Thomas Lukaszuk

Sporting a new haircut and with his trademark bowtie tossed aside, Labour Minister Thomas Lukaszuk hardly needs to provide more evidence he really intends to seek the leadership of Alberta’s flailing Progressive Conservative Party.

And if key supporters of Tory heir apparent Jim Prentice actually tried to bully candidate Ric McIver into not running, as McIver told the Calgary Sun yesterday, could it be it’s because they recognize there has to be a race against someone, and they’d really prefer it was against Lukaszuk?

After all, if you were Prentice, who would you rather face in a tussle for the tarnished Tory tiara? McIver, the scrappy and determined former infrastructure minster and candidate for mayor of Calgary, who reminds some Alberta Conservatives of their beloved Ralph Klein? Or Lukaszuk, who has to be the least popular member of former premier Alison Redford’s cabinet, closely identified with bills that caused the party no shortage of grief during the fired leader’s brief rule, chief advocate of the lowest minimum wage in Canada, and embarrassingly undiplomatic Tweeter?

As Alberta Views Magazine put it in assigning the tonsorially magnificent minister a grade of F in its May edition, “Thomas Lukaszuk is Alberta’s most divisive politician, distrusted by unions, loathed by left and right MLAs alike and infamously dubbed a ‘complete and utter asshole’ by federal minister Jason Kenney in 2012.”

Obviously, Alberta’s hair apparent would be an infinitely superior challenger from the perspective of an heir apparent who really didn’t fancy having to actually fight for the title.

Then again, perhaps with a little encouragement by the Sun’s reporter, Lukaszuk claimed in the same news story that “over-zealous” members of Team Prentice also urged him to slip away quietly — as have Finance Minister Doug Horner, Energy Minister Diana McQueen, Attorney General Jonathan Denis and former municipal affairs minister Ken Hughes, who actually dropped out of the race he’d already joined to speed Prentice’s ascent to the throne.

Well, maybe Prentice’s advisors actually haven’t cottoned onto the fact a couple of sparring matches will sharpen up your guy for a real fight — which is most certainly what he’s going to get from the Opposition parties when a general election is called.

And why would Lukaszuk spend $50,000 for the entry fee to enter a contest he is most unlikely to win? Well, it might be one way to generate enough publicity to hang onto a cabinet seat instead of being assigned to the most distant of backbenches. And hope really does spring eternal.

Regardless, we should have the answers to all these questions in the fullness of time.

The first one will likely be whether Lukaszuk is in fact going to run — as the restrained new hair-do and AWOL bowtie premiered in a recent TV interview both strongly suggest. He’s promised to tell us later this week.

Meanwhile, Prentice, the Calgary banker and former federal Conservative cabinet minister who has been deemed by the great minds of the rickety 43-year-old PC dynasty to be the answer to their party’s myriad problems, is expected to finally deign to make his ascension official the next week.

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Boring Tory leadership race drives media to NDP for drama

“How often have I said to you,” asked Sherlock Holmes, “that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”

And the undeniable, improbable truth today is that contest for the leadership of the four member caucus of the New Democratic Party, the fourth party in the Alberta Legislature, is considerably more engaging than the apparently pre-determined and largely candidate-free race to lead Progressive Conservative government.

As a result, mainstream media is actually paying attention to a party that hitherto has been the almost exclusive purview of bloggers. The Edmonton Journal devoted an astonishing and unprecedented 1,500 words to the topic yesterday.

The Journal listed as likely candidates two of the three members of the caucus — Edmonton-Strathcona MLA and lawyer Rachel Notley, and Edmonton-Calder MLA and teacher David Eggen, in addition to Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan, farmer Mandy Melnyk, and University of Alberta Non-Academic Staff Association President Rod Loyola. Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Deron Bilous, also a teacher, should probably have been on the list as well.

Surely this provides persuasive evidence for NDP Leader Brian Mason’s assertion on April 29 when he announced his planned resignation that the party is at last “ready for prime time.” Either that or the media, like nature, abhors a vacuum.

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...