After being arrested in a prostitution sting in St. Paul, Minnesota, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Mike Allen resigned from the Progressive Conservative caucus. For the time-being, Mr. Allen will remain an Independent MLA, as police in St. Paul have yet to place charges against him. Barring charges and a conviction, Mr. Allen could reasonably be expected to complete his term in Legislative Assembly, albeit sitting outside the PC caucus.
The opposition, including Airdrie Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson, have been calling on Mr. Allen to resign as MLA. If, by chance, Mr. Allen did resign as MLA, voters in the northern Alberta constituency would choose a new representative in a by-election.
In 2012, Mr. Allen was elected with 3,609 votes (49%), defeating Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier, who earned 3,164 votes (42.9%). A unique election, Mr. Boutilier served as a PC MLA since his first election in 1997 until he left the Tory caucus in 2009 and joined the Wildrose in 2010. According to Elections Alberta financial reports, Mr. Allen’s campaign spent $72,825 in the campaign, compared to Mr. Boutilier’s $65,457.
In the 2012 Elections Alberta financial disclosures, the PC constituency association in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo reported net assets of $11,438.40. The Wildrose constituency association listed $549.58 in net assets at the end of 2012.
Low voter turnout, 34%, in the 2012 general election suggests that many voters in the constituency are undeclared or unidentified by the parties.
Despite electing candidates in both Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo and neighbouring Fort McMurray-Conklin (where Tory Don Scott defeated Wildrose candidate Doug Faulkner), the Wildrose candidates earned strong second place finishes in the 2012 election.
Fort McMurray Today reports Mr. Boutilier remains silent on a possible comeback, but a by-election triggered by a Tory sex scandal would be the ideal scenario an opposition politician could hope for.
A Liberal base in Fort McMurray, which elected MLA Adam Germain in the 1993 election, has near completely eroded with that party earning 3% of the vote in both constituencies. The NDP saw a spike of support in constituency in the the 2001 election, but have not had much success in the three elections held since.
Who would the Tories look to for a by-election candidate? Would any of Mr. Allen’s challengers in last year’s PC nomination step up? Candidates in last year’s PC nomination race included Andrew Highfield, Nick Sanders, and school trustee Jeff Thompson. Popular Wood Buffalo mayor Melissa Blake, who is seeking re-election in this year’s municipal vote, would be seen as a star candidate for any party and could easily fill a top cabinet position if elected into government.
A rash of automobile accidents caused deaths on the busy highway 63 put heavy pressure on the governing Tories last year. The heavy pressures of a being boom-town have created many unique growth and social challenges in this northern Alberta community that could easily become an issue in a locally-focused by-election.
But Premier Alison Redford‘s Tories may want to avoid an embarrassing by-election defeat. Two of the three most recent provincial by-elections held in Alberta have resulted in opposition parties electing candidates in formerly government-held constituencies.