Local PC leadership hopeful Doug Horner picked up another cabinet endorsement this week as Culture and Community Spirit Minister Lindsay Blackett threw his support behind the MLA for Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert.
Blackett, a Calgary MLA, said he’s felt pressure to endorse a candidate more local to his area but he preferred Horner’s vision of economic diversification and his knowledge of technology and business. He also likes Horner’s forward-looking campaign.
“It’s not about anger. It’s not about trying to settle a score,” Blackett said.
Six candidates are in the running to take over from departing Premier Ed Stelmach, who announced in January that he intended to resign.
The candidates are former ministers Alison Redford, Ted Morton, Gary Mar, Rick Orman and Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths.
A couple of weeks ago Horner picked up endorsements from longtime MLA Ken Kowalski and up-and-comer Jeff Johnson. Earlier this month he unveiled support from cabinet ministers Luke Ouellette, Ray Danyluk, Frank Oberle, Jack Hayden and Hector Goudreau, along with MLAs Dave Quest and Wayne Drysdale.
The team was a factor in Blackett’s decision to back Horner.
“He’s a team player and he’s able to cobble together a team from all different parts of the province,” Blackett said. “It’s a good balance and I think a balanced approach is what we need to do.”
Blackett said he spoke with Morton about throwing his support that way and has had regular contact with Redford and Mar. Horner was also there right from the start.
“He has been probably the most persistent of the three that I’ve talked to on a continuous basis. It just felt like a good fit,” Blackett said.
Horner said Blackett brings experience in innovation and culture. Plus, his home address doesn’t hurt.
“He represents an area of Calgary that is quite diverse,” Horner said. “Having that kind of representation of the campaign is important to the provincial strategy.”
Horner said he’s trying to garner support at three levels: MLAs, the general public and the “movers and shakers” in constituency associations. Having Blackett on board is a key element of the plan.
“We know we’re behind and we’re trying to work hard to make sure that we’re covering all the bases,” Horner said.
The first ballot is scheduled for Sept. 17.
The key to winning a leadership race is assembling a team that can mobilize support in the form of membership sales, said political scientist Chaldeans Mensah of MacEwan University.
Horner is doing well from that standpoint, Mensah said, since he’s got many of the supporters who propelled Stelmach into office last time.
“I would take those individuals very seriously and many of them are backing Mr. Horner,” Mensah said.
However, Horner will have to work to convince Calgary-area supporters that he’s different from Stelmach and not simply a candidate for northern Alberta or Edmonton.
“He needs to do more work down there in the south,” Mensah said.
That’s where Blackett thinks he can chip in.
“I will be out there trying to sell memberships in my constituency and help out where I can around the province,” he said.