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Was Lake of Fire 2.0, the 2015 edition, averted by an incompetent Tory war room?

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Allan Hunsperger

What would have happened if Pastor Allan Hunsperger's blog post about the Lake of Fire had been revealed to the public a week or two after the 2012 election?

Had the revelation happened then, instead of eight days before the April 23 vote, Danielle Smith might now be gearing up to run for her second term as premier of Alberta and leader of the Wildrose government that finally brought the Tory Dynasty to its knees, that’s what!

What might have happened if someone from the PC party of then-premier Jim Prentice had been paying attention and discovered NDP candidate Deborah Drever's offensive social media pictures a couple of weeks before this year's May 5 election?

It wouldn't have been much on which to hang a major political turnaround, but stranger things have happened. Even given the pervasive dissatisfaction with his Progressive Conservatives among Alberta voters and the vast arrogance shown by the Prentice government's bizarre election strategy, Prentice could well have been getting ready today to be sworn in to his first properly elected term as premier.

We'll never know if such a revelation could have become Lake of Fire 2.0, the 2015 edition, but it's certainly not impossible. On such small things does history sometimes turn.

We all know what is scheduled to happen tomorrow: Premier Designate Rachel Notley and her New Democratic Party cabinet will be sworn in, a historic and powerfully symbolic moment that could change the course of Alberta and Canada for many years.

Even given the differences in the way Smith and Notley were inclined to deal with the problem in their ranks -- the former refused to condemn Pastor Hunsperger's offensive comments until it was too late, the latter let the axe fall swiftly yesterday on Drever when more offensive Facebook pictures and comments surfaced -- the timing could have changed the outcome of the election dramatically.

As a result, many Albertans are asking: Where the heck were the PC Party's opposition researchers and political strategists in the last few days before the election?

For supporters of the PC Party, and opponents of the NDP, the question is particularly anguished.

"Watching the people going after Deborah Drever leaves me thinking: why wait until after the election? Absolutely Incompetent," exclaimed Calgary-based political strategist Stephen Carter on his Facebook page yesterday.

Asked Carter, the man who ran Alison Redford’s campaign, which may have been a near-run thing, but was ultimately successful: "Who ran the PC war room? Chief Wiggum? Inspector Clouseau? …"

I can't answer Carter's question about who was running the PC war room, but I can tell you with reasonable certainty what they were thinking and what they were doing when they weren't doing opposition research on NDP candidates.

They were counting their chickens before they'd hatched.

They were patting themselves on the back for their majority government of at least 50 seats before they'd won it -- the majority they believed they were certain to win until after the polls closed on May 5.

They were confident that no normal Albertan outside the Capital Region would ever, in any circumstances, vote for the NDP, no matter how appealing a candidate Rachel Notley appeared to be.

They were equally confident that their successful raid on the Wildrose caucus the previous December -- the one that left Smith's reputation and political career in tatters -- had reduced the Opposition Wildrose Party to a backwoods rump, incapable of campaigning effectively.

Maybe they did or maybe they didn't have a poll, as rumoured a few days before the election, that told them they would win those 50 seats. They certainly ignored other polls they must have known about that showed something quite different.

Maybe some of their supporters, like the Infamous Five Edmonton businessmen, had figured out the government they loved was going down. Maybe their own campaigners were warning them that voters were shifting swiftly to the NDP. Regardless, Prentice and the bumbling PC strategic brain trust simply couldn't believe they wouldn't win on May 5.

So they ignored what voters were telling them on their doorsteps -- that they were angry about the early election call, resented the way the Wildrose Opposition was taken over, and were furious about Prentice’s Look-in-the-Mirror Budget, which asked everyone to shoulder a share of the load except the premier's friends. Indeed, the Prentice budget gored almost every ox in the province except big business.

They went ahead with their worst, most unpopular ideas -- confident the voters wouldn't or couldn't do anything about them.

And they suffered a historic defeat on May 5 -- from which they may never recover, and with which many of them have not yet come to terms.

If that doesn't speak to the narrative that the Tories were arrogant, entitled and out of touch, I surely don't know what the heck would!

And it is Rachel Notley, of course, not Danielle Smith, who will go down in history as the woman who finally toppled the bumbling Tory giant that stood astride Alberta for so long. Timing is everything!

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

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