Friday, September 25, 2009

The Wild Run for the Wild Rose

I like following leadership races, maybe even more than general elections. The candidates are less well know, the dynamics are more intriguing, and the results are less predictable.

It's great when the winner of the race has a legitimate shot at one day forming government, but there's also something to be said for the characters you get when looking at fringe party races. Luckily, there's a race in Alberta with both of elements in it.

On October 17th, the Wildrose Alliance will be picking a new leader. As I said last week, these guys need to be taken seriously. Especially given the rumours up to 10 Tory MLAs are considering crossing the floor (re-tweeted by Danielle Smith, so she's not trying to downplay them). That's right, MLAs are considering leaving a party with 70 seats who have been in power for 40 years, for a party with 1 single MLA. What can I say, Alberta politics has always been a little weird.

To recap, the race is now a battle between Danielle Smith and Mark Dyrholm. This, after Jeff Willerton pulled out. Willerton is the author of "Fix Canada", a book his own website describes as so simple "a twelve year old or even a retired grease monkey like me could understand it." I don't think I'm simplifying things by saying that his solution to fixing Canada is to get rid of the Liberals. Consider his leadership website:

My objective in running for the leadership of the party is of course to promote better government provincially, but it's more than that. It's also to promote a better federal outcome by keeping the Liberals out of office - and it can be done.

I'm not a separatist, but like most Albertans I am anti-liberal, and frankly I believe we should go to the polls to reconsider our options in Confederation - each and every time a Liberal government is elected or reelected in Ottawa. We can't tell people how to vote, but if the east insists on having a Liberal government they need to know they might have it all to themselves at the end of the day. Again, my objective is not to break up Canada - it's limited government - which is impossible under a Liberal government.

When I sign my book, excerpted at and of which I have sold almost 20,000 copies in this province, my normal salutation is "Toward a better, liberal-free Canada!"

So, to recap: Willerton was running to become Premier of Alberta because he dislikes the federal Liberal Party. And he's not a separatist, but he believes Alberta should hold referendums to separate...every time a Liberal government is elected federally.

I include this about Willerton, only to emphasize the self-evident problem the Wildrose Alliance Party is going to face. Maybe it's not self-evident to a 12 year old or to readers of Fix Canada, but I think most people here will be able to figure out what that problem is.

Moving on, Willerton has thrown his considerable influence behind Mark Dyrholm. If you visit Mark's website and manage the dodge the exploding pop-up ads showing his support for Paul Hinman (for the by election which was held two weeks ago), you'll see that he starts his bio off by declaring "Mark has a solid education". Mark also has solid policies, although I could see a few of them being problematic in practice, notably his pledge to call an election if his government doesn't bring forward a balanced budget, and a promise to have all major expenditures approved by referendum.

So that brings us to media darling Danielle Smith. Despite having the blandest slogan in the history of leadership races ("Activist. Analyst. Albertan."), Smith has been able to generate a lot of buzz around her candidacy, due to her being:

a) Media savvy and well spoken
b) Not unattractive
c) Not crazy

Smith has picked up a slew of endorsements, including one from Ralph Klein's father, who she seems to have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with - up until today, the top two stories on her website over the past week and a half have dealt with Ralph's dad dumping on Stelmach.

Browsing through her policies, she's proposing to hold a referendum on whether or not to hold referendums. And although many of her ideas are decidedly libertarian and right wing, she's not afraid to say words like "environmental safeguards" or "alternative energy".

And that's the genius of Smith's candidacy - she doesn't come across looking or sounding like a scary right winger, leading many moderate conservatives to become quite fascinated with her candidacy. And even if her party isn't even remotely ready to govern, at least she sounds like someone capable of leading Alberta in the 21st Century...more so than the man currently doing just that anyways.

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