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Is Horner in, or out?

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  |  Posted: Saturday, May 03, 2014 06:00 am

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Doug Horner continues to be coy about his political future – is the Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA in the Tory leadership race, or is he out?

The rumour mill and many political pundits suggest Horner is out. With political star Jim Prentice almost certainly in the race, observers say Horner can’t win for a smattering of reasons.

First off, Horner was a key part of the Redford regime, and the name Redford has become a swear word in both PC circles and Alberta. In fact, the party is amnesic about the Redford era. When they trotted out the inspirational leadership video featuring past Tory premiers at last Thursday’s fundraiser in Edmonton, Alison Redford was not even mentioned. Being a critical part of Redford’s inner circle is part of the “old baggage” critics say Horner carries. The PC party wants nothing to do with the last two years.

Secondly, and somewhat related to the first point, is Horner’s position as finance minister. The Redford Tories have come under immense attack for their budgeting practices. While some praise it as a prudent way to take advantage of low interest rates to build much-needed infrastructure, others see it as convoluted, misleading and dishonest. On one hand, Horner claims the province is budgeting an operational surplus of $2.6 billion. On the other hand, Horner says the province is borrowing $5 billion for infrastructure in 2014-15. Many say call it what it is – a deficit – but Horner and his colleagues have steadfastly defended the plan. The budget is a leftover of the Redford era and another piece of “old baggage” Horner carries.

The rumour mill is also strongly suggesting Horner is out. The scuttlebutt is that Horner knows he can’t beat Prentice and he’s already decided privately he won’t run. There’s a pretty sizeable list of PC cabinet ministers and caucus members who have already announced their support for Prentice, and if Horner enters the race, he would have an uphill battle trying to win the majority of support from his caucus colleagues – something that’s critical if the Tories have a hope climbing out of the political abyss. Redford only had one MLA back her when she announced her leadership bid in 2011, and we know how that turned out.

Horner also was seen at Thursday’s fundraiser shuttling Prentice around the room, introducing him to the party’s movers and shakers. The actions appear to be more from a man who is campaigning for Prentice than a man who is about to announce his intentions to run for the leadership.

Of course, nothing is written in stone until Horner officially makes his intentions known; for that matter, the same goes for Prentice. But one thing is for certain: whoever wins the leadership race faces a monumental, uphill task. With the PCs sitting at just 21 per cent support to the Wildrose’s 50 per cent, the new leader will have to do everything short of walking on water to regain the confidence of Albertans.


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