June 23rd, 2018

Tory leadership races are turning politics on its head

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on March 10, 2017.

Next weekend will be the culmination of a long process to choose a new leader for the provincial PCs but in many ways the rebuilding process will have only just begun.

There appear to be two front-runners, Jason Kenney the former federal politician and Richard Starke a current provincial politician.

For Kenney, whose agenda it is to dismantle the PC Party, dismantle the Wildrose Party, and form a new party, the method to get elected has been politically strategic. He has run a well-oiled machine and his lengthy political career has given him the ability to respond to questions from the public and media with ease.

If Kenney is elected leader he will be at the helm of a ship sailing very fast to the next provincial election. He may have about 18 months or it could be much less if the NDP government determines its chances of being reelected are better sooner rather than later. Kenney will have to move deftly in creating a whole new party that will please the membership. He will then also have to convince Albertans to vote for that party.

Starke will attract votes from those who are not willing to collapse a party that ruled Alberta for more than four decades. He does not have federal political baggage and came across well in debates around the province.

The challenge will be changing the party sufficiently to entice voters, not just party members, to give the PCs another chance at governing the province. The party has done very little in that regard since losing the election about 18 months ago. They may have been working really hard to fundraise remain a credible opposition all with virtually no paid staff. That was hard work but not the sort of hard work average voters define as change.

Any party that has ruled for 40 years has built a legacy of the equivalent of an old boys network. They have vast political experience but were not able to easily respond to what voters were saying. After that length of time there is also the inevitable attitude of feeling the public does not necessarily know what it needs and so politicians will decide for them.

If the election of President Donald Trump is a barometre then voters may no longer have a stomach for the arrogance of old style politicians if they are given an alternative. Trump may be brash, he may break the rules, but at least he is “not a typical politician.” Before you dismiss that as US politics think again.

Kevin O’Leary joined the race to be the federal Conservative party leader rather late, compared to the other candidates, but has shot into the lead. His lack of political experience is precisely what many Canadians like about him. He is a successful business man with a fresh approach.

The whole political game plan has changed. The public seem to finally have an alternative to the status quo and it is turning politics on its head and that is a good thing.

(Gillian Slade is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to https://www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions or call her at 403-528-8635.)

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