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On the trail of the party crasher ... and where's Kevin Taft now that the Liberals really need him?

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Raj Sherman "meets" Alison Redford

When Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman crashed the premier's "photo opportunity" early this afternoon, it got me thinking how the Conservatives aren't the only Alberta political party that needs their old leader back. I mean, really, where's Kevin Taft now that the Liberals need him?

Planning his retirement, presumably, without having to worry about Ms. Redford's panicky decision this morning to suspend "from this day forward" the retirement payments to departing MLAs.

Leastways, notwithstanding the wording of Redford's announcement, which was designed to get the government off the hook of the no-pay committee brouhaha, it's hard to imagine she can strip the generous retirement payments from MLAs like Taft and Speaker Ken Kowalski who have already announced they're on the way out the Legislature's door. Good luck making that idea stick, Ms. Redford!

Getting back to the point of this story, alert readers will recall how with Taft at the helm, the Alberta Liberals enjoyed province-wide support about 25 per cent at this point in the 2008 election campaign. Today, with the unsteady hand of former Conservative Raj Sherman on the tiller, they're at … what? Eleven per cent? Thirteen if they're lucky?

At the risk of mixing transportation metaphors and prompting a response from The Angry Grit Commenter, it's hard to imagine that with numbers like those the Liberals aren't heading for a trainwreck on April 23.

That may have been why Sherman changed his schedule and showed up today at Redford's uninformative but entertaining lunchtime photo opportunity in Edmonton's Westmount district. What the heck, there were bound to be TV cameras around!

The grinning Liberal leader barrelled through the door of the Duchess Bakery on 124th Street seconds after the Premier had arrived and tottered across the room as if to say he'd just strolled by and noticed her.

For her part, Redford was trying to sip a latte and chat up some customers, many whom just happened to have strolled in themselves from Culture and Community Services Minister and local Edmonton-Glenora MLA Heather Klimchuk's office right across the street. (Said one nonpartisan customer to me, "Who is that lady in the orange coat?" I was a good boy and resisted the temptation to respond: "Just someone from the NDP, Dear.")

When Sherman, who had been spotted a few minutes before lurking in a doorway up the street apparently keeping a weather eye out for the premier's NDP-orange bus, dashed up to Redford's table, the premier did not look amused. Indeed, she bore an expression like the one she wore minutes before as she broke a fake board with her hand at the Tae Kwon Do studio up the block. Klimchuk managed a diplomatic half-smile. Sherman did not look embarrassed. But local Liberal candidate Bruce Miller, accompanying him, looked uncomfortable.

Tacky? Nowadays, who knows? I don't suppose most of the actual voters in attendance knew who Sherman was either.

But you've got to know it's not something the professorial Taft, who will go down in history as the best premier Alberta never had, would have done.

Given the qualities he offered, this would have been the perfect election for Taft.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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