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Wildrose views Alberta Tory race as just a bump in the road

Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith speaks to reporters after Alberta finance minister Ted Morton announced his resignation in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011.


Alberta's Progressive Conservative leadership race is in its final days, but the province's opposition parties aren't particularly focused on who will be named premier on Saturday.

Instead, they are already in election mode, busily rolling out policies and excitedly introducing would-be candidates.

"We believe there is a very high likelihood of a fall election and we want to make sure everyone understands what our platform is going into the election," Danielle Smith, Leader of the Wildrose Party, said Monday as she unveiled her upstart right-wing party's justice policy.

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Although Wildrose has just four MLAs – Ms. Smith not among them – the party's leader continues to make bold declarations.

"I plan to be the next, next premier," Ms. Smith said.

The next Premier, of course, will be elected Oct. 1 when Tory party faithful – and anyone else who paid $5 for a party membership – selects a new leader from the three candidates (all former cabinet ministers) who remain in the race.

But few observers expect it to be a nail-biter or reminiscent of the 2006 contest that saw third-place candidate Ed Stelmach slip into the Premier's chair via the preferential second-round ballot system.

On Sept. 17, first-ballot voting placed Gary Mar way out in front with 41-per-cent support to Alison Redford's 19 per cent and Doug Horner's 14.5 per cent. Mr. Mar quickly secured the support of the three candidates who didn't make it to the second round.

"It's Mar's to lose," said Keith Brownsey, a political scientist with Mount Royal University in Calgary. "There's a very big probability of him winning it outright."

Still, Ms. Redford is encouraging her supporters to select Mr. Horner as their second choice on the preferential ballot. All three will participate in a televised debate on Wednesday.

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Meanwhile, the opposition parties to the right and the left of the political spectrum are hoping this change in leadership will finally open the door to a change in government after 40 years of Tory rule.

"We have a considerable amount of work ahead of us for a fledgling party," said Glenn Taylor, leader of the Alberta Party.

The Alberta Party, which was restructured and reborn last year, has one seat in the legislature, eight nominated candidates and likely won't field candidates in every constituency. But Mr. Taylor expects his party will soon secure official party status.

Mr. Taylor said he doesn't fixate on who might succeed Mr. Stelmach on Saturday, but remains focused on the potential for a November election.

"The only thing we can control is our state of readiness," he said. Mr. Mar is the only leadership candidate who hasn't ruled out a fall election.

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About the Author
Dawn Walton

Dawn Walton has been based in Calgary for The Globe and Mail since 2000. Before leaving Toronto to head West, she won a National Newspaper Award and was twice nominated for the Michener Award for her work with the Report on Business. More

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