Tories to pick leader. Is an election next?

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GEORGE BROWN

Off the Record

Albertans who care a little more than the rest of us will decide Oct. 1 whom the next premier will be.

It seems clear enough the new Progressive Conservative party leader will be Gary Mar but as we know all too well, stranger things have happened, and usually do in Alberta politics. Ralph Klein trailed Nancy Betkowski by one vote and came on to win, and we recall how the Little Farmer from Andrew was everyone’s second choice and won the leadership. Betkowski later became leader of the Alberta Liberals, and Premier Ed Stelmach got fed up and quit, forcing this leadership contest.

Oddly enough, it was Ted Morton, whom Stelmach beat to become premier, who called Stelmach’s bluff over the deficit budget that was to be tabled. All of this strife for the premier, the party and the province over a guy who couldn’t get 7,000 votes? Morton says he’ll stay in the PC party and not cross the floor to join the Wildrose party, where he would be welcome and comfortable. Back bench or opposition bench? Tough call.

There are more Ps than Cs in the governing party right now and they’re the ones who came out to vote on the first ballot. It’s idiotic to argue members didn’t know when to vote or where to vote, or how to vote or that the weather was too nice or that everyone wearing a ball cap was in the middle of the harvest. This is all anyone has talked about since spring. And yet again, as they have in previous provincial elections and leadership contests, PC party members have stayed home in droves. Maybe they’re just glad Ed’s leaving and don’t care who becomes leader.

Those party members who participated in round 1 gave overwhelming support to Gary Mar, Alison Redford and Doug Horner, candidates considered to be more moderate than the candidates they deposed. Although the three remaining candidates are running against Stelmach’s dubious record, only Redford seems not to be beholden to the party’s old guard. And that could be worrisome for MLAs who aspire to cabinet positions should she become premier.

Regardless who the next premier is, there are many MLAs who believe the Progressive Conservatives should strike while there is universal euphoria surrounding their new leader and call a snap election for November. As many Wildrose supporters are old federal Reformers who got caught unprepared for an election after daring the Chretien Liberals to call one, they won’t get caught flat-footed again. They paraded leader Danielle Smith around Alberta this summer like a 4-H calf.

And just to keep things interesting, Raj Sherman, a turncoat Tory now Liberal leader, promises to beat the health care drum in an election.

Grumpy Old Tories on the right; a loose cannon Liberal leader with a grudge; and a brand new premier. Yes, it will be an interesting election.

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