New leadership won't fix broken Alberta PCs: Wildrose leader
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, May 4, 2014 1:02PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, May 4, 2014 1:54PM EDT
Potential Alberta PC leadership candidate Jim Prentice won’t be enough to fix what ails the province’s ruling party, his political opponents say.
“The party is fundamentally broken,” Danielle Smith, leader of Alberta’s Wildrose Party, told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday.
The Progressive Conservatives were rocked by scandal last March when then-premier Alison Redford stepped down while facing revolt from party members over her use of taxpayer funds to pay for personal travel expenses. Dave Hancock has been the interim premier and party leader since then, as the party prepares to elect a new leader in September.
Prentice, a former federal cabinet minister, is expected to announce his leadership bid in the coming weeks. He left federal politics in 2010 and has been a senior executive vice-president and vice-chairman with CIBC since January 2011.
Whoever takes over the PCs will inherit a party that has plummeted in the polls. A recent poll shows the Wildrose Party leading in popular opinion at 50 per cent. The PCs are a distant second at 23 per cent.
Smith said the PC party needs to be defeated in the next provincial election so they can retool and address a “sense of entitlement” that runs deep.
“When a party wants to renew itself, often they have to spend some time in the wilderness,” Smith said.
Smith said a change in leadership will not be enough to fix the Alberta PCs.
“There has to be some blood on the floor,” she said. “You just can’t take a Jim Prentice head and graft it onto a Frankenstein body.”
Tom Flanagan, a former campaign manager for the Wildrose Party, said Redford’s messy departure will create a problem for Prentice if he does take over. “If he becomes leader of the party, he inherits all the baggage that goes with it,” he said.
Redford recently raised eyebrows after being photographed in Palm Springs, Calif., where she is said to be taking time away from the party and provincial legislature. But Flanagan said she continues to draw a full paycheck and has not opted for the reduced pay that many accept when a leave of absence is taken.
That, Flanagan said, comes at the cost of the taxpayer, and shows that the “old politics of privilege” are still at work in the PC party.
“Jim probably had little to do with that decision, but it will create a political problem for him,” Flanagan added.
Smith said Redford should decide whether she wants to show up for work or resign from her seat in the provincial legislature.
According to Flanagan, Redford has not been forced to resign because the PCs are holding her seat for Prentice.
The Alberta PC leadership race officially begins May 15.