Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Alberta PC's to Barry Erskine: Thanks For Nothing...

Nation, there are 2 types of people who run for party nominations... people who believe in the party that they wish to represent; and people who want someone else to cover the tab for the 28-day job application known as a "campaign".

Barry Erskine, welcome to group 2.

Erskine, you'll recall, is a former City of Calgary Alderman. I say former, because he dropped out of the most recent municipal election race quite suddenly and unexpectedly, in order to run for the local Progressive Conservative nomination. With untold thousands of dollars that he had fundraised for a municipal election run, off the books and his to do with as he pleased.

Winning a party nomination, especially a PC one in Calgary, is seen by many as the "easy street" to getting elected MLA. Win the nomination, and you've got access to Big Blue's organization for fundraising, running the campaign, volunteers, everything. As one other spurned wannabe PC candidate put it: "We all know that whoever wins the (Progressive Conservative) nomination will surely be your next MLA..."


Barry missed the deadline for filing, and was ineligible to run for the PC party nomination in Elbow.

Now, if he were a member of "Group 1", Barry would have thrown his considerable clout and standing in the community behind the eventual PC candidate, Alison Redford. "I believe in this party, and I want the Progressive Conservatives and Alison Redford to represent the people of Calgary Elbow!" would have gone Barry's 10-second soundbyte. He would have encouraged his own volunteers to help out with the PC's, would have offered his help in any way that he could to Redford, to win the seat for her and for the party that he believed in.

Instead, he's running as an independent. AGAINST the PC candidate that he hoped would have been him.

Clearly, Barry's primary interest was never in being the PC MLA for Calgary Elbow - he just wanted, and wants, to be the MLA, and saw the PC's as the easiest vehicle to get there. Erskine's policies are very much in keeping with the PC platform, and all his independent run is going to do is split the small-c conservative support that Redford was counting on to make Elbow a close race. Instead, by splitting the vote, Erskine is going to be making it nearly impossible for either himself or Redford to take the riding, and is essentially handing the riding to Craig "I don't wanna debate" Cheffins on a silver platter.

Can Erskine win? Only if he completely marginalizes Redford. Erskine can fundraise in Big Oil circles without having the PC stigma attached to him, and he certainly has name recognition. But there are enough "true blue believers" in the riding who are going to vote PC no matter what, that Erskine is working from a distinct disadvantage - one that he wouldn't have had if he had been running as the PC candidate. Those people are just flat-out not going to vote anything but PC - making Erskine's run as an independent a very expensive, very poor gamble, and cutting off the party he claimed to support and believe in at the knees.

I can't say for certain, but if Craig Cheffins has a christmas card list, Barry Erskine just earned his way onto it.

And THAT is a choice that Mr. Erskine is going to have to be able to defend if he decides to run for the PC nomination in Elbow again in the future.

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