Alberta Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett

In case you missed it, as almost everybody did, Calgary-North West MLA Lindsay Blackett, generally acknowledged as the last-place candidate in the Alberta Conservative leadership contest, has quietly dropped out of the race.

Not that he was ever really in, but the Minister of Culture in Premier Ed Stelmach’s cabinet said goodbye to his leadership ambitions in mid-June after failing to raise the cash he reckoned he needed for a serious leadership challenge.

He’d run the possibility of a leadership challenge up the provincial flagpole last spring only to discover the same thing as his cabinet colleague Tom Lukaszuk, the minister of employment. No one was interested in saluting.

But unlike Lukaszuk, who called a news conference in a chi-chi Edmonton sports club and told the reverently assembled media that he would be throwing his support behind front-runner Gary Mar, the famously plain-spoken Blackett quietly informed a local Calgary journalist he was done and that was the end of it.

Blackett’s departure was noted with barely a whisper in a single line deep inside a June 18 Calgary Herald story about of the official launch of the leadership contest to replace Stelmach.

When I asked him about it earlier today, Blackett was characteristically forthright about what he’d decided, and why. The main reason, he said: “Money.” Or, rather, an insufficient supply of the stuff to organize a credible leadership campaign.

This is a guy who not too long ago got in hot water for saying exactly what he thought about the Alberta-made movies his department was supposed to encourage. “Why do I fund so much crap?” he wondered plaintively last summer to hyperventilating outrage from all the usual suspects.

Blackett later apologized for his salty form of expression, though never for the actual sentiment he expressed. However, his apology notwithstanding, it’s hard not to believe that most ordinary Albertans — a vast majority of whom have surely never actually sat all the way through a film produced in this province — were more amused than offended by his remark, and may even have admired his plain speech.

Yesterday, Blackett treated his own leadership disappointment with a similarly blunt assessment — which has to be a virtue, even if it is not one generally valued in politics. “Money certainly had to be raised … and it wasn’t.”

Yeah, he had some promises from supporters, Blackett noted. “Promises are great, but you can’t go and bank on them.”

So instead he’ll emphasize his kids, 10 and 13. “If you give everything up to save the world and sacrifice your family, what have you got?”

The only burning question still to be asked about Blackett is which among the remaining candidates will he support?

Sorry, but you’ll have to wait for that answer. “No one at this particular time,” Blackett responded, explaining that he intends to take his time before making that particular decision.

So Blackett’s departure leaves the contest with six declared candidates and one maybe, Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky. The nomination period closes at the end of next week. Then, even without Alberta’s plain-spoken culture minister, the tone of the debate can be expected to turn distinctly waspish.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...