Facing internal strife after a rough spring of budget cuts and deflating bitumen bubbles, Premier Alison Redford is desperately searching for political wins that will win-over Albertans in advance of the Progressive Conservatives mandatory leadership review in November.
When the Premier and her entourage hit the road for their summer Winnebago tour, they will avoid talk of unpopular cuts or broken election promises, and instead boast around the campfires and picnic tables that they were finally able to settle the long-standing labour disputes with Alberta’s teachers and doctors (and maybe a new Keystone XL Pipeline to Texas). But will this be enough?
Could the Tories look to Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel to set their party back on course?
The popular three-term mayor has yet to announce whether he will seek election later this year, and a poor showing by Premier Redford in November’s leadership review could give Mayor Mandel an opportunity to jump onto the provincial stage. As a moderate conservative with liberal social views and an independent-streak, many Tories were disappointed that Mayor Mandel sat out their party’s leadership race in 2011.
Already well-versed in municipal issues, Mayor Mandel’s recent lambasting of Premier Redford’s cuts to post-secondary education in front of a crowd of 2,000 of Edmonton’s business community has given him a topical issue that differentiates him from the current Tory leadership.
This week’s ThinkHQ Voice of Alberta online panel included questions about Mayor Mandel’s and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi‘s future prospects in provincial and federal politics, fuelling speculation that supporters of the two mayors are testing public opinion.
His age, lack of experience in partisan politics, and weakness for expensive sports arenas may be reasons Mayor Mandel would not make the jump, but he would bring with him nine-years of governance experience and an extensive political organization and broad fundraising network. Mayor Mandel may not be seen as a viable long-term party leader, due to his age, but as an ‘elder-statesman’ in Alberta politics, he could serve as an experienced hand to steer the PC Party through the next provincial election.
Wildose on the move
Intent on moderating its image and flush with cash, the Wildrose Party attracted a big turnout of constituency-level organizers at its annual Leader’s Congress in Calgary earlier this month and is expecting a significant turnout at its Edmonton event on April 20.
As Leader of the Official Opposition, media-savvy Danielle Smith is sounding more moderate by avoiding issues that could alienate her from potential conservative voters who supported Premier Redford’s Tories in the 2012 election.
Serious about avoiding the mistakes that cost her party the election in 2012, Ms. Smith has toned down her skepticism of climate change and will try to avoid vouching for any future “Lake of Fire“-type candidates. While the more extreme conservatives will still be part of the Wildrose Party’s base, their activities will be more tightly controlled and relegated to the background.
At this weekend’s Leader’s Congress in Edmonton, Ms. Smith’s party will launch “Wildrose 2016 Club,” a new fundraising initiative which, presumably, is geared towards helping her party form government in the 2016 election.