What Saturday’s Win by Red Tory Redford Means in Alberta

Alison Redford was Saturday’s surprise winner of the Alberta PC leadership race. As stunned as frontrunner Gary Mar was, the most surprised may have been Alberta’s opposition parties, who had no doubt begun positioning themselves against Mar.

So how does this shocker change Alberta’s already rocky political landscape?

Progressive Conservatives

Redford’s first task will be assembling a new Cabinet – expect that announcement in about a week. Her second will be deciding when to go to the polls.

There had been speculation Mar would call a snap election this fall, but Redford’s victory has ended talk of this, with the Premier-designate saying she will not call an election before June. Although Redford campaigned on fixed election dates, it’s unclear whether this was a real promise, or one of those silly things one says to get elected. So the exact timing of the next election is still up in the air.

Redford will use the time until the next election (whenever it is) to earn the trust of a caucus she had only a handful of supporters in, and to introduce herself to voters. Redford ran a policy-heavy campaign, and enacting some of these policies into law would be the perfect way to define herself to the electorate.

Alberta Liberals

After Gary Mar, the biggest loser on Saturday may have been the Alberta Liberal Party. Running a single issue Health Care campaign against Gary “two tier” Mar must have been a tantalizing prospect for newly elected Liberal leader Raj Sherman. Now Sherman finds himself up against a red Tory who is popular among women and lists education and Health Care as her top two priorities.

Redford looks like a Liberal and sounds like a Liberal – she likely would have run as a Liberal if Liberals stood a chance of being elected in Alberta. That makes her a very formidable opponent for Liberals. Hell, even Margaret Atwood is excited.

The Danielle Smith Party

For the same reasons Redford’s victory is trouble for the Liberals, it should help the Wildrose Alliance. They can now portray themselves as the only “true” conservatives, and might be able to poach a few disgruntled PC MLAs or organizers.

At the same time, the Wildrosers should be careful about toasting Redford’s win. After all, much of Danielle Smith’s appeal transcends the political spectrum. To many, Smith isn’t a conservative ideologue – she’s a strong female candidate willing to take on the establishment. That was very much Redford’s M.O. during the leadership contest, so if the choice boils down to Redford or Smith…well, maybe voters will opt for the leader whose party has been tested and whose candidates aren’t as extreme.

The short of this is to say Redford adds another wild card to an already unpredictable political game in Alberta. The challenge for all parties becomes shifting strategies and defining this largely unknown leader.

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Alberta PC Leadership Race, Alberta Politics

About CalgaryGrit

A former Calgary Liberal, now living in Toronto. My writings on politics can be found at www.calgarygrit.ca and online at the National Post.

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