Who’s in and who’s out?
Central Alberta MLAs, if they haven’t already decided, are tossing around whether they will run again in the next provincial election — which could come sooner than later.
Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski will make an announcement at 9:30 a.m. Monday at the Sheraton Hotel Red Deer about her future.
While the fifth-term Progressive Conservative MLA wanted to keep the details confidential when I spoke with her on Friday, she did say when I asked her how she was feeling: “Right now I have very mixed feelings about everything.” The emotion was evident.
As for the other MLAs, and not surprising given recent events in Alberta politics, at least one is still deciding what banner he will run under.
And other people, entirely new to the game, are stepping up to take their shot at provincial politics.
There’s speculation every single day now on whether Premier Jim Prentice will call an election this spring.
This was fueled even more when MLA Doug Horner, former finance minister and deputy premier, announced on Thursday that he was resigning effective Jan. 31. And Fred Horne, who served as health minister, announced on Friday that he will not run again.
It may be that in the coming days we will see more resignations. This is to allow for enough time to replace and nominate new candidates before an election. Given the worsening situation of Alberta’s resource-based economy, with the price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil below US$46 a barrel on Friday (last June, it was US$105), the possibility of an election this year is on the rise.
The loss of revenue for the province is expected to result in major cuts to government spending, and Prentice, who as premier has yet to face the general electorate, will need a mandate from voters if he intends to do that because there will be pushback. There’s even been hair-raising talk about Albertans finally seeing a sales tax.
There are 87 constituencies in Alberta and today the PCs hold 72. Wildrose was severely wounded, slashed down to five MLAs following the floor-crossing of two MLAs in November and then nine in December (including party leader Danielle Smith) to the government side. The Liberals also have five MLAs, while the New Democrats have four, and there is one independent.
Central Alberta has been right in the middle of these whirlybird politics — at the beginning of November, Wildrose MLAs in this region outnumbered PC MLAs five to two. Weeks later, they were all the same faces, but the PCs outnumbered Wildrose six to one.
The PCs have set March 15 as the deadline for all their candidates to be nominated. They are far ahead of all the other parties, having 47 or 87 nomination dates set (either Feb. 21 or Feb. 28) for the next election. But it’s likely that the other parties have now rolled up their sleeves and are working hard at seeking contenders.
There are seven constituencies in Central Alberta, of which five are held by Progressive Conservative MLAs. These now include Jablonski; Red Deer South — Cal Dallas; Innisfail-Sylvan Lake — Kerry Towle; Lacombe-Ponoka — Rod Fox; and Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills — Bruce Rowe.
Towle shocked most everyone when she crossed from Wildrose to PC in late November with another MLA, from Southern Alberta. Then, Wildrosers Fox and Rowe were among the other nine who went PC in December.
Joe Anglin, MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, once was leader of the Alberta Green Party but was elected as a Wildrose MLA in the last election. He left the party in November, just before all the floor-crossings, to sit as an independent MLA.
Rick Strankman, Drumheller-Stettler, was on vacation when all hell broke loose. He was left as the remaining Wildrose MLA in Central Alberta.
Towle has confirmed she will be seeking the PC nomination for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. But she won’t have an easy time of it. Red Deer County Major Jim Wood, a long-standing Conservative, announced Thursday that he intends to seek the PC nomination for the constituency. The vote will be on Feb. 28.
Dallas said he is meeting with the Red Deer South PC constituency board on Friday and expects to have an announcement after that about whether he’s going to run again. No nomination dates has been set for either Red Deer South or Red Deer North.
Strankman is running again in Drumheller-Stettler for the Wildrose and has been nominated.
Joe Anglin intends to run again in his riding. But he’s not sure if he will remain an independent, or try something entirely new and seek the PC nomination. There is already one declared PC candidate for the nomination — Tammy Cote of Rocky. The nomination vote, if needed, will be Feb. 21.
Fox is away on vacation until today and no announcements have been made about his intentions. If he runs again, he will face at least Peter DeWit of Lacombe, who has just declared he will go after the PC nomination for Lacombe-Ponoka. No date has been set for a nomination vote.
Rowe did not return calls. If he does decide to seek the Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills PC nomination, he will face at least Wade Bearchell, an Olds town councillor, who has declared. No date has been set for a nomination.
There’s strong interest in the Drumheller-Stettler PC nomination. No vote date has been set. So far, three people are after the nod — Greggory Jackson, Ed Mah and former PC MLA Jack Hayden, who lost to Strankman in the 2010 election.
The Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta’s nomination committee was to meet on Saturday to consider setting more dates for nominations.
As of Friday, overall, Wildrose had 17 of 87 nominations completed, including Strankman in Drumheller-Stettler and Jason Nixon for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre. Nominations opened on Wednesday for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills and so far, Carstairs Coun. Nathan Cooper is the only one after it.
The Liberals and New Democrats have not yet announced any candidates or nomination dates for any of the seven Central Alberta constituencies.
The Alberta Party has two of 87 possible candidates nominated but neither of them are in Central Alberta.