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A Tale of Two Tories: Which Alberta Conservative do you think is typical?

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Alberta Conservative Leadership candidate Alison Redford

When it comes both to releasing potentially uncomfortable news and conducting yourself properly in public life, some Alberta Tories seem to get it and others do not.

Alison Redford, candidate for the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party, is one who apparently gets it. Carol Haley, former Conservative MLA for Airdrie-Chestermere and now Premier Ed Stelmach's deputy chief of staff, clearly does not.

Despite the bad example set by past candidates for the Tory leadership and no doubt some pressure to conform to their ways for the time being, Redford last week did the right thing and published a list of the biggest donors to her campaign.

The list made the news in a fairly big way, both because of the size of the donations and the names of some of the people who contributed.

Now, we oughtn't to make too much of this. The party's current rules say she's going to have to publish the list sooner or later -- later being Feb. 1, 2012. What's more, some of the others have promised to do the same thing, eventually.

But from Redford's point of view, there was clearly a certain amount of risk involved in her decision to release this information now. First of all, because it shows that while the former justice minister and MLA for Calgary-Elbow may not be the candidate favoured by the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party establishment, she is backed by plenty of members of the plain old Calgary Establishment. Establishmentarians prominent in Big Oil, Big Hockey, Big Landlords, Big Utilities, and Big Health Bureaucracies all found their ways onto her donor list.

So that means some Albertans looking for someone a little different from the Old Boys Club that has dominated this province since a barefoot Ernest Manning rode his dinosaur to school, and who were thinking about casting a party ballot for Redford, or who might eventually think about casting a real provincial ballot for Premier Redford later on, may think again.

It also gives some of her opponents who might be less forthcoming with information just now a list of well-heeled potential donors who may wish to hedge their bets.

Haley, meanwhile, told the media the day before Redford's announcement that she just couldn't see anything wrong with taking a cheque for $3,000 as a farewell gift from her riding association when she told them she wasn't going to run again in 2008.

Asked about the optics of this by a journalist, Haley was unable to see a problem. She didn't exactly say, "What? Whaaaaat?" but that surely sounded like what she had in mind. Her actual quote, as recorded by Darcy Henton of the Calgary Herald: "It wasn't anything that I believed was inappropriate." (So, she presumably thought, shut up already!)

Uh, Ms. Haley, folks give donations to political parties to support the campaign efforts of those parties… not to send retired MLAs on sunshine-filled vacations. That's why their donations are tax-deductible.

It is said here that political parties that misuse donations like this should lose their ability to have partisans claim such contributions against their taxes, just as churches that use their pews for political organizing should lose their tax-free status. Don't count on either of these things happening in Alberta, of course.

OK, it's not a big sum. But that's not the point, is it? Indeed, surely Haley -- who has enjoyed a number of very influential posts in the Conservative Party over the years -- could afford to pay for her own holiday.

That she didn't, that she doesn't see anything wrong with that, that her constituency association thought this was appropriate (though we are told they balked at the idea of donating money from the same source to a deserving student) and that no one at her current place of employment thought to tell her to smarten up, speaks ill of the Alberta PC Party.

Indeed, this goes right to the heart of the problem with this bunch. They've been in power so long that they just don't get it.

That's why when it comes to Redford, it's probably not a good thing for her prospects that she showed some gumption and did the right thing, this time as in the recent past.

When she called for a public inquiry into health care and when she called out Stelmach on his ridiculous attempt to blame teachers for education budget cuts, these were dismissed by the commentariat as desperation measures. Heaven only knows what they'll make of her attempt to be transparent in her campaign financing. If she's willing to upset the apple cart on these things, who knows what else she might do!

Alison Redford or Carol Haley? Which one do you think represents the true spirit of the Alberta Conservative Party?

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary. Donate to rabble.ca and help this important site do its work.

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