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Energized Alberta New Democrats see Orange as they shake the chandeliers in Edmonton theatre

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Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley

Well, New Democrat supporters from the Capital Region were certainly energized when Rachel Notley strode onto the stage at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton wearing NDP orange shoes just after lunchtime yesterday.

No doubt about it, New Democrats are riding a wave of support in this part of the province -- a story told by those famous five polls that over the past few days have established an optimistic narrative for the party, despite its small numbers in the Legislature that ended when Conservative Premier Jim Prentice asked the Lieutenant Governor to call an election last Tuesday.

The NDP leader's smoothly delivered speech was boilerplate -- but it carried an important message that the crowd and the party are anxious to get across to voters, that Notley is a serious candidate to run the province and the NDP is a serious contender in more parts of Alberta than just Edmonton.

"Across this province, people who have never voted NDP, even back in the '80s and '90s, are now looking at the NDP," Notley told the standing-room-only crowd that overflowed into the Citadel's lobby.

And the Dippers' roars literally shook the theatre's chandeliers and the electric mood of optimism was eerily reminiscent of the last time Jack Layton visited this city -- which, as readers will recall, was at the height of the Orange Wave in the spring of 2011 that led to Layton's tragically short tenure as the leader of the Opposition in Parliament.

There were plenty of new faces at the Citadel yesterday too, not just the usual suspects that sometimes make attending an NDP rally, especially on a Sunday, feel a little like going to church.

I imagine if there'd been a similar Wildrose event in some other part of the province, the mood would have been similar too, as the Wildrose Party is the beneficiary of the same polling story line that, for the moment at least, seems to be holding.

Which leads to a key point -- it's important that the NDP starts communicating the message that Albertans can't count on getting rid of the mildewed and moth-eaten Tory dynasty by electing the Wildrose Party.

The Wildrosers are, as we've already seen, the same people!

Seriously, we already know what Wildrosers and so-called Progressive Conservatives do when their godfathers in the Calgary oilpatch begin to see the need for more policy unity on the right. Preston Manning comes down from the mountain with a single commandment inscribed on a stone tablet and orders them to unite their tribes. We've already watched that lousy movie, and it was no Cecil B. DeMille production!

If the premise didn't sell very well with the Wildrose and PC bases, it's probably because in their arrogance the leaders of those parties didn’t do their homework softening up supporters for the Big Reunification.

Do Albertans seriously believe the pressure to do the same thing all over again -- though, given recent history, not necessarily through a formal takeover of one party’s caucus by the other's -- will go away if Wildrose Leader Brian Jean becomes the opposition leader, or the premier?

Sorry, but even if the events of last December fail to gel, a coalition of Wildrosers and PCs is inevitable anyway. And when it forms, it'll be the same old government, run by the same old people.

In other words, if Albertans are serious about changing this Tory government for the better, they're going to have to do something other than voting for another variety of Tory.

After all, those millions of dollars in corporate funding come with the requirement of playing the tune the bagmen want to hear.

Speaking of which, with more than $5 million in their campaign war chest, it's very hard to believe that the unnerving Prentice PC sitzkreig will last much longer, and that the counterattack won’t come hard and fast, a shock 'n' awe demonstration of the PCs' dominance of the airwaves.

As both the NDP and the Wildrose have to know, you can win a war without air superiority, but it’s hard.

My guess is, as was said in this space yesterday, Prentice’s Tories will concentrate on eliminating the Wildrose Party first, if only because they pose a threat to the current leadership of the PCs, if not their ideology. For reasons discussed in the last post, they may also make an easier target.

The funders in the patch will likely go along with this because, thanks to Manning, they've already given their marching orders.

But I imagine that Mr. Prentice would also rather have to push back in the Legislature at an opposition that wants him to move a little to the left than at a party that wants to drag him dangerously far to the right.

If they can roll up the Wildrosers quickly, of course, the PCs will turn their big advertising guns on the NDP.

Well, we’ll likely see soon – unless the PCs' weird current passivity continues, which is hard to believe.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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