Worst. Leadership race. Ever.

Somewhere in my collection of flotsam and jetsam of old newspaper clippings from my youth, I have the famous Edmonton Journal paper from the day after the Progressive Conservatives, under Peter Lougheed, finally toppled the Social Credit dynasty. The headline, written in massive type in true Tory blue, read: “Now! It’s Lougheed!”

Now, as the longest reigning Canadian provincial government in Canadian history staggers to the finish line of its third leadership race in eight years, the most likely headline should be “Finally … it’s Prentice.” 

On Saturday, the PCs will announce the winner of their leadership race, and if all goes according to plans (and polls), the new man will be Jim Prentice, another Calgarian with extensive ties to The Industry. (Calgary, it seems, produces leaders or would-be leaders; Edmonton produces opponents. Good thing somebody does.)  As everyone knows, the PCs are in disarray. After 43 years in power, the party seems to be suffering from the political equivalent of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. If you were to lay a bet right now, it would seem the wise choice to put your money on the odds-on favourite in the 2016 election, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith.

But wait! The PC party obit has been written more often than Mark Twain’s. (Twain, after a premature obit appeared, famously said: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”) In some ways, when Prentice takes over the party, he will be in a better position than Alison Redford.

Redford, you may recall (and it seems almost impossible to believe, considering how far she had fallen), took over with sky-high hopes. Finally, the progressives cheered, a truly progressive Progressive Conservative. A worldly, big-city lawyer — and a woman! (I had a feeling the Liberals were in trouble when a long-time Liberal operative I know greeted the election of Redford not with dread, but with unbridled joy.)

Redford was, shall we say, a bit of a disappointment. The party Prentice inherits is in disarray, bedevilled by a series of puny, travel-related scandals and a general sense of exhaustion. While Redford started on a high with great expectations, Prentice starts with the party at a low ebb. In other words, nowhere to go but up.

(I write this based on my assumption that Prentice wins. If either of the two lame-duck candidates — professional dunderhead Ric McIver, or the slithering Thomas Lukaszuk — somehow wins, you can dust off that PC obit and run it today. If Prentice wins, we can happily write the long overdue obit of Lukaszuk.)

Prentice actually has some potential. After the feckless farmer Ed Stelmach, and the patrician Redford, all Prentice has to do is play the hard-nosed businessman type and ground the government’s silly fleet of airplanes. (By the way, this ‘scandal’ of Finance Minister Doug Horner taking his wife on the occasional plane ride is a whole lot of nothing. If there was an empty seat on the plane, as I assume there was on the times she went along, the actual cost to the taxpayer is nil. This is small change.) Alberta, after all, is in pretty good financial shape, and to most voters, that’s all that matters. Once Prentice realizes that he had billions of dollars to throw at any problem — health care, education, whatever the problem du jour is — he will make these problems go away in time for the next election. 

Once this dreadful, uneventful, petty leadership ‘”race” is officially over, Prentice can get down to business. His first order of business will be, of course, business. Get to work, avoid trivial scandals, and the Tories can easily extend their record setting longevity streak. The Wildrose is always just one dip into the lake of fire away from reminding the public of their extremist roots, as we saw in the last election. 

(By the way, the New Democrats are also holding a leadership vote, pitting the earnest Rachel Notley against the earnest David Eggen, and somebody else who is, I assume, earnest. Just thought I should mention it.)

 

By the way, the PCs are electing our new premier. Just thought you should know.

As a respected member of the blogosphere (or at least a member of the blogosphere), I feel it is my obligation to comment on the ‘race’ to be the next leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, who will also become our next premier. You will be forgiven if you say to yourself, ‘This is the first I’ve heard of this’.

Alberta politics is always sleepy during the summer; the legislature doesn’t sit in the summer months (and hardly at all in the fall, winter and spring months for that matter). But this summer should have been different, with the ruling PC party (again) electing a new leader.  So much excitement was guaranteed as a political dynasty attempts to reinvent itself and stave off an upstart enemy. What a saga! But like many a would-be summer Hollywood blockbuster, this race is a The Lone Ranger-sized bomb.

Just to refresh your memory, there are three candidates in the running. One of them is credible, and the guaranteed, first-ballot, overwhelming, lead-pipe cinch winner. The other two are jokes, cannon fodder, good-but-not-very-bright soldiers in the race so the party doesn’t entirely embarrass itself with a coronation.

The winner, in case you’ve forgotten, is Jim Prentice. When Prentice wins the PC leadership on Sept. 6, he will become premier despite never having held a seat in the Alberta legislature. Owing to the perverse nature of this leadership race, Prentice’s complete unfamiliarity with the Alberta legislature and the PC party is his greatest strength. The PCs are so crippled by their own reputation that the party is desperate to elect someone who hasn’t been tainted by the stink of hanging around with, well, them. Prentice fits the bill in other areas near and dear to PC hearts: he’s big in the oil community, he’s a Harper Tory, and he’s from Calgary. That’s the trifecta right there. (The little problem of not having a seat in the legislature will be solved when a certain ex-premier resigns her Calgary seat, and a byelection is quickly called. You heard it hear first, perhaps.)

The other candidates are two of the sorriest would-be leaders offered up by a major political party, anywhere, anytime.

There’s Ric McIver, known in Calgary and nowhere else. In his first term in the legislature, McIver managed to make virtually no impact on the public consciousness, but still felt compelled to run for the leadership. The biggest splash McIver made was when it was revealed that he attended a March for Jesus (which is not a bad thing, in that a lot of people like this Jesus guy), organized by a virulently anti-gay organization. When the only thing people know about you is that you’re a supporter of an organization that even the Wildrose party would distance itself from, you’re in trouble.

And then there’s Thomas Lukaszuk, the resident attack dog of the PC party. Oily and crass, with a creepy Euro-trash vibe about him, Lukaszuk is famous for picking a fight with a senior citizen while campaigning. Lukaszuk has benefited from the lack of passable PC MLAs from the Edmonton area, landing in cabinet several times. He was even the deputy premier for Alison Redford, (his primary job was fielding opposition questions in the most insulting manner possible) which tells you everything you need to know about Alison Redford. Lukaszuk is the token Edmonton candidate, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was encouraged by the party to run, just so that there would be somebody — anybody — from Edmonton.

The best this aging party could offer up is two non-entities and somebody who has no connection to the party. Prentice is clearly the party’s best hope — only hope — of extending the dynasty. Chosing McIver or Lukaszuk spells certain defeat in the next election. Which is not a bad thing at all.

The PCs scorched earth policy on Alison Redford

When Vladimir Lenin led the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, his right hand man was Leon Trotsky. When Lenin and Trotsky had a falling out — never a good thing in the old Soviet Union — the Communists altered photos of Lenin and Trotsky together, effectively erasing Trotsky from the historical record.

You can’t really do that kind of thing these days, but you can try. The Progressive Conservatives can’t erase the record of Alison Redford, but they’re doing their best to purge the party of the Redford “era”.

On Friday, the government released hundreds of pages of documents detailing more and more shocking abuses of the public payroll by Redford, the self-deposed premier.

After the CBC broke the story of the premier’s planned penthouse suite atop the Federal Building — directed by the premier’s office, bypassing all normal channels — the government unleashed a massive data dump revealing the extent of Redford’s profligate spending. Airfare and accommodation for premier’s bloated staff, more than a million dollars in severance packages for that same staff (almost all of whom were Calgary based, showing that her support network was very limited), callous disregard for the cost of flying her to her disastrous trip to South Africa — it’s all there. Cabinet ministers are lining up to piously pronounce just how horrible she was. Infrastructure Minister Ric McIver (coincidentally, a possible leadership contender) says he called off the premier’s suite program as soon as he took over the portfolio. The greasy Jobs Minister Thomas Lukaszuk (another possible leadership challenger who, if successful, would ensure the end of the Tory dynasty) called the suite “unacceptable”, saying it “broke all the rules of protocol.”

And I guarantee you there will be more to come. I’m sure that government staffers are going through every email, every memo, and every travel bill in its scorched earth strategy. If there’s a $13 glass of orange juice on a hotel bill somewhere with Redford’s name on it, we’ll hear it.

The PC strategy is clear — destroy Alison Redford. It’s not enough that she’s gone. They want her gone gone. Her imperial premiership has dealt the party a severe — perhaps fatal — blow, and the party wants its revenge.

I didn’t recognize the party’s hatred towards Redford until she resigned. Nobody said a good word about her. There were no tears shed. When she gave her resignation speech, one lone yahoo attempted to start an “Al-i-son!” chant, and got no takers.

Redford was an interloper, an outsider despite being a cabinet minister. Her support was a kilometre wide and a centimetre deep. Redford has announced that she will stay on as MLA. I don’t think she’ll be attending too many caucus meetings, or legislative sessions.