Thomas Lukaszuk is an entertaining speaker with a full range of facial expressions. His party is going to make darned sure he doesn’t have a chance to use those talents in the service of his leadership bid. Below: PC leadership frontrunner Jim Prentice and candidate Ric McIver.

While Thomas Lukaszuk’s chances of succeeding in the race to become leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party always seemed like a long shot, one has to feel a certain sympathy with the Edmonton MLA’s protest his party won’t permit a real unscripted debate to take place among the three candidates for the job.

The forums organized by the party are tightly scripted and aimed at party insiders, not potential new members who might sign up to back a candidate that impressed them, he complained to a local newspaper late last week.

The explanation is pretty simple, though. The PC Party establishment is going to make darned sure that this time the heir apparent wins – unlike the 2006 and 2011 leadership races, both of which ended up in the elevation to premier of a person the party’s old warhorses had deemed not quite up to the job.

Actually, the same thing happened in 1992 as well, but Ralph Klein worked out rather well for the party in the role of premier of Alberta, thank you very much, something that can’t really be said of Ed Stelmach or especially Alison Redford.

This time the party is determined to see the frontrunner win, and the frontrunner is Jim Prentice, not Mr. Lukaszuk. In other words, the old fixaroo is more than halfway in!

From the perspective of ordinary Albertans, as from that of Mr. Lukaszuk, this is a pity.

Us because we’ll deprived of what could be a highly entertaining hour or two of television, as Mr. Lukaszuk, with the desperation of a last-place candidate, threw caution and the hopes of a future cabinet post to the wind and tried to trip up Mr. Prentice.

Mr. Lukaszuk because he’s the only one of the three who is a really entertaining public speaker, capable of delivering a little bombast along with the usual anodyne platitudes. Unlike the other two, Mr. Lukaszuk also has a full range of facial expressions, plus just the faintest echo of the accent of his native Poland. It’s an appealing combination to most people who hear him speak.

Calgary MLA Ric McIver, notwithstanding the No. 2 candidate’s apparent far-out social conservative views and the loony right types he hangs with, has a speaking style that’s about as exciting as a block of wood. He seems to have the facial expressions to match.

And Mr. Prentice – a former banker, corporate lobbyist and federal politician – has a way of speaking that would be earnestly persuasive in a boardroom or a one-on-one meeting, but is unlikely to light many voters afire on the stump.

In other words, Mr. Lukaszuk’s best chance to shine was in a real rough and tumble debate, and he’s not going to get it because the PC grandees aren’t going to give him the chance.

Their objective is certainly to ensure that Mr. Prentice can’t be pinned down on what he really plans to do in a number of areas. The frontrunner is running a classic low-bridge campaign designed to reveal as little as possible and alienate no voter who might be persuaded to give the tired old PC dynasty one more chance. This, without doubt, is why Mr. Prentice has been skipping debates organized by third parties whenever he can.

Farther down the road, the party also wants to make sure opposition leaders aren’t tipped off to the best potential lines of attack.

This indicates recognition by at least some of the Tory leadership that the world has turned and Alberta isn’t what it used to be, thanks in particular to the bizarre spectacle of Ms. Redford’s brief and chaotic tenure at the helm.

The fiction peddled to generations of Albertans has been that they really should buy a party membership for a small sum and vote for the premier (for that’s what the Tory party leader always turned out to be) because this was the only true expression of democracy when general elections were a sure thing.

There was always just enough truth to this notion to make it dangerous.

Now, though, there are two parties that could conceivably form the government, even if they are manifestations of the same right-wing political movement. The Tories will be extremely fortunate if 50,000 members new and old turn up to vote for a leader on Sept. 6, compared with 133,000 in 2006 and 78,000 in 2011.

In other words, once he’s been selected the leader, Mr. Prentice faces a real election campaign that he could very well lose, and it behooves the party’s strategists to take no chances with the leadership-selection process that could wound their leader at the ballot box later on.

This is bad news for Mr. Lukaszuk.

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  1. I cannot help but feel that all three candidates (or competitors as the new legislation governing the leadership race prefers that they be referred to as) have offered nothing of substance to voters so far.

    I say this because they all seem to have ideas about what they will do with this or that policy, but offer no evidence for their positions.

    Everything seems to be seat of the pants, as we have seen since Klein’s sole goal of paying off the debt.

    Jim’s going to decentralize health care management and move to regional boards that report to the ministry. It seems that he feels that will work better. What is he basing his decisions on? Where is the evidence that this is a better model? All of his platform lacks in evidence based support. I expect much better. If a ‘leader’ supports changes, they better damn well have some evidence to justify those changes.

    Ric’s going touch on crime, tough on spending, etc. but has not offered one bit of evidence, or at the very least, comparisons to other possible scenarios.

    Thomas is all over the map with his policies and again offers not a scintilla of research or evidence that the changes he states he will make are anything but a knee-jerk reaction or vote buying.

    It is beyond abysmal that no PCAA leadership contestant can support any of the hodge-podge of policy stances they claim without any reason or research that supports definitive outcomes that are part of a larger, vision and defined plan for outcome for Alberta and Albertans and Alberta businesses and industry.

    I would like each candidate to provide a plan for what they want Alberta to look and be like and how that will affect the people of Alberta. We need plans of action that is based on research and evidence with an elucidated goal of what this means for our people and our province.

  2. Yea..Pim Jrentice is a chicken shxt. They r keeping him safe dry and warm inside the house the entire time up until the provincial election, safe from going off script. I hope Jrentice wins because he will be unpracticed and a deer in the headlights against the the battle hardened Danielle, Raj and the next ND leader. When he becomes premier…you will see a guy whose fancy haircut will not politically save him from a drooling opposition. Jimbos only survival mechanism will be to throwing the party under the bus, and getting rid of many more MLA’s until some for of integrity and trust is shown. Fake acting substance less fluff is not enough during the election to cinch this from a weary public. McIver has shown more genuine personality of the three. While he may be popular with the MLAs in the party, the public is an entirely different matter. Jim Bo’s political margins and good will from the public are far less than Redford had. Public is jaded and does not believe much of what comes from Tory leaders anymore. It will prove to be interesting to see how Jimbo squares off against a battle hardened opposition, given the scandal mired past he has to possibly defend or throw under the bus.

  3. I’d like to know what the three candidates think of yesterday’s horrible news of a 15 year old boy being crushed to death at work yesterday, just days after the government was bragging up their safety record.

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