Provincial election campaign promises lots of spark

Finally an election that promises to have some spark to it.

Too often, municipal, provincial and federal elections of late have proven to be rather boring, predictable affairs.

Low voter turnouts attest to that. When things are so dull on the campaign trail, folks don’t usually have the ‘get-up-and-go’ to make it to the polling station. It’s not a great excuse by any means, but it’s the way it is.

I have a feeling that this provincial election, set for April 23, will be decidedly different. Maybe more fire. Maybe more public engagement.

The main reason?

The Wildrose Party.

Leader Danielle Smith has brought something fresh to Alberta’s political landscape — a compelling, bright, articulate and interesting personality.

That’s not to say other candidates over the last few years have been completely void of these qualities, but suffice it to say few have snapped up the attention Smith has. She hasn’t faded into the woodwork either.

I have a feeling most people on the street wouldn’t be able to name who the leader of the Alberta Liberals is. For that matter, I doubt many could provide much in the way of detail about NDP leader Brian Mason. Or how about the leader of the Alberta Party?

For that matter, even Premier Alison Redford hasn’t built up too much of a compelling profile in the last six months.

And the attention that she has garnered hasn’t exactly been the kind a politician longs for — she’s been under virtually constant attack from several vantage points over everything from the ‘intimidation of doctors’ issue to the recent shelling out of taxpayers’ money to government committee members who didn’t actually have meetings to attend.

But they happily took the money anyways. Try getting around that one when doing the ‘meet and greets’ over the next four weeks. Although the MLAs were from several different parties, there is no doubt that issue will follow her virtually everywhere she goes. People often say they are disillusioned by politicians and by the process in general, and they don’t take kindly to those in government taking public money simply because it’s there for the taking.

Anyone dismayed by this kind of behaviour, or with a party that’s been in power for four decades and where perhaps some feel apparently entitled to money for doing nothing, may feel a pull to explore other options.

Meanwhile, Smith has been able to enjoy being on the ‘oppositional’ side of things, which must be kind of fun. No one really expects too much of you, and you get to point out all the flaws in the reigning party (not too difficult these days) while trying to keep your own nose clean.

Smith has pretty much been able to keep her party, her image and her words in line since her first appearance. Sure she embarrassed herself with the party bus debacle a few weeks ago, when a portrait of herself happened to have two tires in a certain place on her image that resembled, well, you know.

The blunder caused some chuckles, but wisely, Smith didn’t make much of it and seemed to take it in stride.

More importantly, her ability to connect with the masses over the next four weeks will define her real future in Alberta politics. Watching her go to toe-to-toe with the other candidates, and Redford in particular, will be fascinating in what has largely been a boys’ club for way too long.

Yes, the coming vote will no doubt offer a few twists and turns, heated discussions and the usual rhetoric. The press releases are already pouring in with parties trading barbs and accusing each other of shortchanging or trying to fool Albertans.

Overwhelming to some, but ultimately quite irresistible. Let’s get the conversations started. It would be a welcome change from what has become the weary status quo.

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