Judging from the buzz, it looks like Danielle Smith.
The two-person contest (which also includes Mark Dyrholm) to lead the now seatless right-wing Wild Rose Alliance appears to be attracting a larger amount of interest than last year’s contest to lead the official opposition Alberta Liberal Party.
The 2008 Liberal contest, which culminated in a December 2008 vote, attracted as contestants Calgary MLAs David Swann and Dave Taylor and former Edmonton MLA Mo Elsalhy. While the Liberal Party earned over 250,000 votes in the March 2008 election, the leadership candidates were only able to attract around 6,500 Albertans to join their party in anticipation of the vote. As far as I am aware, Alberta’s only other opposition party in the Legislature, the Alberta NDP, haven’t held a contested leadership race since 1996.
I remained somewhat skeptical following Alex Abboud‘s bold prediction and the recent columns in the Calgary Herald, but some of the latest buzz that I’ve been hearing has me wondering: could the Wild Rose Alliance under a leader like Danielle Smith could actually pose a serious threat to Ed Stelmach‘s Progressive Conservative Party?
The dominant PCs have become accustomed to facing a Liberal and NDP opposition that largely self-quarantines its resources in 20 to 25 urban ridings in Edmonton and Calgary, making it easy for the PCs to rack up massive majorities in the remaining 60 or so ridings. Both the leaders of the Liberals and NDP are having a difficult time gaining any traction in public opinion and voter turnout has dropped to a pathetically low ~40% in 2008, which has left the political environment in tinder dry conditions. A Reform Party-esq firestorm ignited by a smart and savvy libertarian like Smith could create a political challenge stronger than anything the PCs have seen since the dethroning Harry Strom‘s Social Credit Party in 1971.
Kevin Libin‘s National Post coverage has revealed that a number of prominent Conservative Party of Canada organizers in Calgary have joined Smith’s campaign, which could destabilize what in many ways has become a delicate relationship between the governing Federal and Provincial Conservative parties in Alberta.
While the hype around the Wild Rose Alliance leadership contest may end up being little more than summer-time buzz, it will remain quite telling that at least in the short-term it is making some members of the governing PCs a little jumpy.
David Climenhaga: Danielle Smith to lead Wildrose Alliance? Remember where you read it first!