Alberta Tory popularity sure to dip when a leader is chosen; dispatches from the leadership front lines
by David J. Climenhaga
With the Alberta Progressive Conservatives riding high in the opinion of the public right now, it is axiomatic that the party’s popularity with voters will slump the instant it chooses a new leader.
The important question no one knows the answer to, of course, is, by how much?
The Conservatives are enjoying a bump right now because Premier Ed Stelmach was unpopular with a lot of Albertans from all parts of the Tory voting spectrum. The party began to soar back to its traditional high esteem with the province’s voters as soon as Mr. Stelmach announced his intention to step down.
Now that we are in the final 10 days before the first PC leadership vote, the party is probably at or near its high point for support because there are real and substantive differences among the six candidates seeking Mr. Stelmach’s job.
So if the party moves further to the right by electing any of Ted Morton, Rick Orman or Doug Griffiths, centrist voters who nevertheless might vote Conservative will be tempted to abandon the Tories for one of the parties of the centre or the left.
On the other hand, if the party moves back toward the centre, as it will be perceived to be doing if Conservatives choose any of Gary Mar, Doug Horner, Alison Redford, the vocal Conservative right fringe may move back to the Wildrose Alliance.
Either way, the Conservatives are virtually sure to lose some of their current support whichever way they turn because you just can’t please all of the people all of the time.
Who would benefit politically from such shifts? If the Conservatives lurch to the right, it could mean a bump for the Liberals, who are expected to select the popular but mercurial Dr. Raj Sherman as their leader on Saturday.
But by the time an election rolls around, it is said here that trend would more likely benefit the Alberta New Democrats, who are united and experienced, and may still be on the crest of a bit of an Orange Wavelet. The Liberals under Dr. Sherman are not likely to be united for long, and Alberta Liberals will never benefit from a phenomenon like the Orange Wave federal NDP leader Jack Layton generated before his death. Over time, the Liberal-like Alberta Party might benefit too, but they are barely on the radar at the moment.
If the party moves toward the centre, the chief beneficiary will naturally be the far-right Wildrose under former Fraser Institute apparatchik Danielle Smith.
So true party loyalists among the NDP and the Wildrose alike can probably be forgiven for crossing their fingers hoping for the result likely to benefit their party most.
The question, of course, is will such movement by voters be significant enough to prevent an overwhelming victory by the Conservatives under any leader in the election they are likely to call as quickly as they can?
Mentioned in dispatches: and not in a good way!
The Liberal race grows tighter?
With the Alberta Liberal leadership vote now under way on-line and due to be counted Saturday, and the Conservative first ballot a mere 10 days away, both races are starting to heat up, with some interesting developments on the front line.
Former Conservative Raj Sherman, who some reports said has signed 18,000 supporters, has seemed a cinch to win the Liberal race since party officials threw it wide open, U.S. primary style.
Nevertheless, Dr. Sherman was doing everything in his power today to persuade supporters to actually get out and vote. In a series of urgent Tweets, he warned them that “our campaign is in TROUBLE, Our Vote is not coming out.” Shades of Ryan Hastman, the Tory candidate who tried a similar technique in the days before he was beaten in the federal election by Edmonton Strathcona MP Linda Duncan.
Another Tweet suggested 2,000 Sherman backers had failed to get the PIN they needed to vote, and begged them to vote in person on Saturday.
Meanwhile, candidate Hugh MacDonald has been grumpily telling reporters that Dr. Sherman’s victory is not the sure thing the punditocracy has declared it to be, noting that political success follows funds raised more than members signed. And, indeed, he has raised $50,780 compared with Dr. Sherman’s $36,672.
In the last few days, Mr. MacDonald has been busy phoning many of Dr. Sherman’s supporters, presumably to check if any of them answer from the grave or can only say meow.
Good news, bad news for Ted Morton?
The Edmonton Journal last night reported that right-wing Conservative candidate Ted Morton, who released a list of his contributors today, has raised over $1 million in donations.
The timing of the revelation by the Morton camp was interesting, coming the night before the putative release of a negative story about the former finance minister by the CBC.
CBC investigative reporter Charles Rusnell (@charlesrusnell), who was unsuccessfully dogging Dr. Morton’s footsteps at last Thursday’s Conservative leadership forum in Red Deer, Tweeted this last night: “What’s Ted Morton got to hide? Find out on CBC radio YEG @ 7:12 a.m Thurs; YYC @ 8:10; Online @ cbc.ca/edmonton + CBC TV @5/6.”
Mr. Rusnell won’t say what the story’s about. A little bird of the variety that doesn’t Tweet says one word: “Emails.”
A rocket for Danielle Smith
Speaking of emails, a former Wildrose staffer who says she was responsible for handling membership lists has emailed a plea to current Wildrose supporters to back right-wing Conservative candidate Rick Orman instead of her former boss Danielle Smith, whom she accuses of “lusting for power.”
Citing a recent Calgary Herald story about defections from Wildrose back to the Tories, the emailer accuses Ms. Smith and her inner circle of “true contempt for the grassroots of the Wildrose Party,” falling attendance at party events and sinking contributions. “The level of disrespect that has been shown to your hard-earned and generously given contribution dollars by Danielle and company were a significant part of why I chose to leave the Wildrose Party,” the letter states.
Click here to read the entire text of the email.