Prentice faces monumental task
Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014 06:00 am
Jim Prenticeís visit to the Gazette last week was a telling one. The frontrunner in the provincial Tory leadership race has a quiet self-confidence about him. He is a man of vision, experience and practicality.
But are these attributes enough? According to a recent Leger poll, it doesnít matter who wins the Tory leadership race Ė the Wildrose would form the next government if a vote were held today.
Unfortunately for Smith, Prentice said if he wins, the provincial election will take place in 2016, as scheduled. It gives Prentice two solid years to heal the bruises on the battered Tory party.
Can one man turn the partyís fortunes around? The undertaking is colossal. The Tories did just about everything in their power to sour Albertans under Alison Redfordís leadership, from alienating public sector unions, to running a provincial deficit while telling Albertans thereís a budget surplus, to paying out huge severance packages to senior civil servants, to rattling the sabre at the Alberta Teachersí Association with the Task Force for Teaching Excellence, to spending transgressions Ö the list goes on.
The problems plaguing the PCs are mind-numbing, and Prentice canít solve them all by himself. He told the Gazette he thinks the current cabinet is too big at 17 members. If he becomes leader, rearranging and downsizing cabinet will be one of his first priorities in an attempt to put a fresh face on the government.
What will that mean for St. Albertís local MLAs? First off, Education Minister Jeff Johnson, who is the MLA for Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater, will almost certainly be shuffled into another post. Johnson, while well-intending, has lost his ability to guide Alberta through needed educational change. Suffering from a non-confidence vote by the powerful ATA, Johnson no longer possesses the credibility to spearhead innovation in Albertaís education system.
Doug Horner, MLA for Spruce Grove-St. Albert, will also likely be moved from the Finance portfolio. Try as he might to defend Albertaís new three-part reporting process, which separates capital, operations and savings budgets, Horner and the government have been heavily criticized for telling Albertans the operating budget is in surplus, but the capital budget is running a huge deficit.
Perhaps the fortunes of St. Albert MLA Stephen Khan are on the rise. Khan showed up at the Gazette with Prentice, and heís a solid backer of the frontrunner. Initially in Redfordís cabinet, the first-term MLA now has the experience and savvy to play a larger role.
Prentice is going to have to surround himself with some fresh faces who share his vision of Alberta if he hopes to turn the partyís fortunes around. Who he puts around the cabinet table may be the most important decision he makes.