I’ll say it should!
There’s a message there for the premier, all right. How about this wording: your government is doing almost everything wrong, it bungles every file it touches, Albertans are itching to be rid of you, their teeth grate every time they hear your voice on the radio! Even conservative Albertans in safe rural ridings aren’t all that enthralled with you. Maybe especially Conservative Albertans.
For the moment, at least, Mr. Stelmach looks like the George W. Bush of Alberta politics. And that’s really not a compliment.
Yeah, yeah, I know… it’s just a by-election, and it’s in Calgary. That’s what the premier and all the premier’s men will all be saying in the morning. But is that really enough to explain away what happened Monday in Cowtown?
After all, Conservative candidate Diane Colley-Urquhart didn’t just lose, she lost pretty decisively, all things considered. Tomorrow’s Tory talking points would hold more water if Ms. Colley-Urquhart had come in a respectable second, instead of an inexplicable third.
The allegedly popular Calgary alderman is said to be a former folk singer – perhaps she should now consider transitioning into the blues? Oh well, at least she still has a seat on council to keep warm.
It’s not just Mr. Stelmach, of course, for whom there is a message in this election result.
Consider the hapless Liberals, whose strategy, pretty obviously, was to let Mr. Hinman and Ms. Colley-Urquhart “split the right-wing vote,” then scoop up the victory.
Tomorrow’s main Liberal talking point, of course, will be that candidate Avalon Roberts did very well, all things considered. But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, and, really, if the Liberals can’t beat a candidate for a government as unpopular as Mr. Stelmach’s, maybe they really should think about a name change.
Consider the NDP, which captured barely 1 per cent of the vote – one day after the party convention passed a resolution to contest every riding, no matter how faint their candidate’s chances of winning, even if it means a mildly less progressive Liberal is edged out by … someone else.
Thankfully, in this case at least, the Knee-Dips’ pathetic impact was so marginal that even all their votes wouldn’t have pushed the Ms. Roberts past Mr. Hinman. This reduces the sting, if it doesn’t quite eliminate the slap, of reality.
NDP candidate Eric Carpendale was saved from total ignominy only by managing to edge out two independent candidates named Skowronski and Grochowski, who if they don’t operate a restaurant in Winnipeg should contemplate opening one as soon as possible.
Finally, consider would-be Wildrose Alliance leader and excitement generator Danielle Smith. Whoops again! She obviously calculated a few months ago that the riding couldn’t be won and stood aside to let Mr. Hinman take the fall.
Does this upset the balance of the new right-wing party’s leadership contest in mid-October? Probably not, but I’ll bet Ms. Smith would rather be having her back slapped for ascending to a seat in the Legislature at the Wildrose Convention on Oct. 17 than having to slap Mr. Hinman’s. Had she rolled the dice, her election as leader would have been unquestioned.
The mild-mannered Mr. Hinman, of course, is entitled to be extremely pleased with himself. He made history tonight. He has the satisfaction of going back to the Legislature after losing his seat down in Mormon Country in March 2008. Even so, there was even a whoops moment for Mr. Hinman, caught on video illegally campaigning with Ms. Smith on the steps of a polling station. This will do little to sour his victory, of course, because as we all know, Elections Alberta is a toothless old hound.
Voters in Calgary-Glenmore are also entitled to be pleased with themselves – as voters should be any time they knock off a government candidate in a by-election. But it hardly needs to be said that many of them won’t be smiling if Wildrose Alliance ever forms a nutty far-right government in this province.
The guys who are really grinning, of course, are the big-money boys from the oil industry who bankrolled Mr. Hinman’s successful campaign.
They know that Mr. Stelmach will be moving ever farther to the right – to shore up his Conservative bastion in rural Alberta and to get them and their buddies in the oilpatch off his case. Expect oil royalties to go even lower – oh, wait, they can’t really, can they? Well, something like that.
Yes, this is one of those weird moments when it seems like it would be a good time for everyone to sit down and have a serious rethink.
Don’t bet on that happening, though. After all, this is Alberta.
Paul Hinman, WAP, 4,052 votes, 37% of votes cast
Avalon Roberts, Liberal, 3,776 votes, 34%
Diane Colley-Urquhart, PC, 2,863 votes, 26%
Eric Carpendale, NDP, 148 votes, 1%
Len Skowronski, Independent, 118 votes, 1%
Tony Grochowski Independent, 71 votes, 1%