Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Doug Horner held a media conference on the steps of the Legislative Assembly building in Edmonton today.
The presser was billed as a launch of his “Enhancing Education” policy framework and his plan to “unite the PC Party,” but in reality it was used as an opportunity to remind the media that despite the attention-making campaigns of Alison Redford and Gary Mar, Mr. Horner is still in this race.
While policy framework introduced some interesting ideas, including the creation of a $50 million fund to help students experience overseas studies and volunteer work, it was surprisingly vague for Mr. Horner who has very capably held the Advanced Education & Technology portfolio over the past four years. The biggest example of this vagueness was found in the eighth point of his plan to unite the PC Party, “Organizational ability to understand the structure needed to implement change and to effectively make things happen.”
A Premier who will be his own gatekeeper
Included in the “Accessible Leadership” section of today’s policy framework release was the promise that as Premier, Mr. Horner would dissolve the Chief of Staff position and create “regional liaison officers” in its place “to ensure that MLA`s, Cabinet Ministers and stakeholders have direct access to the Premier.” This is a subtle shot at Premier Ed Stelmach‘s Chief of Staff Ron Glenn, who’s “gatekeeper” tendencies led to much frustration and resentment among PC MLAs over the past four years.
Standing behind Mr. Horner during the media conference were a group of MLAs endorsing his candidacy. Many of these rural MLAs made up the core of Premier Stelmach’s caucus support in his 2006 leadership bid, they include Lac La Biche-St. Paul MLA Ray Danyluk, Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Wayne Drysdale, Dunvegan-Central Peace MLA Hector Goudreau, Drumheller-Stettler MLA Jack Hayden, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Luke Ouellette, and Peace River MLA Frank Oberle. Mr. Horner also has the endorsements of Bonnyville-Cold Lake MLA Genia Leskiw and Strathcona MLA Dave Quest.
These endorsements will make it easy for his opponents to make comparisons between Mr. Horner and to the unpopular Premier Stelmach, but these comparisons would be misguided. Mr. Horner is a sharp mind and is a much better public speaker that the current occupant of the Premier’s office.
Mr. Horner is a former Deputy Premier and has served as the MLA for Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert since 2001. He is the son of former Deputy Premier Hugh Horner.