Print this page
Wednesday, 29 October 2014 14:32

Jim Prentice still faces challenges

Written by 
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice faced his first real test on Oct. 27. He, and his three other Progressive Conservative candidates, won their seats in the legislature in byelections held in Calgary and Edmonton, but some of the races were considerably close.
In two of the Calgary ridings, the Wildrose Party candidates were the clear second choice of voters. In Calgary-West Wildrose picked up 4,528 votes to place second behind the PC’s 4,843 and candidate Mike Ellis. The margin was greater in Calgary-Foothills where Prentice won his seat with a clear majority of the vote (6,898) compared to the Wildrose (3,545). Interestingly, in Calgary-Elbow, Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark placed second with 3,412 votes compared to 3,056 for Wildrose and 4,207 for the winning PC candidate and Education Minister Gordon Dirks.
In Edmonton-Whitemud, former city mayor Stephen Mandel, and Alberta health minister, had no trouble winning his PC seat with 6,003 votes, but in that constituency, second place went to the NDP with 3,150 votes. Even between the third and four-place finishes, there wasn’t a lot of room with Wildrose edging out the Alberta Liberals, 2,679 to 2,043.
Voter turnout wasn’t as high in the byelections as the general Alberta-wide elections the last go-round, when 57 per cent of eligible voters marked ballots. This by-election turnout ranged from 35 to 40 per cent depending on the constituency.
Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith said while her party wanted voters to send a message to the PCs by voting for the official opposition, the message that should be heard by Prentice is that Albertans are willing to give the Tories another chance, but likely only one more and Wildrose does present a “clear alternative.”
When it comes to the Wildrose’s chances in the next provincial election, the battle will be fought in the large urban areas of Calgary and Edmonton. In the last election, rural voters largely supported the Wildrose, helping them secure their official opposition status.
The moves Prentice makes over the course of the next year will be important ones to watch and none moreso than the first budget under his leadership released early next year. He, along with his newly-elected cabinet ministers, have been making a lot of announcements as of late. Money to be spent on seniors and  health care as well as new schools and expanded spaces for Alberta students. It isn’t really clear how Prentice’s government plans to pay for all of these initiatives.
What may be an even bigger challenge is presenting a budget acceptable to Albertans in the face of rapidly declining oil prices. As of press time, a barrel of oil was flirting with $80, the lowest it has been all year. Some analysts are predicting prices to further decline to sit around $70 a barrel in 2015. With every price drop, the provincial government earns fewer dollars on royalties and has less money available to spend on “campaign promises.”
It’s going to make for an interesting situation for a Progressive Conservative government that is trying to change its reputation, rebuild trust with Albertans and still appear to be fiscally conservative. Prentice shouldn’t want his legacy to be leaving Albertans deeper in debt than when former Premier Ralph Klein dug the province out of the hole it was in a number of years ago on the back of infrastructure.
It will be a fine tightrope to walk, and only the next year will prove if Prentice and his government is up to the challenge. If not, based upon the most recent byelection results, there are at least four other choices Albertans will consider on election ballots.
Rose Sanchez is assistant managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact her with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Read 1288 times
Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor