Guy Boutilier in his Wildrose caucus office in Edmonton back in 2009. Notice Ralph Klein peering over his shoulder. Below: Other Fort Mac politicians Brian Jean, the Conservative Crossword King, and Mike Allen, a saxophonist, in his St. Paul Police mugshot.
Guy Boots, Member of Parliament?
Why not? When you think about it, Guy Boutilier – nowadays he pronounces Guy in the French way, Ghee, and Boutilier in the English Way, Boot-a-LEER – is one of Alberta’s most successful politicians.
At least, he was until he wasn’t.
But now he’s lookin’ good again, and with a federal by-election likely to be called soon in his Fort McMurray area riding thanks to the unexpected resignation last month of Conservative MP Brian Jean, the temptation to throw his hat in the federal Tory ring is almost irresistible. Sad to say, nowadays, a Conservative victory in the Fort McMurray Athabasca federal riding is probably all but a certainty.
For the record, all Mr. Boutilier is doing is thinking about it, considering his options, never saying never. “I’m not ruling it out, that’s for sure,” he told me in a short conversation yesterday.
But depend on it, the last mayor of Fort Mac and the first mayor of the Wood Buffalo Regional Municipality (meaning he was wearing the chain of office when the city morphed into the massive Bitumen Patch municipality in 1995) and former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister under Ralph Klein, is thinking a bit more seriously than that about a run to be MP for the principal city of Canada’s most notorious oil-producing region.
Since last October, Mr. Boutilier has been back on Fort Mac’s city council after running for the Wildrose Party and losing narrowly to a Tory named Mike Allen in the 2012 Alberta Provincial election. That was the one in which Alison Redford’s slick campaign advisor managed to snatch her bacon out of the fire at almost the last possible moment.
Mr. Allen, a professional saxophonist before he was a professional politician, went on to distinguish himself by getting busted in St. Paul, Minnesota, of all places when he mistook a woman police constable for a hooker. This got Mr. Allen skidded from Ms. Redford’s Progressive Conservative caucus to the independent benches in the Legislature, where he is serving out his term in quiet ignominy.
As a consequence, needless to say, the usually cheerful Mr. Boutilier – who is a character, but not a disreputable one; uxorious and besotted with his eight-year-old son – is looking pretty good these days to a lot of Fort McMurray voters.
Back in the day, after doing his time on Fort Mac council, Mr. Boutilier was recruited by Ralph Klein to run for the Provincial PCs. Once in office, Mr. Klein made him intergovernmental affairs minister, then environment minister.
It just wasn’t the same for Mr. Boutilier after Mr. Klein left office, though. Premier Ed Stelmach didn’t put him in cabinet after the 2008 election – maybe because he’d first backed Lyle Oberg during the leadership race.
In 2009, Mr. Boutilier became embroiled in a slanging match with Mr. Stelmach over a plan to build a seniors’ long-term care residence in Fort Mac, which Mr. Boutilier characterized as a broken promise when it didn’t get built. (It still hasn’t been.) Nowadays, Mr. Boutilier calls this dustup his proudest moment.
That summer, Mr. Stelmach kicked him out of the caucus, after which he sat as an Independent for close to a year before joining the Wildrose Party. While Mr. Boutilier was happy enough to find a political home and a banner under which he could run, it’s said here he wasn’t really a natural Wildroser.
When the Wildrose Party faltered in the final sprint to the 2012 election – thanks in no small part to the homophobic ranting of one of the party’s Edmonton candidates – Mr. Boutilier’s chance to return to Edmonton in laurels turned to ashes.
Which gets us back to the present, if not quite the future.
Mr. Jean resigned last month after being mocked for taking to composing crossword puzzles to combat the excruciating boredom of being a Harper Government backbencher. This will necessitate a by-election, although Prime Minister Stephen Harper hasn’t seen fit to call one just yet.
Since then, Mr. Boutilier’s been getting calls from friends and supporters urging him to consider running for the job. Could be he’s even checked out real estate prices in Ottawa.
Mind you, what a control freak like Mr. Harper would make of having a potential loose canon like Guy Boots in Fort Mac – the location nearest and dearest to Mr. Harper’s heart and to his schemes for Canada – is another matter.
He’d probably be just as happy not to have caucus member with a Harvard degree and a proven record of being prepared to go toe to toe with his first minister over a smallish disagreement.
The people of Fort Mac, on the other hand, might be prepared to elect the former Nova Scotian, if only for the entertainment value.
So look for Mr. Boutilier’s political career to take a turn back to the future, possibly quite soon.