It was kind of like 2006 all over again with last weekend’s Progressive Conservative leadership vote. Most people had their eyes set on Gary Mar as the easy win. After all, the candidates who had been turfed earlier threw their support and endorsements his way.
It simply was what most were expecting, with Alison Redford and Doug Horner trailing behind. Sound familiar? No one really expected Premier Ed Stelmach to zoom up the centre and claim victory over candidates like the popular Jim Dinning back in 2006. But he did. And so did Redford.
The news was officially declared around 2 a.m. on Sunday morning as the second ballots were finally counted. Redford had won – not by a landslide certainly – but she still won.
And now we have Alberta’s first female premier and a whole host of potential changes for the Tories who have been in power for some 40 years in this province.
Redford immediately got to work, restoring funding for education for starters. Through her campaign she was trying to portray herself as offering a fresh approach to both the party faithful and Albertans as a whole. It’s not going to be an easy task in challenging financial times to try and make everybody happy. And it will be interesting to see how the ‘old guard’ of the Tory party will really embrace their new leader. She’s never been a real ‘up front’ kind of politician; not really one to snap up the media’s attention for too long.
In fact, over the past few weeks one could be forgiven for thinking Mar was virtually the only person in the running, or already premier for the attention he garnered.
Goes to show that it’s impossible to predict the outcomes of these kinds of showdowns. The voting system has been criticized and rightly so. When anyone off the street can plunk down their five bucks and vote for a leader in a party they would never otherwise support, something surely has to change.
But it’s doubtful Redford is complaining too much about this structural issue. She has her hands full gearing up to build up the PCs as the Wildrose Party is gaining ground under their charismatic leader Danielle Smith.
Looking forward, it will be interesting to see how Redford handles the issues of the day. It’s been pointed out she doesn’t owe anybody anything, so it really is a fresh start on that level. Mar has been around for a long time – sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it just doesn’t work in one’s favour.
The Tories know full well they need a new start, and Redford is seen as the one for the job.