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Edmonton's popular mayor as Alberta premier? He's thinking about it...

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Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel

Someone out there is spreading the story that Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel is going to join the race for the leadership of Alberta's Progressive Conservative Party.

Do you believe it? Someone -- it's not really clear just who that might be, although one or more of their enablers are known to many of us -- wants you to!

So let's just say for the moment that Mayor Mandel is "thinking about it." That way, we can think about what he's said to be thinking about.

On the face of it, it hardly makes sense for the mayor of Alberta's capital city to join the race for another, possibly significantly worse, job.

Mandel has just overwhelmingly been re-elected, last October, to a high-profile position where he can really make a difference and actually implement positive change. Moreover, he's really popular. In his present job, he's almost certain to be re-elected virtually as many times as he likes -- barring a major screw-up of the type a politician of his skill and brain-power is unlikely to commit.

As a result, he can do things to improve the quality of life in Edmonton and make a real contribution to a successful future for the province that he just couldn't do as a premier hounded by a far-right Wildrose Alliance opposition.

Yeah, Mayor Mandel is a conservative of sorts -- the type of Alberta Red Tory that in any other province would be a member of another political party. And there really is a fight on between just that kind of Red Tory and the worst sorts of market-fundamentalist neo-conservatives for the heart and soul of the still somewhat Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta.

What's more, without any doubt, Mandel would be an appealing candidate to the kind of Alberta Capital-C Conservatives who are worried that their party might fall into the hands of the same types who established the Wildrose Alliance Party to push Alberta far to the right.

Mandel's mild conservative-ness means he would be taken seriously if he were to apply for the job, unlike, say, the distinctly liberal mayor of Calgary who was elected on the same day last October.

So perhaps that gives us a hint who these shadowy rumour mongers might be, the ones who keep saying Mandel is eyeing the premier's job.

On the other hand, Mayor Mandel has to know that the quality of his political life would be considerably worse as premier of Alberta. As a candidate for mayor in the October 2010 civic election, he was able to swat aside the machinations over Edmonton's inner-city airport by the Calgary-based leader of the Wildrose Alliance.

Mandel campaigned to convert the airport into an inner-city residential and business showpiece. Some supporters of keeping the airport's runways open to airplanes resorted to greasy but ineffectual dirty tricks. Whether you agree with the airport development plan or not, the mayor's vision won decisively.

Alliance Leader Danielle Smith jumped into that fray on the side of the airplane owners not because she thought she could win the fight, but as an investment in future votes.

She recognized that there was enough support in Edmonton for keeping the airport open to increase the Alliance's popular vote in the Capital Region in a general election. If that resulted in seats in the normally more liberal Edmonton area going to traditional opposition parties, that improved Smith's chance of becoming premier or opposition leader based on her support in Calgary -- because any seat that doesn't go to a Conservative helps the Alliance.

If Mandel were in the Legislature as premier and Smith were the opposition leader, he has to know that the effectiveness of her opposition would be greatly enhanced, and his ability to deal with it and do the things he believes in would be significantly compromised.

None of that would make his life more pleasant, or bring his ability to effect change close to what it now is as the mayor of the province's capital city.

Still, the temptation to become premier of Canada's richest province could go to the head of any successful Canadian politician. So maybe Mayor Mandel really is thinking about it.

Will Mandel throw his hat in the ring? He's a smart guy, so when he weighs the pros and cons, it seems unlikely. Still, somebody's been spreading that story! There has to be a reason.

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

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