Craig's Take: How two elections could impact Cdn. politics
Craig Oliver, CTV Chief Political Correspondent
Published Friday, September 30, 2011 2:18PM EDT
There are two consequential provincial elections in Canada in October and we will be considering their impact on national politics during Question Period this week.
On Oct. 6, Ontario, once considered the country's richest province, but which is anything but these days, goes to the polls.
Premier and Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty is making an increasingly desperate bid for a third majority government but Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, who is actually more Conservative than progressive, is nipping right at the premier's heels.
While the two of them are in a tight race to the surprise of everyone, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is surging strongly and might even bleed away enough votes from the Liberals to reduce them to a minority, even elect a Conservative provincial government.
A Conservative win in the country's largest province would be a huge boost for Hudak's federal brethren and Stephen Harper.
A Tory government in both Ottawa and in Ontario would form a substantial alliance which would add to the power Stephen Harper has already amassed.
It would go a long way to convincing many Conservatives that Harper had reached his long-sought goal of making Conservatives, instead of Liberals, the nation's natural governing party.
The outcome of the Ontario election could also be significant for the NDP whose leader, Horwath, is running a modern, centrist campaign. You will never hear the word "socialist" from her.
Many believe she is exploiting a Layton effect and might even achieve the same goal of putting her party back into official opposition or weakening the Liberals badly enough to elect Conservatives, which is what happened between Layton and Harper.
It is not hard to imagine the enormous boost in morale such an event would give to the federal NDP, now in the midst of what may yet become a messy leadership race.
It would also be devastating for the federal Liberals who share the same fundraisers and organizers with their provincial cousins.
Change ahead in Alberta
There are important national implications for the leadership of the Alberta Conservative Party, which culminates in the selection of a new premier on Saturday.
Polls are giving a clear edge to Gary Mar, who is the former provincial treasurer and for the last four years has been Alberta's salesman, in essence the ambassador of Alberta, in Washington.
Keen observers of the province's politics, however, are telling me I should not be writing off Alison Redford who was serving as justice minister in the Alberta government of Ed Stelmach.
She has been running a strong second all along, throughout the leadership contest in Alberta. Perhaps the most interesting fact about both of them, to an outsider from Ontario, is that they are both moderate Progressive Conservatives.
The surprise of this campaign for Stelmach's job has been that the right-wing Conservatives in the race have all been driven out during the course of the campaign.
If, as expected, Gary Mar wins the leadership, he will present the federal government with a serious challenge when it comes time to re-negotiate the federal-provincial health accord three years from now.
Although he is considered a centrist on most other issues, Mar is a dedicated believer in more private medicine.
He believes the only way to reduce costs is with private delivery of publicly-funded health care. His position, if supported by other premiers, would force the federal government under Harper to make some hard and potentially unpopular decisions about where it stands.
There is also an internal war that is being set up within the Conservative movement in Alberta for a no-holds-barred fight between Mar's supporters and right-of-centre Conservatives who have abandoned him to join the likewise right-leaning Wild Rose Party.
If the Conservative forces in Alberta are split, who knows what other party might have a chance to come up the centre and win?
Lots of politics to talk about on Question Period this Sunday.