The Alberta Tory government has been getting a but of a rough ride of late, largely thanks to the travel exploits of Premier Alison Redford.
There have been other issues plaguing the government, including mounting debt, and contentious labour legislation, but the travel issue has helped drag down the premier’s — and the party’s — approval numbers.
Even with Redford’s announcement that she paid back the cash, the political damage could be done.
With reports nearly 20 MLAs were ready to jump ship over the travel issue, it’s not clear whether the party will want to face voters with Redford as leader, despite a ringing 77% endorsement last fall.
But a couple of glaring issues could put the brakes on any potential palace coup.
To run an effective campaign in two years against an emboldened opposition, the Tories are going to need cash. A lot of cash. And while they may be able to rely on some big donors late in the game, they’ll need to head into the capmaign with a considerable war chest.
Recent stories in the media detail hundreds of thousands in party debt after the last leadership contest (less than three years ago) and the 2012 campaign. And there are also concerns about party fundraising and building a new Legacy Fund.
While a leadership contest could energize the party base, it could also tap the well dry and pose challenges for a full-blown election campaign not long after. Right now, there are roughly two years until an election (based on the premier’s fixed election window). If there are people in the party that want Redford gone, waiting around may not help their cause.
They don’t need a bloodletting when they’re trying to get their financial act together.
2. WHO’S NEXT?
Let’s just say a caucus revolt forces the premier out. What next? Looking at Redford’s cabinet, is there a premier-in-waiting in the bunch? Doug Horner and Doug Griffiths both took a run at the job in 2011. While Horner holds high profile as finance minister, and Griffiths is one of the few Tory ministers I don’t think has done a bad job over all, neither seem the man to lead the party into the future.
Labour Minister Thomas Lukaszuk would need a severe political makeover from attack dog and Twitter quip-slinger to statesman. But he gets good hair points.
Jonathan Denis has been a decent law-and-order representative, though I haven’t always agreed with him. He could make a go at a leadership race, but I don’t know he’d fare well.
Ken Hughes and Fred Horne hold lofty positions, but aren’t the face of renewal.
I’d throw in Diana McQueen and Jeff Johnson, ministers of energy and education, respectively, as possible contenders, but, save for Ed Stelmach, the party hasn’t elected a leader from a rural riding.
There may well be up-and-comers on the PC backbenches, but there’s no one that really stands out.
Outside caucus? Everyone keeps talking up Stephen Mandel, but he’s no spring chicken, and not necessarily known outside Edmonton. However, he has proven he can take an ambitious agenda and run with it.
A lot of people may want to talk up Gary Mar and Jim Dinning as Tory saviours, but for many they’re from a bygone political era. They’d still garner a lot of support, mind you.
Jim Prentice may come up in some circles, but one would imagine, should he return to politics, that he’d be looking at a shot at federal leadership.
Given the party’s recent troubles in the polls, there will be people sharpening their knives.
But the Tory troubles go beyond their leader, and the challenges posed should she leave will be tough to overcome.