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If anything, the headlines are getting worse for Jim Prentice and Alberta's faltering PCs

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Mike Allen

Less than a week before an election nobody wanted with his party trailing badly in the polls, the premier of Alberta sure didn't need to see a headline like "Jim Prentice defends PC election candidate convicted of soliciting prostitute."

But that's exactly what Prentice got yesterday as he tried to fight a rearguard action against an avalanche of lousy headlines.

The one quoted above was from the National Post, but pretty well everyone else in the media said the same thing about the same story in similar words.

Well, that ought to teach the premier not to scold reporters for covering another uncomfortable story too enthusiastically to get the approval of the moth-eaten PC dynasty Prentice leads.

Earlier in the day -- between cries of "the sky will fall" in reference to the potential for a NDP victory in next Tuesday's general election -- the premier lectured the media about how they ought to cover more substantial issues than the problems between fired justice minister Jonathan Denis and his estranged wife or the embarrassing texts exchanged by Denis and Jamie Lall, the candidate the Tories disqualified in the Chestermere-Rocky View riding east of Calgary, who turned out to have been the subject of a restraining order in a domestic dispute some years ago.

Reporters responded by taking up the matter of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Mike Allen, busted in a prostitution sting operation by the vice squad in St. Paul, Minn., which he was visiting on government business in 2013. The other government MLA on that trip had visited a museum, which turned out to be a much better idea.

Then-premier Alison Redford pushed Allen out of the government caucus faster than you could say "disreputable." But Prentice, not long after he took over as PC leader and premier, invited him right back into the Tory Boys' Club.

The reason, Prentice had to explain today, was that Allen had admitted he'd done wrong and pleaded guilty after he was caught. Lall, who is now running as an independent, said he told the party about his restraining order too, but the premier begs to differ.

Regardless, all of this distracted the media, and possibly quite a few voters too, from the day's principal PC talking point, which is that Civilization As We Know It Will End if Albertans elect NDP Leader Rachel Notley as premier.

Meanwhile, to compound the premier's problems somewhat, a Calgary judge ruled yesterday that Denis's family law case will go ahead in open court today -- instead of behind closed doors.

That means reporters will be in the courtroom, although the publication ban on the proceedings will remain in place. The judge will doubtless give the attending media a stern taking to about the seriousness of breaking a court order, but it will be astonishing if gossip about what happened in the unhappy Denis household doesn't spread to tout le monde Alberta within hours.

Meanwhile, increasingly beleaguered by the news and the polls, the Prentice PCs have begun taking aim at any old thing that can be used to wedge a vote or two away from an opposition candidate.

Monday night, as noted in this space, St. Albert Tory MLA Stephen Khan smarmily reminded voters at an all-candidates' meeting that NDP candidate Marie Renaud, who has worked in St. Albert for 14 years and spends more time in the riding than many of us who lay our heads there, lives next door in Edmonton.

This line may not go down well with politicians like well-known St. Albert resident Thomas Lukaszuk, Khan's former Redford cabinet-mate, who sometimes visits the Edmonton riding he represents as a Tory MLA. Not to mention the likes of Premier Prentice himself, who like many PC MLAs lives well outside his Calgary-Foothills riding.

Oh well, any old port in a storm, I guess. The comment, which was picked up and repeated by local Tory Twitterites today, certainly didn't go down well with the other St. Albert citizens packed into the room, who grumbled audibly.

Tuesday, meanwhile, a PC press release warned voters that Trevor Grover, the Wildrose candidate in Calgary-Bow, was once a candidate for Paul Hellyer’s all-but-defunct Canadian Action Party, which the PCs breathlessly informed us stood for getting out of NAFTA and encouraging "scientific studies on Genetically Modified Organisms, irradiation and vaccines."

Good gosh! Scientific studies? What next? A $15 minimum wage?

Admittedly, the CAP was pretty far out there on the political fringe in Hellyer's day, and that was well before the former Liberal cabinet minister took up the cause of looking out for space aliens. Still, I'm not certain that a party that welcomes the likes of Allen as a candidate really ought to have gone down that particular road!

Seriously, one thing voters should now start to ponder carefully is what will happen if this stuff works and the Tories creep back into power on Tuesday, which is admittedly a plausible outcome of a three-way split among voters.

Surely words like "entitled" and "arrogant" will not be up to the task of describing what would happen next!

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

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