Election parade begins

With a provincial election coming sometime before the end of May, we are seeing Premier Alison Redford and her Progressive Conservative cabinet whirling their way across the province this week, romancing the old guard, and a few others.

And so it begins.

With a provincial election coming sometime before the end of May, we are seeing Premier Alison Redford and her Progressive Conservative cabinet whirling their way across the province this week, romancing the old guard, and a few others.

A new Alberta law recently established a 90-day springtime provincial election window every four years, from March 1 through to May 31. This means Redford will this year call an election between these dates.

I’m thinking sooner rather than later, especially after yet another revelation of alleged illegal donations to the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta.

The latest has hit close to home. The Alberta Liberals alleged on Monday that 2005 meeting minutes show that the Persons with Developmental Disabilities board members in Red Deer were to purchase tickets to an upcoming partisan PC premier’s fundraising dinner and submit claims for reimbursement. The board receives public funding, so donating to a political party is not permitted.

Kick up enough dust devils and maybe they’ll reach menacing storm strength.

The latest tally of candidates for the next provincial election shows the Tories, Wildrose and New Democrats have many of their candidates in Alberta’s 87 ridings already nominated: Tories (63 nominated); Wildrose, 79; NDP, 73; Liberals, 25; Alberta Party, 12. The number of ridings in Alberta will increase from 83 to 87 ridings in the next election.

Red Deer this week rates visits by several ministers. They are here to mingle with local PC MLAs at public drop-in events for very short whiles, an hour or two. And they also are having glad-hand meetings with groups, like seniors, students and business owners.

No word yet of whether the premier herself will be passing through. Usually, during an election campaign, the biggest guns head off to where they see vulnerabilities, on either side, or where they want to steal a seat.

Perhaps the biggest clue that an election is sooner rather than later is Redford’s announcement last week that the provincial budget is set for Feb. 9. As elections go, first comes the budget, then soon after comes the election call.

When it comes, it will be the first true test of whether the right-of-centre Wildrose Party, under Danielle Smith, has really made inroads in Alberta politics. Today, the 83-member legislature breaks down as PCs: 68; Liberals, eight; Wildrose, four; NDP, two; and Alberta Party, one.

On the mind of more than a few pundits: Will Wildrose take charge, and also split the vote enough to allow the NDP and Liberals an opportunity to gain more seats? Are the Tories really in for a run for their money?

The turbines of rhetoric are beginning to spin once again.

Mary-Ann Barr is the Advocate’s assistant city editor. She can be reached by email at barr@bprda.wpengine.com, at 403-314-4332, or Twitter @maryannbarr1.

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