Barring a stealth insurgency campaign, I anticipate that around 85% of Progressive Conservative convention delegates will support Premier Ed Stelmach in the leadership review vote this weekend. Why so high, you ask? Because this is a vote by dedicated partisans from Alberta’s PC Party. Premier Stelmach has his detractors, but I expect that the kind of party members who would pay hundreds of dollars to spend two days in Red Deer will predictably rally around the PC Party brand.
Seeking to revive fond memories a past era, the slogan chosen for this convention was also the PCs 1979 election slogan. Now… more than ever, which was chosen thirty years ago over the wrath tempting 79 in ’79, is meant to remind party faithful of the glory days and to put aside their feelings about more recent political baggage.
With at least two or three years until the next election, Premier Stelmach has at least twelve months to pull his party’s support up again before he faces the kind of internal opposition that forced Don Getty into retirement. Similar to Getty’s time in office, Premier Stelmach is governing during an economic slowdown under the shadow of a popular predecessor. Getty’s administration was marred with scandals and internal dissent and so far, Premier Stelmach has demonstrated an ability to avoid taking personal responsibility for his government’s missteps. Getty retired in 1992 as Laurence Decore‘s Liberals were riding a wave of discontent that mirrored the rise of the Reform Party on the federal stage. While they are currently rising in recent polls, it remains to be seen whether Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Alliance can sustain their support until the next election. It also remains to be seen whether David Swann can re-energize the Liberals to take advantage of a potential split on the political right.
Also uncertain is who would contest a 2010 leadership race if PC delegates voted to sack the Premier. Ted Morton, Brett Wilson, Jim Prentice, Dave Hancock, Jonathan Denis, Ray Danyluk, Alison Redford, and Doug Horner are names that I have heard bandied around, but it is too soon to tell who is actually prepared to step up to the plate.
Billed as a policy convention, a quick look at the policy booklet reveals a fairly dry agenda for debate. It is likely that the liveliest excitement of the weekend may come from outside the convention where the AUPE, the Friends of Medicare, and other public sector groups are busing hundreds of supporters from around the province to a huge Stop the Cuts rally only blocks away from the convention.
On Saturday night, PC archetypes will herald the convention as a success of the grassroots, but I expect that little will change after the convention concludes. Regardless of potential icebergs on the political horizon, a strong showing of support in the leadership review will certainly solidify the resolve of Premier Stelmach and his supporters that they are steering their party, and the Government of Albertans, in the right direction. “Rearrange the deck chairs…“
Alex Abboud: State of Alberta: At a Crossroads
Calgary Grit: This week in Alberta – All good things…
Ken Chapman: Is Alberta about to enter an empire illusion stage politically?
Chris Labossiere: Run up the middle… to right of centre
Duncan Wojtaszek: Red Deer
Live Gov: PC AGM