As panicked school children wonder where their summer holidays have gone, we take a gander at the calendar and realize we need but tear off one more page for the long-awaited PC Leadership election to be upon us. Political watchers are divided about whom the eventual winner might be, but few are proving foolish enough to predict a first ballot victory.
The race seems to have picked up some steam over the past couple of weeks, as Albertans digest the implications of recent polls suggesting that the winner of the race to replace Premier Ed Stelmach won't just be holding the job for a few months, but very likely 5 years or more. It's a real race, to select a real leader who's going to have a real impact.
Game on.Here's what you may have missed since last we spoke...
Gary Mar took a swipe at Alison Redford in a statement he made referencing Edmonton's tragically high murder rate for 2011. His suggestion that the provincial government, and Redford as Justice Minister, didn't follow through on funding the Safe Communities initiative was met with swift rebuttal by Redford, who in turn criticised Mar for (I'm paraphrasing, here) using tragic and senseless crimes to score political points. The 2 took their argument to the airwaves, appearing on the Rutherford radio program last Friday. Both campaigns, not surprisingly, felt their candidate won that showdown. Redford ended the discussion telling Mar "Next time, let's do this on Health Care". Mar's campaign took some heat shortly thereafter when it was alleged a junior team member had called into the program under a false name to lob a softball question at Mar. The campaign, for their part, says nothing like that was ever suggested or authorized, and if it DID happen, it would have been a volunteer who took matters into their own hands.
Later that same day, Redford was endorsed by the Calgary Police Association, which represents almost 2,000 Calgary Police Service members. The organization will not be donating money to Redford, but will encourage members to buy PC Party memberships in order to vote in the leadership race.
Earlier this week, Gary Mar gained the endorsement of current Minister of Education Dave Hancock. This brings the total number of former Ministers of Health on Team Mar to FOUR, with Gary himself, Hancock, Ron Liepert, and Iris Evans. It's enough to make Raj Sherman lose sleep.
Just last night, Rick Orman hosted a reported crowd of several hundred at Wurst Restaurant & Beerhall, a much celebrated new addition to Calgary's dining scene for those of us with "Ober" in our names. ;) The big news coming out of that event was Orman's call for a full operational review of provincial government expenditures. His argument was that the province doesn't have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem (an argument that worked for Ralph Klein when running against the record of the free-spending Getty cabinet, of which Orman had been a member for 7 years).
The candidates all attended the Alberta Teachers' Association Leadership Forum this morning. The reviews were generally positive, though the most muted, polite applause seemed to be directed at former University of Calgary Professor Ted Morton. The OTHER professional educator in the race, former junior high school teacher Doug Griffiths, received boisterous applause and cheering at several points, particularly in his closing statement when he pointed out, in response to an ATA table placard, "...the future, it's why teachers teach... it's also why they run to become Premier".
The 6 candidates will square off again in Ft. McMurray this Thursday, starting at 7 pm. I expect it's a safe bet that Energy and Royalties will be popular topics, and that the Mar/Redford and Orman/Mar jabs of the past few weeks may continue. The forum will be live-streamed on the PC Party Website. I'll be watching the event from Gary Mar's Calgary HQ, and talking to his team for reactions afterwards.
NOTE TO CAMPAIGNS: This (undecided) PCAA member, who writes a blog that a few people read, is only available to watch 2 more forums from your Calgary HQ's - the Medicine Hat and Edmonton forums. The others - Lethbridge, Calgary, and Red Deer - I'll be live-blogging from. You know how to reach me to extend an invite. First-come, first-served. ;)