Questioning a Jim Prentice coronation

Danielle Smith Leader of the Opposition

Danielle Smith
Leader of the Opposition

I have met Danielle Smith. I like her. She is forthright and a great communicator; fun, authentic and passionate for her ideals.

I’ve known Greg Clark for some time. I really like him. Greg is the perfect example of the new Alberta in my opinion. Young family, entrepreneur who started and built a fast growing knowledge economy business, passionate about a social safety net and innovation in politics, but still fiscally pragmatic and experienced. He is also leading a movement of young, idealistic, and innovative Albertans.

Greg Clark Alberta Party Leader

Greg Clark
Alberta Party Leader

I’ve even met Brian Mason and Raj Sherman, who both interest me. Mason, has been perhaps the most passionate supporter of his beliefs of any MLA I have watched. A great public servant who wears every one of his ideals on his sleeve. I’d suggest most Albertans admire his work ethic, even if his political beliefs are often in conflict with our business-loving ethos.

Sherman, who in my opinion, has troubles containing his hubris, still busts his ass for his struggling party and brand. He is an animated character, and I think a pretty good guy. Even if I wouldn’t trust him to good governance.

But, for every one of these party leaders, I have an idea of their character. They have made mistakes and they have made impassioned pleas about a future Alberta. Love them or hate them, I at least understand them.

So, let’s shift to Jim Prentice, the heir apparent to the PC Party of Alberta. What do we really know about him? Sure, It could be as simple as me not knowing him personally; maybe he is the finest character known to politics. I just don’t know. I hope we will learn more about him. He has certainly been very quiet when it comes to Albertan issues.

But, let me share with you how I FEEL.

Two weeks ago at at the Edmonton PC Premier’s Dinner, I was lucky to be the guest of some great Albertans. Two past Premier’s Chief of Staffs (to Klein & Lougheed), a First Nation’s Chief, and an Edmonton business Legend, all at my table. We were treated fairly quickly by a visit from Jim Prentice, for obvious reasons.

Jim Prentice PCAA Leader Candidate

Jim Prentice
PCAA Leader Candidate

Mr. Prentice was surrounded by a throng of party insiders. I did feel like I was witnessing the chosen one. I don’t begrudge Mr. Prentice for this, what a great position to be in. But I did pass two judgments in that moment:

  1. What has this man yet done to connect with the party machine, to prove that he has a plan to give it the reinvigoration is most desperately needs? The tribulations of the party are not entirely due to the bad leadership of Alison Redford. Much of their problems are a result of desperation in clinging to power over a genuine interest in reinventing a politic commitment to service for Albertans.
  2. Why does this party get so excited about a messiah figure, and not realize that it needs to rebuild its relationship with regular Albertans? Does the party desire to rebuild its infrastructure to serve the citizen and party member, as opposed to just their elected official. Finally, why does it pretend that things are A-OK as long as a popular new leader is found?

 

I can be convinced that Jim Prentice is a great potential Premier of the Province, but ONLY through his actions. He has chosen an old-school approach to his early leadership campaign, which relies on the typical PCAA maneuvers, and is ignoring what I think is important in any political movement in 2014. Show Albertan’s, the general public, your authentic self.

This is why I am actually more interested in seeing a PCAA race, which includes other interesting PCAA candidates. Ric McIver has been a lesser known, but certainly more authentic candidate from the start. As a Calgarian, I simply don’t know him as well, or understand his style. I have read that he is trying to tackle the “everyman” narrative, and that’s a good thing, but I am still unconvinced he has the “Royal Jelly” to transcend the party past with a renewed vision for Alberta. In a different set of words, he strikes me as a “Ralph Klein Light”. Not bad, necessarily, but not NEW, and not INSPIRING… In my opinion, certainly not enough of a character to beat Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Party, who are the best version of old politics in Alberta right now.

 

Thomas Lukaszuk Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training & Labour.

Thomas Lukaszuk
Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training & Labour.

Thomas Lukaszuk however, has an interesting potential. We know him quite well. He acts with authentic impulse on almost every issue. His social media presence in the last three years as a cabinet minister, has been polarizing to say the least. But, assuming he was playing the “bad-cop” role for Premier Redford on the Advanced Education file, we can describe him during that time as an “aggressive loyalist,” at best. Many, and I wouldn’t disagree, feel that his handling of the post-secondary (especially U of A) funding crisis was an abomination. Interfering with the Board of Governors in full public, was poorly handled and not consistent with the way the government in Edmonton has typically dealt with its appointees and normal supporters.

BUT, I have to give some credit where credit is due. Lukaszuk has been 100% authentic with us. And as much as he may have offended some Albertans, he has also made up for it by being one of the most tireless political workers I have witnessed. As past PC MLA Doug Elniski has suggested, none of the potential leadership candidates understand the grassroots public service as well as Minister Lukaszuk.

A leadership race can be a fickle and interesting thing. Day by day challenges from the opposition (outside the party) and the opposition (within the party) can make a hero transform to zero very quickly. Jim Prentice is the most accomplished individual in the race. Hands down. But he is also the most vulnerable, and deserves a tough analysis of his vision for the province.

I don’t know if I like the man or not, mostly because he is still an unknown local personality. I do wonder this:

How much can he connect with regular Albertans? How much does he value economic diversification or democratic transformation? And how much is he committed to changing the way the PC Party serves the average party member and citizen?

If these are a few of the ways we evaluate a successful Leadership candidate in Alberta right now (It’s how I do), I like Thomas Lukaszuk, Greg Clark, Danielle Smith, Brian Mason and Raj Sherman… at least right now, until we hear from the polished and old school Jim Prentice.

I like them better, because I feel I know them. I FEEL I have seen into their heart, if only a little bit. Not just their expansive wallets.

I like authentic, servant leaders. Even if they are not perfect.

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