Is the Jim Prentice Juggernaut unstoppable?

Jim Prentice Alberta Juggernaut
Is Jim Prentice’s campaign for the leadership of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives unstoppable?

He is a leadership candidate backed by long-governing party establishment. He has chased away his potential rivals. He has experience in both the federal cabinet and the corporate sector. He is a respected party insider. He has a track record as a moderate conservative and can raise significant amounts of money for his party. The establishment sees him as the only person who can lead them to electoral victory against their aggressive opposition challengers.

His name is Paul Martin and it’s 2003.

Jim Prentice Alberta PC Leadership
Jim Prentice

It has become inreasingly easy to draw parallels between the ill-fated Dauphin of the federal Liberal Party and expected coronation of Jim Prentice in September’s Progressive Conservative leadership vote.

Like Mr. Martin, expectations for Mr. Prentice among the PC establishment are very high. And without having even officially entered the contest or releasing any policy positions or vision for Alberta, his strange shadow campaign has succeeded in chasing away some of his strongest potential rivals by giving the impression that he too strong to fail.

Cabinet ministers Doug Horner, Diana McQueen, Jonathan Denis and retired Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel have all decided against running. And Ken Hughes, who only entered the race a short time ago, has already dropped out and endorsed the front-runner.

Paul Martin Jim Prentice Alberta
Paul Martin

Challenger Ric McIver claims that Mr. Prentice’s supporters have urged him to drop out of the race, but insists he will remain the fray. Edmonton-Castle Downs MLA Thomas Lukaszuk, who served as Alison Redford’s deputy premier and budget slashing minister of Advanced Education, remains rumoured to be mulling a run for the leadership.

Pressure from Mr. Prentice’s campaign, the steep $50,000 entry fee and the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to run a leadership campaign have likely scared away potential serious candidates.

Curse of the front-runner
An advantage of being a frontrunner is that it becomes easy to collect endorsements. A disadvantage of being a frontrunner is that it becomes easy to collect endorsements. As PC MLAs trip over themselves in their rush to endorse Mr. Prentice, it will become increasingly difficult for the new leader to weed out the incompetent or redundant members of his caucus in the next election.

If he becomes leader, one of Mr. Prentice’s biggest challenges will be to increase the PC caucus bench strength by recruiting competent and credible candidates to run. This will require significant retirements, resignations, or nomination battles before the next election.

Thomas Lukaszuk MLA Edmonton-Castle Downs
Thomas Lukaszuk

Prentice Money
Like Mr. Martin, Mr. Prentice has proven he can raise a lot of money and fill a hall with people whose companies are willing to spend $500 a ticket to influence government, but can he resonate among regular voters? Raising money has never been a serious long-term problem for the PC Party. Their problem has become the existence of another party who can raise the same or more money than they can.

Prentice Co-Chairs
It was announced this week that former British Columbia Member of Parliament Jay Hill, Edmonton campaign strategist Patricia Mitsuka, and Calgary-Greenway MLA Manmeet Bhullar will serve as Mr. Prentice’s three campaign co-chairs. A fourth co-chair is expected to be announced at a later date.

Prentice stumbles to “unite the right” fight
Strange moves to unite the right, as Wildrose leader Danielle Smith claims she or one of her staffers were contacted by someone from Mr. Prentice’s campaign to discuss a merger. A spokesperson for Mr. Prentice’s not yet official campaign denies Ms. Smith’s claims, but it is difficult to believe the Wildrose leader is simply making this up.

If this is true, it is difficult to understand why Mr. Prentice’s campaign would make such a move. While his supporters see him as a White Knight, he will be inheriting a long-governing political party that is mired in controversy. Perhaps this move is a glimpse of how concerned the PC establishment is about the very real threat of defeat by the Wildrose in the next election?

Nominations open today
Starting today, PC Party leadership candidates can pick up their nomination forms and pay the $20,000 of their $50,000 entry fee. The candidates will need to submit their completed nomination forms on May 30 along with the remaining $30,000 entry fee. The approved candidates will be showcased at a $75 per ticket PC Party fundraiser on June 2 in Edmonton.

11 thoughts on “Is the Jim Prentice Juggernaut unstoppable?”

  1. There is already talk that Mr Prentice has raised over $2 million. But under the new finance rules for a party leadership race, a candidate cannot begin to raise money until the candidacy has been accepted by Elections Alberta. Today, there was considerable humming and hawing by those associated with Mr Prentice regarding this… lots of comments about the rules being fuzzy.

    The rules are NOT fuzzy. When the Alberta Party selected a new leader last year, we understood the rules and followed them… and few can argue that we aren’t political neophytes. If we could follow the rules, it seems odd that such a “savvy” potential premier as Mr Prentice finds them fuzzy.

    Plus, I don’t know about anyone else but I’m kinda tired of this coy game Mr Prentice seems to be playing. He’s got “his people” telling us what a great vision he has for Alberta, but we’ve not heard a peep out of the man himself. I don’t know what strategy this is, but it seems less than earnest to me.

    Will

  2. Jim Prentice as Paul Martin. I hope so. Prentice is a good man but the Progressive Conservative Party is a corrupt country club and rotten to the core. Under Klein and Redford the PCParty lost its moral compass and integrity. It deserves to die. It has lots the moral authority to govern Alberta.

  3. Another parallel I would draw is Dwain Lingenfelter in Saskatchewan.
    This reminds me a lot of Dwain Lingenfelter.

  4. Dave,
    Just wondering why you mentioned that Danielle Smith is claiming that a Prentice campaign member contacted her about a mereger but you failed to mention that the Prentice campaign unequivocally denied that it ever happened. Wildrose party never lets the facts or the truth get in the way of a good headline.

  5. Thanks for the comment, Dylan. It is noted in the post. I do find it difficult to believe that Ms. Smith would simply make up the story. I can’t imagine how it would benefit her party to do so.

  6. More like perhaps Danielle Smith is concerned that Prentice will end her political career – so much so that she fabricates a story with no evidence. Who said politicians never lie?

  7. @Truth….don’t be overly dazzled and dont kid yourself.

    Politically speaking yes he may win, but he will have to contend with p’od unions, teachers, healthcare workers, xl pipeline, massive artificially created debt, coverups, Kurruption, circumventing the law (election finance and donations), on going scandals, a jaded weary public and a fierce battle hardened opposition. Once reality sets in….it will be Redford 2.0 or Paul Martin 2.0. In the mean time enjoy the courtship and honeymoon.

    Some of you are blinded by your man crush and don’t realize the Tories are running on borrowed votes and borrowed time and borrowed cash and borrowed luck. Smart people are hedging their bets accordingly.

    If he wins, I truly hope he will be honest, plain speaking, truthful, have integrity and be sensible and put Albertans first. I won’t hold my breath, his hands may already be too bound and he may already be too beholden if he becomes the new leader. If Prentice wins, let’s hope he stays as his own man.

  8. Jim Prentice couldn’t even hold Calgary-Mountainview against Bob Hawkesworth for the PC party.

  9. In Petroleum club circles Prentice is the good ole boy that is obviously the chosen one.
    To normal low-information voters on the street, he’s just some bureaucrat banker with a dazed stare.
    There is a huge disconnect coming.

  10. @Reality King:

    You are certainly correct that the PCs are running on borrowed votes and time. Last election people voted for them in droves out of fear of the wildrose. Whether that fear was justified or not doesn’t really matter.

    With Prentice at the helm, the PCs only hope is to rally the unions, Public Service, Teachers etc and convince enough of them to vote PC again out of fear of the wildrose. If he is willing to sweep the cabinet clean (and I mean clean, there might be 4 members I would keep) and clean out a ton of MLAs through nomination battles before the general he might be able to pull it off one more time.

    If he does that takes all of the wind out of the wildrose; Danielle Smith is done as party leader. No way she gets another run at it if she loses an election after being up 50-20% in approval polls. Prentice is the only man that can do it. I’m not sure if he will succeed but he certainly has the best chance.

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