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Wednesday, 08 April 2015 14:16

Confidence knows no bounds for PCs — even in adversity

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Alberta Premier Jim Prentice is nothing if not a confident man.

After all, anyone who calls an election that no one really wants other than himself must be confident.
At his news conference announcing the election call April 7, he actually used Hanna Alta. rockband Nickelback’s song Burn it to the Ground.
Fill in your own ironic-based joke here.
The province is in debt, the budget was a tough one with the middle class being heavily-taxed and the costs for the May 5 election could be around $28 million.
To top it off, voters are apathetic to politics in general. Angry at the government, but just “meh” to the whole system, which is considered by many to be broken (see: Wildrose floor crossers, Alison Redford, #PrenticeblamesAlbertans, and same privileged government for 44 years).
It’s been said before that, “this is the election, the Progressive Conservatives finally go down to defeat and give up their throne which they have sat on since 1971. This is the year.”
Yet, they win election after election.
Peter Lougheed will go down as one of the best political leaders in Alberta, if not Canada.
Lougheed led Alberta from 1971-1985. After that came Don Getty who put the province into debt with a lot of spending. He was able to survive a couple of elections and one would’ve thought that after the spending spree, the PC party would have been ousted, especially considering Liberal Leader Laurence Decore was respected in the province, even outside more left-leaning Edmonton.
Ralph Klein swooped in with “Ralph’s Team” slogan in the 1992 election and made everyone feel like he was their buddy, their friend and someone they could trust. Everyone had a smile on their face as Klein hacked, slashed and cut, yet, they were still on “Ralph’s Team.”
To his credit, Klein stabilized the economy and was able to get Alberta out of debt. However, there was trouble as Klein lost his popularity through some image gaffes and was shoved aside or highly encouraged to retire depending on what version of the story one believes.
Then some thought in-fighting would be the demise of the PC power hold. Ed Stelmach was elected PC leader in 2006 where party members voted for their second choice. Stelmach was not a strong leader within the party, yet again managed to not only survive the 2008 election, but actually increase the number of seats.
The party was ready for someone new and in October 2011 Stelmach was succeeded as premier by Alison Redford.She turned out to be a public relations disaster.
Redford also was not the PCAA memberships’ first ballot first choice, yet she won.
Due to what was considered Caucus in-fighting over her style of leadership (two Caucus members actually quit the Progressive Conservative party) as well as her spending, she was forced out in the infamous March 19, 2014 speech at the legislature.
Dave Hancock was interim premier for nearly six months (without being elected as premier) as the party waited until the middle of September before a leadership convention.
Prentice bulldozed his way through a leadership review and made some political moves with cabinet ministers he handpicked into new constituencies after forcing some old MLAs from the previous regime out. He ran the province like a premier although he wasn’t elected and had no seat himself until he won a by-election at the end of October.
The PCs have been fighting the downhill trend ever since. Prentice has made some bold moves, enticing 11 members of the Wildrose including leader Danielle Smith to cross the floor. It was supposed to destroy the opposition and looked that way as currently 70 of the 87 seats (including two vacant) are PC. However, that move also was reported to have been unpopular with some rank and file as they saw Wildrose members as turncoats who left the  PC party to begin with and now were being rewarded.
Even long-time worker and former president of the PC Association of Alberta Jim McCormick, who had stepped down from the position in November, totally resigned from the board March 24.With guns blazing, in a Facebook post, he addressed rumours about the situation.
What seemed like an insurmountable lead for the Progressive Conservatives is now actually almost a dead heat in a popularity poll between the PCs and Wildrose and Rachel Notley’s NDP going strong in Edmonton.
Now after all of that, is this the year?
We doubt it. Those who are diehard Progressive Conservative supporters will always vote PC no matter what. There are a lot of angry voters out there, but they all have different ideas who to vote for and are uncertain. Most people will just sit angrily at home and protest by not voting or vote for a myriad of alternatives which will never come to fruition because of vote splitting.
Is Wildrose an alternative? Its leader Brian Jean is basically an unknown.The NDP doesn’t get popular past Edmonton’s city limits. The Liberals are basically defunct other than a few individuals doing their own thing. The Alberta Party is another question mark.
Throw in a weak economy and no one wants to try anything unproven. This is a small and large ‘C’ Conservative province after all.
Ta da ... your next premier Jiiiiiiim .... Prentice!
There will be some interesting battles, especially in the southeast where Blake Pedersen crossed the floor as a Medicine Hat Wildroser is now on Prentice’s side of the Legislature. He didn’t get any favours when Prentice handed out $500 million in the first round of the Alberta Community Resilience Program for flood proofing and the City of Medicine Hat didn’t get a dime. However, the village of Rosemary received $900,000 thus helping PC candidate Molly Douglass in her battle with Jean’s right-hand man Derek Fildebrandt’s quest for the Strathmore-Brooks seat.
This election should provide some intrigue in some ridings, but otherwise the PCs will take another step toward half a century of rule.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor