by David J. Climenhaga
With an election looming, it’s nice to see that Alberta Party Leader Glenn Taylor has finally cleared the decks for action and is about to start campaigning seriously for the job of MLA in the West Yellowhead riding.
Mr. Taylor announced yesterday that he was at last giving up his day job as mayor of Hinton, the principal town if not the best known community in the huge riding that runs along the B.C. border far to the west of Edmonton, and which includes the famous mountain resort of Jasper.
It’s tempting to dismiss Mr. Taylor’s candidacy as a day late and a dollar short – and it probably is. Still, the man is a natural-born schmoozer – which is the key talent required by any good retail politician – and he has enjoyed solid support at the municipal level in his home community.
It’s also very easy to be critical of the former New Democrat candidate and Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union local vice-president for having done very little outside his home community since he was elected leader of the Alberta Party – the centrist creation of a group of disaffected Red Tories and Blue Liberals that seems to have lost its edge since Mr. Taylor was chosen as its first leader last May.
But in Mr. Taylor’s defence, his hesitant performance to date illustrates the problem serious politicians in any centrist party have in this province keeping bread on the table while competing with the well-financed parties of the right. It’s no slur on Mr. Taylor to say he’s a working person who needed to feed his family while he tried to build a completely new political party.
With a relatively high percentage of union members among its populace, West Yellowhead should have more potential than most Alberta ridings for progressive politicians like Mr. Taylor. Presumably that’s why the local Progressive Conservative constituency association chose Robin Campbell, a former official of the United Mine Workers Union, as its standard bearer in 2008.
Mr. Campbell, who was the Tory caucus whip under former premier Ed Stelmach, won with a decisive 54 per cent of the riding’s vote in 2008 and intends to run again, although it’s unclear what kind of a role he might play in Premier Alison Redford’s caucus if he’s re-elected. He’s a Tory, so he’ll have no shortage of money to campaign with.
Nevertheless, a number of factors that could work for Mr. Taylor may now be emerging – if he’s lucky, works hard from here on in, and the wind blows in the right direction.
First, as in most rural Alberta ridings, the Wildrose Party has the potential to split the right-wing vote in West Yellowhead, at least a little and possibly dramatically.
Second, it sure doesn’t hurt Mr. Taylor’s chances that the local NDP candidate has adopted the loony idea – if you’ll pardon the expression – of accepting no donations larger than a dollar.
This has proved to be a great way to generate news stories in the media and commentary in the blogosphere, but it is not at all clear, as blogger Dave Cournoyer pointed out recently, if NDP candidate Barry Madsen fully comprehended the implications for his campaign when he made this silly announcement.
Nor does it hurt Mr. Taylor that the Alberta Liberals, which have split the opposition vote about evenly with the NDP in the last two elections, are in a state of complete disarray under the leadership of former Conservative Raj Sherman.
Finally, another factor potentially in Mr. Taylor’s favour is that voters in West Yellowhead are not monolithic Tory voters – having elected a New Democrat back in 1989 and a Liberal in 1993. More than once, a deep Liberal-NDP split has given the election to the Conservatives, as it did in 1997 when Mr. Taylor ran for the NDP.
So if Mr. Madsen’s dollar-a-donation brainstorm has the effect of persuading West Yellowhead voters he’s not a serious candidate at the same moment as the Alberta Liberals are falling apart and a significant split is emerging between the Tories and the Wildrose Party, a victory for Mr. Taylor would not be outside the realm of possibility.
There are still a lot of ifs in this theorizing. On the downside, every moment Mr. Taylor spends outside his riding building his new party can hurt him in what’s sure to be a tight race. Still, now that he has finally put on his track shoes, maybe he can come from behind in this race and surprise a lot of Albertans.
If he does, he will likely have saved the Alberta Party from a quick and merciless extinction, which is all but certain if it elects no MLAs on whatever unfixed election date between next March and next May Premier Redford decides to call an election.
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