Prentice by the numbers

Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Prentice will be Alberta’s 15th premier since Confederation. In all the years since 1905, Alberta’s premiers have led just four different parties. At each succession, the losing party became a trivia question.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Prentice will be Alberta’s 15th premier since Confederation. In all the years since 1905, Alberta’s premiers have led just four different parties. At each succession, the losing party became a trivia question.

Two of those parties, the United Farmers and Social Credit, no longer exist or are no longer on anyone’s radar. The other non-Tory party to lead Alberta was the first of them all — the Liberals —whose dynasty lasted from 1905 to 1921.

The vast majority of Albertans today were not even alive or in the province when Peter Lougheed became the first Tory premier of Alberta. Prentice will be only the sixth Tory leader to sit in premier’s chair in the 43 years the party has ruled the province (seven if you count interim Premier Dave Hancock).

Here are a few interesting numbers around premier Prentice’s rise to power:

1 — The most crucial number of all. Prentice won on the first ballot on Saturday, as expected. Had there been a second ballot required (which would have been held on Sept. 20), it would have produced a candidate who was a lot of people’s second choice for premier. That lack of overt support, even in victory, would probably have doomed the party in the next general election.

23,386 — The number of votes cast in the ballot counted on Saturday. A new-fangled online voting system was used, which was supposed to make it easier for Albertans anywhere to vote in the leadership race. But it was subject to glitches, delays and breakdowns. Alison Redford won her leadership in a race where 59,000 votes were cast. For the campaign that elected Ed Stelmach, 97,000 were cast. Make of that what you will.

14 — The minimum age for someone to take out a party membership and vote for the leader. We’ll never know how many parents paid for a party membership and had their teenage children vote the family line, but that part is interesting.

6 — The number of months you had to be living in the province to participate in the vote. It would also be interesting to know how many people bought a party membership and voted who were not even in Alberta when Redford was premier.

20 —The number of digits in a PIN code your party membership gave you to enter into your computer, tablet or smart phone in order to vote. Most banking PINs are shorter than that. The PIN also included the numbers in your postal code — but not the letters — which was the cause of a whole lot of rejected online sign-ins to vote. Whatever IT firm created this system will not likely be rehired for future work of this sort.

$1.8 million — The dollar figure Prentice raised to finance his campaign, outpacing by far the combined tallies of the other two candidates. Money is important in politics, not just for what it buys but for what it represents. The money goes to the winner almost all the time, because the money goes to the candidate perceived to become the winner.

50 — The number of elected MLAs who supported Prentice in this race. Right now there are 58 Tories in the legislature.

Smaller — The promised size of the next cabinet. How having fewer people hold the ultimate reins of decision-making improves transparency, we have yet to see, but a smaller cabinet is easier to control. Interim Premier Dave Hancock’s cabinet had 17 members; Redford’s had 18.

2016 — The next Alberta general election. Since 2011, elections must be held between March 1 and May 31 of the fourth year since the previous election. I wouldn’t expect a snap election call before that. That leaves a maximum of 21 months for Prentice to preserve the Tory dynasty.

29 — The current percentage voter support for the Tory party, released in a Leger poll just prior to the leadership vote. Wildrose holds a 33-point support level. Given the vagaries of polling accuracy — especially recently — that puts the two parties pretty well even. Maybe.

Had I not read in a news report that Prentice is considered a “red” Tory, I wouldn’t have suspected it. Two of the members of his transition team have high-level insider experience in oilsands boardrooms. And Prentice himself has been tight with decidedly “not red” Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

But Prentice did break ranks with the federal party as an MP on a free vote on gay marriage, withstanding extreme pressure within the party, and even threats of violence from the public.

That’s the kind of grit he’ll need if he is to turn an over-privileged dynastic party into something humble enough to win our votes in the next election.

Greg Neiman is a retired Advocate editor. Follow his blog at readersadvocate.blogspot.ca or email greg.neiman.blog@gmail.com.

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