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Wednesday, 25 February 2015 16:35

Despite faltering economy, it’s perfect time politically for Prentice

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Oil prices are dropping, there is uncertainty in the economy, a government was not-so-long ago reeling from scandals involving the former premier, and just recently experienced one of the most shocking occurrences of floor crossings in Alberta politics. One would think this would be a time when Jim Prentice may not be the most popular man at the polls.

Ahh, but this is Alberta, where (over) confidence is seemingly seen as a virtue and not a vice. This is the perfect time for the unflappable Prentice. These are interesting times in Alberta politics, not so much about what the Progressive Conservatives are going to do, but the fact there is so much media and opposition party scrutiny, yet nothing changes.
While pompous arrogance is not considered a redeeming personal quality in an ordinary person’s regular day-to-day life, there comes a realization that this is what many Albertans want when it comes to their politicians on a provincial level. Seemingly to voters, it’s almost reassuring them that they equate an overabundance of confidence with knowledge and know-how, especially in times of uncertainty. Petroleum-based revenues are low as (surprise) the market fluctuates and is at a low ebb. There are a lot of layoffs in the oil patch, retail businesses are closing and a report came out Feb. 20 which said the 2014 Christmas season was one of the slowest final quarters in the last half a decade.
With the opposition parties flopping around the Legislative floors like soon-to-be dead fish out of water, there is not a lot of public confidence. There was a growing confidence in the Wildrose, but after Danielle Smith abruptly gave up and decided if ‘you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” — and more importantly for her an her political lemmings, assurance of nice, healthy pensions — any opposing forces evaporated.
The Wildrose may have a new  leader when the next election is called, no one knows anything about the Alberta Party, the Liberals don’t have a permanent leader and are basically non-existent and the NDP have a promising leader in Rachel Notley, but will never get a lot of support outside of Edmonton because, well, in big business, free-enterprise Alberta, the province just doesn’t vote NDP. 
 So, if you follow that train of thought, it’s perfect. Albertans want a leader who they think knows what he is doing and so Prentice can implement all of the tough measures now while still garnering a ridiculously-high popular vote percentage in an election. (If you’re not sure an election will be called, take note of all the ads calling for people wanting to work for Elections Alberta in recent weeks).
With this non-confidence in the opposition, the Progressive Conservatives know they are in control. It’s just how that confidence is packaged and put forth in the public realm which will determine how strong the PC’s hold will remain.
Prentice has a mandate, a game plan and tells everyone around him this is the way it needs to be done. Period. He wants people he can trust and who will do exactly as he wants. Hence he and his right-hand cabinet ministers’ over-the-top support and endorsements of all of the returning MLAs, including the floor crossers. He learned well from his former boss — Stephen Harper.
One may argue about Prentice’s likability, but there is no arguing he has his plan to right the Alberta economy and will stick to it. Whether it’s the correct one is another matter. Like the classic politician, he did the old ‘sending up trial balloons’ trick and seeing how much Albertans would stand for when it comes to a sales tax, health-care premiums, spending cuts, etc., but in the end, Prentice will go with whatever he decided in the first place, using whatever backroom behind-the-scenes politics necessary.
Prentice sent out out all of the possible worst-case scenarios and now when it’s budget time he will state he didn’t tax as heavy as he could have or there will be health-care premiums, but not at the high cost as first thought because he will portray himself as a caring man.
Prentice will call a spring election, somehow circumventing the fixed election date legislation, either though some sort of technicality or just blatant disregard, because he knows he can.
One can hear Prentice now: “Albertans have told us that they want to vote on who the premier is and because I’m not elected, I will agree with Albertans’ wishes and call an election,” or something to that effect. Tell the voter you are giving them what you want, but in reality it’s what Prentice wants. It’s like a parent telling his or her six-year-old, “this medicine is yucky, but it’s for your own good” (cue pat on the head).
That folks is arrogance and many voters seem to like it. Perhaps the feeling is that with the economic uncertainty, it’s much easier for Albertans to throw up their hands, say “oh you do it” and walk away letting someone who wants the steering wheel — and all the perks that go with it — to take it.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor with the Prairie Post. Send your comments about this opinion piece to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor