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The Article

Alberta Tory leadership candidates should realize voters are restless

Political colleagues say they are re-assessing the race for the provincial Progressive Conservative leadership, and their re-assessment does not bode well for supposed front-runner Jim Dinning.

So much so, even I now believe unless the former provincial treasurer wins on the first ballot come the convention late this fall, he’s gone.

Across the past month or so, I have had long discussions with the likes of contenders Ted Morton, Lyle Oberg, Dave Hancock and Ed Stelmach.

I’ve always liked Ted, a straight shooter, and intellectually likely the best MLA in the PC caucus, but my relations with Lyle had been strained, and I had, to my regret, mocked both Dave and Ed.

Morton fears—and with good reason—what Ottawa might do to Alberta should the Liberals return. Naturally, I’m hoping Prime Minister Stephen Harper can win two or three majority governments, but one never knows what voters in Ontario or Quebec may do. Ted would surely stand up to Liberal Ottawa, and, being a constitutional expert, would know how to do it.

Oberg had the guts to tell Premier Ralph Klein his dawdling was enough and it was time to go.

For that, Lyle deserves respect. He’s also, I have found, a very sound fellow philosophically.

I had been told Hancock was a “Conservative by convenience, not by conviction”—somewhat like former health minister Gary Mar, who surely got what was coming to him when Klein demoted him to lower cabinet rank. Yet, listening to Hancock, he seems a staunch enough fellow. I’m not so sure about the charges he is really a closet Liberal.

In the past, I’ve likened Stelmach to Harry Strom, the nice fellow who took Alberta’s Social Credit government down to huge defeat at the hands of Progressive Conservative leader Peter Lougheed in 1971.

Strom was a solid rural type—but times were moving on and our province had changed dramatically. These days I’m not so sure “Steady Eddie” is the PC equivalent of Strom.

Ed seems to have a firm grasp of the issues—and he’s no lightweight.

He got the moniker ‘Steady Eddie’ because he carefully ponders issues, and once he has made a decision, never wavers. I’m impressed.

Back to Dinning.

His two main policy ideas so far are political suicide:

n Penalizing taxpayers over 30 by cutting the provincial tax rate for everyone under 30 to 5% while the rest of us pay 10% is not only unfair, it’s discriminatory.

Sure, Jim will now say it’s just an idea, one of many ideas that come his way, but that’s only because of the backlash that kicked him in the teeth after he made his statement.

n Giving people tax breaks for eating “healthy food” and penalizing taxpayers for eating “junk food”—or snacking. OK, OK, again he was just musing—but what Liberal-Left nonsense this is.

Here are more worrying points:

We need a two-term limit on the premiership, as they have for governors in the U.S. We can’t allow premiers to cling to power out of vanity when their time has passed, as has Klein’s. We need to give younger people the chance to move up the ladder, not run an entrenched and ingrained self-serving establishment.

Just as important, we need a “cleansing” in the political and government hierarchy.

Too many individuals in the Klein entourage have been on the gravy trains for too long. Patronage and pork-barreling are rife. Nothing illegal, but distasteful.

How come we have heard nothing about a “cleansing” from Dinning?

Is it because some of his advisers and campaign workers are holdovers from the Klein machine who hope to continue on the taxpayer-funded gravy train?

Believe me friends, there is a growing feeling in the province it’s time the PCs were thrown out of office, but with the Alberta Alliance seemingly dead, and the Liberals being rightfully loathed, there seems no alternative but to re-elect what we have had since 1971.

Dinning, if he has any hope of still winning race, better start telling us what he really intends to do.

How about it, Jim?

Paul Jackson
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