Alberta’s Conservatives have governed this province since 1971.
At times, such as when Peter Lougheed headed up the party, they provided pretty good government.
Later, under Don Getty, they spent recklessly and racked up a sizable debt.
Then Ralph Klein came along and guided the province out of the red, although Albertans often complained about the severity of his financial cuts.
Now we have Ed Stelmach as premier and its seems as though the Tories have alienated all sorts of Albertans: seniors (pharmaceuticals coverage), teachers (human rights legislation) and rural residents (landowners’ rights).
The Liberals and New Democrats have done their best to unseat the Conservatives over the past nearly four decades, but they’ve yet to accomplish that goal. So it seems the only way the Progressive Conservatives are likely to ever be defeated is by an even more right-wing party.
Could Alberta’s Wildrose Alliance be that party?
Two people have thrown their hats into the race for the leadership of the party so far and others may join the competition in the future.
Danielle Smith and Mark Dyrholm, both of Calgary, made their intentions known on Saturday at the upstart party’s annual meeting.
Dyrholm isn’t particularly well known outside of the party yet. However, he has apparently been involved in politics for a long time with the federal Reform and Conservative parties and the provincial Tories.
As well, no doubt, he’s likely met many people in his work as a chiropractor.
Smith is the former Alberta director for the Canadian Federation of Business and a former Calgary Herald editorial writer.
She holds a BA in English and a BA in Economics from the University of Calgary.
Paul Hinman took the Wildrose Alliance as far as he could as party leader by winning the party a seat in the legislature, before losing it in the spring 2008 election. He has since resigned and opened up an opportunity for someone else.
Whether the Alliance can win some seats in a provincial election expected for 2012 is anyone’s guess, but it definitely seems possible if they select a leader with the intelligence and charisma of Smith.
Unlike Stelmach, Smith is truly a fiscal conservative. She’s also not a Tory insider, as the Vegreville farmer surely is, and appears to be able to think outside the box.
If Smith is selected as party leader, the Alliance stands a better chance of capturing women’s votes. And, no doubt, many business owners would rather vote for someone like her than a Don Getty-style spender like Stelmach.
The Alliance might or might not provide better government than the Tories (some people worry they’d give away the province’s resources to the big oil companies even quicker than the Conservatives did), but Alberta needs a change all the same.
Change is not coming in Alberta from the left, so perhaps change from the right is our only hope.
Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.