Rural Tories fear ‘old boy’ Mar

Gary Mar may be in the lead heading into the Saturday’s Alberta PC leadership vote, but some Central Albertans wonder why.

Dan Eberhart

Dan Eberhart

Gary Mar may be in the lead heading into the Saturday’s Alberta PC leadership vote, but some Central Albertans wonder why.

“Mar scares me. It’s the old boy’s club. He’s not going to change anything,” said Ponoka resident Dave Spink while shopping at the Ponoka Farmers’ Market on Wednesday.

Spink, who isn’t an Alberta Progressive Conservative member, would rather Doug Horner, Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Alberta MLA and former deputy premier, or Alison Redford, Calgary-Elbow MLA and former justice minister, become leader.

“I do believe we’ve got to get some new blood or we’ll go downhill like the Liberals did in the federal election.”

Mar, who was a Calgary MLA for 14 years until appointed Alberta’s envoy in Washington in 2007, was the top favorite in rural ridings in Central Alberta and Red Deer in the first ballot, (Sept. 17) except for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake where he came in second behind Horner.

Redford came in second in Red Deer South and North. Horner came in second in Lacombe-Ponoka.

Mar took 41 per cent across Alberta in the first vote, followed by Redford with 19 per cent and Horner with 14.5 per cent.

Eric Ostergaard, a Ponoka grain farmer who has been a PC member, said Mar’s time has passed.

“He got big severance pay, a plum job on the taxpayers’ money,” said Ostergaard, referring to Mar’s MLA severance and Washington job.

He doesn’t want to keep feeding “an old horse, that goes to pasture, and comes back again.”

Ostergaard said Horner is a very nice, honest person like Premier Ed Stelmach.

“But if you want to be a leader of anything you have to take a stand, you cannot please everybody. Stelmach tried to please everyone.”

On Saturday, PC members will fill out first and second choices on their ballots.

If no one gets 50 per cent of the vote plus one, the third-place candidate will be eliminated and the second choices on ballots cast for third-place candidate will be added to the votes to determine a winner.

Doug Lamoureux, who was taking a break in the cafeteria at Vold, Jones and Vold Auction Co. Ltd. in Ponoka, was surprised Mar leads the race.

Lamoureux said he will vote for Horner on Saturday.

He said it was good that media has reported on the leadership campaign to remind the public it was happening and he was glad interest was building.

“I will make sure I’m there on the final day,” said Lamoureux, of Red Deer.

David Baugh, political science instructor at Red Deer College, said it’s been a “lackluster race” so far.

“One thing to watch for is whether rural Alberta is losing control of the Conservative party if Mar takes it. That appears to be the case,” Baugh said.

Horner, the most rural candidate, looks too far behind for rural Alberta to make him premier, Baugh said.

“(Former Premier Ralph Klein) surged ahead on second ballot by really working hard selling memberships in rural Alberta. Stelmach did it too. Both of them got that kick on second ballot from rural Alberta.”

Baugh is also waiting to see what the voter turnout will be on Saturday.

Will the right wing of the party come out and vote when Mar is so far ahead? An “anemic” second ballot would be encouraging for Wildrose Party of Alberta, he said.

It’s expected that the Conservatives will call a fall election, riding on interest garnered during the leadership campaign, Baugh said.

Among Central Alberta MLAs, Mar has the support of Red Deer North MLA and Minister of Seniors and Community Supports Mary Anne Jablonski, Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ray Prins, and retiring Olds-Didsbury MLA Richard Marz.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA and Minister of Transportation Luke Ouellette is campaigning for Horner.

As a member of the PC leadership election committee, Red Deer South MLA Cal Dallas could not declare support for a candidate.

Other MLAs could not be reached for comment.

— copyright Red Deer Advocate

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