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Prentice to Albertans: I've listened. You don't want an election. You're getting one anyway!

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Jim Prentice

"Choose Alberta's Future?" If you ask me, the Tories should be punished at the polls just for having a slogan that lame!

And here I thought Premier Jim Prentice was going to use his news conference yesterday morning to say something like this: "I've listened to Albertans, and they clearly don’t want an election, so I'm going to wait a year until the fixed election period set out in the law passed by my Progressive Conservative Party back in 2011."

Stop laughing and get yourselves up off the floor!

What Prentice actually said, in effect, was, I've listened to Albertans, and they clearly don't want an election, so I'm going to call one anyway…

OK, I got that outta my system… On with the commentating, now that we’re on track for the general election nobody wanted. Nobody, that is, except Premier Prentice himself and the strategic brain trust of his perpetually governing Progressive Conservatives.

Election Day will be on May 5, in case you're one of the few Albertans who's planning to turn up and vote. If you're a history buff, you’ll know that's Cinco de Mayo, the day in 1862 an outgunned and outnumbered Mexican army defeated the forces of French Emperor Napoleon III. It took the Mexicans another five years to actually get rid of the French, along with the unfortunate Hapsburg emperor they'd brought in to manage the place, but one sees a some useful symbolism for the NDP in this just the same.

It will be a short campaign -- as short as the law allows -- to ensure as few of you as possible do vote, and that those of us who do bother don’t think too deeply about it.

They hardly want us thinking about the past when we're supposed to be thinking about the future, now, do they?

The premier obviously reckons the short time frame, combined with the generous application of last year's corporate donations of more than $5 million to the PC war chest, should ensure another four or five years of Tory rule here in the nearly broke richest place on earth.

Prentice’s announcement yesterday morning didn't go quite as smoothly as he hoped. The resignation in protest the day before from the party’s board of directors by the PCs' former president after an intramural fight over, apparently, who actually runs the campaign provided a frisson of distraction to amuse the media.

The answer to the question raised by the resignation, by the way, is that the campaign will be run by the ubiquitous but nearly invisible Randy Dawson, the premier's trusted pal at Toronto-based Navigator Ltd., not the people like now-departed Jim McCormick who were elected by the party's stalwarts to do that job. Well, whatever.

With that little flutter out of the way, Alberta can get on with restoring to the PCs the lustre they lost during the short, unhappy reign of Alison Redford. The plan will be for this to happen through the judicious use of a few of those corporate millions.

It's a commentary on the state of democracy in Alberta that despite apparently near universal dissatisfaction among voters with the PC government of Prentice and all the other Tory premiers who preceded him, except of course for the sainted Peter Lougheed, absolutely everyone seems to agree the PCs will triumph once again on May 5.

The biggest democratic threat the premier seemed to face, indeed, seemed to be the number of candidates who either won or looked like they might win PC nomination elections who were not among the favoured few chosen by the premier himself.

In some cases, like the unfortunate Jamie Lall and Harman Kandola, the premier had them skidded, disallowed or "reassigned" to less promising ridings, either to make way for candidates he wanted or because they didn't quite come up to his standards for MLAs.

In others, like that of Carrie Fischer, who (unexpectedly?) defeated former Opposition leader and notorious Wildrose turncoat Danielle Smith, he was quite happy to let the decision of the party voters prevail.

Then there is the apparently special case of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Mike Allen, who seems to be welcome in the Tory caucus notwithstanding his embarrassing 2013 interaction with the vice squad in St. Paul, Minn.

I am sure Prentice would now prefer that nothing more be said about these matters, or his takeover last December of the bulk of the caucus of the main opposition party, the way the trapdoor then sprang open under some of the Wildrose floor-crossers, and the early election itself, called in defiance of the spirit and the letter of the province's Redford Era fixed-election-period law, none of which seems to have been particularly popular with the public.

Before the budget was tabled, Prentice's justification for calling the election a year early was that the document would be so radical, so transformative, so positively metamorphic that he wouldn't dare implement it without a renewed mandate.

In the event, when the budget was delivered to the public on March 25, the document turned out to be rather milder in most regards than almost everyone expected. Nevertheless, that was Prentice's story, and he was stickin' to it yesterday. He insisted at an Edmonton news conference not long after he asked the Lieutenant Governor to dissolve the Legislature that the budget is "a turning point, and Albertans deserve the right to choose."

The reality, of course, is that the election was called now because Prentice wanted it called now, and he wanted it called now because he has to suspect he and his PCs won't get any more popular as Albertans get to know them.

Commentators on this blog often suggest that the metronomic regularity with which the PCs are re-elected by Alberta voters -- a dozen times in a row if you count just the PC party, 21 times if you include Social Credit, which for most of its rule was pretty much the same thing -- is a living example of reputed genius Albert Einstein's definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

But this presupposes that it's different results Albertans actually want.

Since we keep complaining about how the Tories never get us off the roller coaster of volatile energy prices and perpetually incompetent budgeting, one has to wonder if substantial numbers of us actually enjoy the ride.

That would explain a lot. Remember, some apparently sane Albertans really do like riding roller coasters and West Edmonton mall has the ticket sales to prove it.

That's a better explanation, don't you think, than the idea everybody in the place is crazy. Or, who knows, maybe we -- and Mr. Prentice -- really are going to get a big surprise this time. One lives in hope!

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

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