Neil Brown

With friends like Neil Brown, does Jim Prentice need enemies?

Dr. Brown, QC, is a lawyer and PhD biologist, so while he is not actually a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon, he is presumably a fairly smart guy.

Prentice is a lawyer, corporate lobbyist, former bank vice-president and former federal cabinet minister with a record of success in that role, so he’s presumably a pretty smart guy too.

The latter is a candidate for the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party, a job that will automatically bring with it the premiership of the province of Alberta … at least for a little while.

The former is a member of the Alberta Legislature for the same Alberta PC Party and is in possession of something Prentice needs, but maybe doesn’t want just yet, thank you very much. To wit: a seat in the Alberta Legislature.

So I can’t imagine that Prentice was really all that pleased to read on the Edmonton Sun’s website yesterday that Brown is offering up his seat in Calgary for the heir apparent to the leadership of the PC Party. The offer is sure to be in the paper this morning.

“If Jim approached me and said he wanted to run in my riding, it would be a slam dunk for me,” Brown told the Sun’s Legislative reporter, Matt Dykstra.

Now, it’s not entirely clear who called whom, or why. Perhaps Brown was looking for a way out of the panic-stricken snakepit the PC caucus has become under the misrule of former premier Alison Redford and since. More likely Dykstra was calling all the known Prentice endorsers in the caucus and asking the same question, just to see whether anyone was silly enough to bite. Or maybe Dykstra wanted to talk to Brown in particular because his provincial riding shares territory with Prentice’s former federal constituency.

At any rate, the story made it clear Brown and Prentice have not actually discussed the idea. No surprise there!

Regardless, you can count on it that an offer like this is not what Prentice wants to hear just now.

For one thing, he may still be the acknowledged frontrunner in the race to replace Premier pro tempore Dave Hancock, but his success is far from a sure thing — and seems less so now that PC membership sales are apparently flagging badly. So right from the get-go, any talk about Prentice running in Brown’s Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill Riding is wildly premature.

For another, it’s not entirely clear Prentice could win in Calgary, or anywhere else — at least without the boost of an overwhelming leadership vote victory. Indeed, right now there may be no safe riding anywhere in Alberta for a provincial PC leader.

In Calgary itself, there seems to be plenty of support for candidate Ric McIver, and for Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith. But for Prentice? Maybe not so much. Which is why, of course, the campaign-sponsored rumours of late have had him running in an Edmonton riding when the general election rolls around.

If he wins the leadership, Prentice may very well want to lead the party from the sidelines for a spell, rather than engage in a suicidal by-election while the memory of Alison Redford is fresh in voters’ memories. Such things are do-able in our Parliamentary system.

So what he doesn’t need just now is the well-meaning likes of Brown saying that stepping aside to make way for a potentially fatal by-election would be “a no brainer,” and moreover that “I’m sure there are probably other MLAs in Calgary who would to the same thing for him.” I’ll bet there are at that!

Spokespeople for the Wildrose Opposition, which is strong in Calgary as noted, will be delighted, I am sure, to loudly urge Prentice to take Brown up on his offer, and as soon as possible.

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...