The question Jim Prentice really needs to ask himself is this: "Do I really want to ride that bus all the way to the bottom of the cliff and be sitting in it when it bursts into flames?"
The question the lawyer, banking boss and sometime federal Conservative politician will actually ask himself will likely be a little more polished, and a little more complicated. To wit: "Can becoming leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party help my ambition to become the prime minister of Canada?"
But in the end -- since the metaphorical bus in the first question represents the Alberta PC Party, the original Self Preservation Society, the cliff it's teetering on represents the election that is going to have to be called sooner or later, and the gold in the back represents the gold in the back -- the questions are actually pretty much the same.
If Prentice is the person he appears to be, the answer to either question is likely to be a resounding No!
With an excellent and extensive political resume, and the opinion widely held in Alberta political circles that there's no one in the current Alberta PC caucus and cabinet likely to be able to fend off a challenge to Danielle Smith's Wildrose Party whenever an election gets called, it's natural that die-hard PCs see Prentice as a potential saviour of their party after the disaster of the Redford-Hancock Government.
The other potential savior that gets some Tory hearts going pitty-pat these days is former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel. But notwithstanding Mandel's great collection of bow ties, it seems as if it's Prentice that has them mopping their brows and fanning themselves.
Prentice is available, sort of, having quit his job as Member of Parliament for Calgary Centre North and resigned from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Cabinet, in which he had held a number of important posts, back in November 2010.
And he can probably afford the $50,000 entry fee, seeing as since January 2011 he's been employed as senior executive VP and vice-chairperson of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. And heaven knows, they need the money!
Sounds like he's dipped his toes in the leadership lake a couple of times too, just to see how warm the water is, as he's been known to do once or twice before in similar circumstances.
But you'll notice that, notwithstanding the understandable buzz from desperate Alberta Tories dreaming of a way to hang onto power one more time, Prentice doesn't seem to have made any announcements, or said anything much of consequence at all. This, presumably, is because he’s still mulling over his chances and what they mean to his ultimate ambition -- to wit, the prime ministership of Canada.
As I see it, there are three things that could happen if Prentice throws his hat in the Progressive Conservative leadership ring and tries to get "The Alberta Job":
1) He could lose to one of the other candidates -- which would be a disaster for his hopes of becoming PM.
2) He could win the nomination and then lose the election -- which would be a disaster for his hopes of becoming PM.
3) He could win the nomination and somehow win the election -- which would be a disaster for his hopes of becoming PM.
The problem with Point 3 from Prentice's perspective, for those of you who haven't been paying attention since 1896, when the 69-day ministry of Charles Tupper came to an end, is that Sir Charles was the last provincial premier ever to become prime minister of Canada.
And it's likely to stay that way. After all, why would Canadians elect a provincial premier as national leader -- a surefire guarantee, in the public mind, of a leader who won't consider the needs of the entire country.
Someday, I suppose, we may elect a PM who was a premier first, but it won't be any time soon, and it will most likely be a short-lived accident like Sir Charles Tupper.
Ergo, unless he's given up on his prime ministerial ambitions, Prentice would be nuts to run to be premier of Alberta.
Also, he'd have to give up his current job as a big shot with CIBC, which almost certainly includes a pretty comfortable bi-weekly pay packet and some nice additional perks.
On the other hand, perhaps Prentice has concluded, like me, that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will never willingly let go. Yeah, I know, the Ottawa Press Gallery has been in a frenzy for a year about how Harper is depressed, Harper has no friends left, Harper will quit any minute now…
But it's said here that reading this kind of stuff every day would make it pretty hard for a man of Prentice's inclinations to take a chance on the Alberta Job.
Still, if you're a desperate Alberta Tory, you can dream of just such a miracle.
And if you're the Bull Goose Strategist for the Wildrose Party -- whoever that is now that Tom Flanagan spends his days writing judgmental books about the prime minister we have at the moment -- you can have nightmares about it.
+ + +
Who knew? The loons of the Right were right for once!
If you Google the terms "Lorne Gunter" and "Nanny State," you will discover that this particular combination has been posted to the Internet more than 4,400 times.
Mostly, the Sun Media columnist seems to have been complaining about things done by the Alberta government, such as banning the use of cellular phones while driving, but other governments appear to be guilty of trying to create a nanny state too in Gunter's relentlessly consistent worldview.
It gets more interesting. Replace "Lorne Gunter" with "Monte Solberg," another Sun Media columnist of similar views, and you will Google 21,200 articles. After that, it just gets better: Ezra Levant: 47,500 articles using "Nanny State." Brian Lilley: 72,300. Michael Coren: 203,000!
OK, we already knew these guys were drinking from the same bathtub. Still, it turns out they were right. Really!
At any rate, CBC Edmonton investigative journalist Charles Rusnell reported yesterday that when Alison Redford was still premier of Alberta, and before that when she was minister of justice, she not only took her daughter on 50 flights aboard the government airplane, but on at least one occasion she brought the nanny along too.
So it turns out Alberta really is a "nanny state"! Leastways, the nanny really was aboard the state plane. Who knew?
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.
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