New Tory premier. Is an election next?


GEORGE BROWN / Off the Record

So how was your weekend?

Chances are unless you and your spouse just welcomed a child into your family, won the lottery or discovered cold fusion using an Easy Bake Oven, your weekend can’t compare to the one Alison Redford experienced last Saturday night.

Alberta’s new premier was chosen by Progressive Conservative party faithful in what has become typical fashion — finish second or third in the first round of balloting and then win on the second go-round when preferential votes are counted. Klein, Stelmach and now Redford have beaten the front-runner in their leadership races.

Proving that hard work and determination can beat arithmetic, Redford had just 18 per cent of the 59,500 votes cast on Sept. 17, Mar had nearly 41 per cent. When the nearly 73,000 first ballots were counted Oct. 1, Mar still had only 40 per cent.

Yet, after 1 a.m. Oct. 2, party officials announced that with the help of Doug Horner’s supporters, Redford had jumped ahead of Mar to finish with 51.11 per cent.

Clearly, while Mar’s support among party members was strong, there was no soft support ready to move from the other camps to push him over the hump. Redford announced she would throw her support to Horner on the second ballot if she were in third place. Horner’s people obviously saw this cagey political move as magnanimous and the rest is history.

The first term Calgary-Elbow MLA and former justice minister is now Alberta’s first female premier. Albertans will basically have to choose between Redford’s Tories and Danielle Smith’s Wildrose party to form the next government. Either way, Alberta will have a woman at the helm for at least the next four years.

There are more Ps than Cs in the governing party right now and they’re the ones who came out to vote on the first ballot, pushing out the conservatives. It’s idiotic to argue members didn’t know when to vote or where to vote, or how to vote or that the weather was too nice or that everyone wearing a ball cap was in the middle of the harvest. This is all anyone has talked about since spring. And yet again, as they have in previous provincial elections and leadership contests, PC party members stayed home in droves. Maybe they’re just glad Ed’s leaving and didn’t care who becomes leader.

Redford’s win is particularly interesting because she had garnered little support from among Tory MLAs or her cabinet colleagues. That will make her choices for cabinet ministers relatively free from influence or political debt. Holdovers from the Klein and Stelmach governments should be given the boot but expect to see Mar (who must get elected first) and Horner given important ministries.

On a personal level, Redford showed determination by continuing with the leadership campaign after her mother died just four days before the final vote.

In her victory speech, Redford pledged, “We will govern with integrity, transparency and accountability.” And then later on in the day cancelled the fall sitting of the legislature. She had earlier pledged to restore the $100 million that had been cut from education. This will now be a decision of cabinet with no debate in the legislature. So much for transparency.

There were many MLAs who believe the Progressive Conservatives should strike while there is universal euphoria surrounding their new leader and call a snap election for November. With the fall sitting cancelled, that’s still a possibility but’s it’s more likely Redford will take her time picking her cabinet, cutting ribbons and meeting Albertans before tabling a budget and calling a spring election.

Because many Wildrose supporters are old federal Reformers who got caught unprepared for an election after daring the Chretien Liberals to call one, they won’t get caught flatfooted again. They paraded leader Danielle Smith around Alberta this summer like a 4-H calf.

And just to keep things interesting, Raj Sherman, a turncoat Tory now Liberal leader, promises to beat the health care drum in an election.

Grumpy Old Tories on the right; a loose cannon Liberal leader with a grudge; and a brand new premier.

Yes, it will be an interesting election.

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