes it very efficient.

“I think what people are expecting from Stampede is that there will be some star quality, you can wear your rhinestones and your cowboy hat and your cowboy boots,” said Crockatt, who represented the Calgary Center from 2012 to 2015.

“That’s a much more fun way to meet a politician than events or knocking on doors.”

The Stampede runs through July 17.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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