Well-financed Rick Orman candidacy a grave setback to Ted Morton’s hopes

Beulah, peel me a grape! Alberta Conservative candidate Rick Orman aloft, with grapes on a silver tray and friends. This photo appeared in my in-box, source unknown. Below: Ted Morton.

Who wins when Ted Morton and Rick Orman battle it out for votes of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party’s right wing?

Answer: Gary Mar.

The entry of Mr. Orman as a candidate to replace Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach significantly changes the dynamic of the Tory leadership race, which is now starting to pick up steam.

However, it doesn’t change it in a way that particularly benefits either Mr. Orman, a well-heeled Calgary oilman and former Cabinet minister from the time when Don Getty was premier (1985-1992), or Dr. Morton, the market fundamentalist PhD political scientist who until now has been the darling of the party’s right wing.

Indeed, the only beneficiary on the right is likely to be the Wildrose Alliance Party, which in turn has problems of its own – including sinking public support since Mr. Stelmach announced his retirement plans and the loss of some of its best strategists, wooed back to Ottawa by ministers in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s federal Conservative majority.

So the only likely real gainers of the vote split between these two strong right-wing candidates will be moderate candidates like Mr. Mar, Alison Redford and Doug Horner.

Dr. Morton, the former finance minister, was the first candidate in the race and he certainly looked pleased with himself back on the day he precipitated Mr. Stelmach’s resignation announcement after a fight between the two over how tough the 2011 budget ought to be.

As a tough-guy fiscal hard-liner, the American-born Dr. Morton was the darling of the right and was immediately dubbed the front-runner by the media. He was seen, correctly, as the candidate then in the race most likely to successfully woo back Tory defectors to the Wildrose Alliance. He was known to have a strong organization in place that had managed to hang onto his supporters’ contact information from the 2006 contest with Mr. Stelmach and Jim Dinning.

So at the start of the campaign, Dr. Morton looked like a candidate who could win – although, since all the other candidates seemed more moderate, most likely only if he eked out a victory on the first ballot.

One imagines that Dr. Morton is smiling a little less now with the entry of Mr. Orman into the campaign.

Mr. Orman’s pitch is directly aimed at exactly the same slice of the Conservative Party’s likely supporters as Dr. Morton’s – including those who had given up on Mr. Stelmach and defected to the Wildrose Alliance. Indeed, he sounds an awful lot like a Wildrose supporter who has read the writing on the wall and concluded that the only way to win anything worth winning in this province is still as a Conservative.

What Mr. Orman lacks in supporters from 2006, he more than makes up for in cash – at least, this is so if there is any truth to the persistent rumour his campaign war chest contains $1.5 million!

Moreover, from Dr. Morton’s perspective, there’s not much in Mr. Orman’s resume to go after.

Even though Dr. Morton has tried to paint himself as just a little bit closer to the Tories’ squishy middle of late, the former finance minister who built his reputation as a fiscal hardliner can hardly attack Mr. Orman for being a fiscal hardliner.

He could go after Mr. Orman for being too old – the new candidate is 62, soon to be 63, after all. But then, Dr. Morton is, uh, 62 as well.

He could attack Mr. Orman for being an ideological market fundamentalist but for the fact he has been Alberta’s most prominent ideological market fundamentalist for years.

What’s left, shots at Mr. Orman for being rich and zipping around in corporate bizjets while plucking grapes from a silver tray? Well, it’s true – there is photographic evidence! But how is this going to have any impact coming from a well-paid career civil servant like Dr. Morton – who was first a professor at a public university and later an MLA and minister, notwithstanding his far-right credentials?

Please! They’re even both snappy dressers, partial to blue blazers and cufflinks.

Fact is, there is very little to distinguish these two and they’re likely to split their vote. One might even try to take his vote to the other on a second ballot, but by then it will be too late. The moderate Conservative vote will have chosen one of Mr. Horner, Mr. Mar or Ms. Redford and the game will be up.

The arrival of Mr. Orman in the race is a significant blow to Dr. Morton’s prospects.

This post also appears on rabble.ca.

4 Comments on "Well-financed Rick Orman candidacy a grave setback to Ted Morton’s hopes"

  1. Carlos Beca says:

    Mr. Morton or Mr. Orman as far as I am concerned are useless in todays politics. The complexity of today's world need people that can make decisions and not just rely on God or in the invisible hand of the market. To me market fundamentalism is the smartest invention of people that cannot run anything and just expect the market to make the tough decisions for them and then blame the social programs and public services for not being efficient and proceed with more cuts. We all know where the last 30 years of market decisions have taken us. We now have the worse situation ever in the history of the modern world. As far as the Wildrose Alliance it is not a surprise at all. The party's policies when well dissected, are as hollow as a bamboo cane. It is very easy to say get rid of government but then what? Replace it with for profit private companies without regulation! Well you can go to other parts of the world where that is a reality and check what the results are and please do not come to me and say that here we would not be as corrupt….bah bah. Present the opportunities for unbridled capitalism to Albertans and you will see where we can take it. We already have plenty of pretty good examples.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Actually this is the best thing that could have happened to make a Premier Ted Morton. Orman's finances will make a good showing but not enough for the second ballot. Orman is likely to go to Morton on the second ballot, giving Morton the broader base he needs to win this time.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Morton has a large # of MLAs supporting him which will put him over the top.

    Orman's support will go to him on a second ballot – creating a Premier Morton, just the opposite of what this guy suggests.

  4. Anonymous says:

    IF Orman get's the nod…..look out Albertans…..Here's the guy who want's to take our voices away and leave everything to the Politicians. Yeah, right Rick….let's just increase the giveaway to the oil giants ( read ROYALTY benefits !!! ) and BIG bizness in general. After all, isn't that where your $1'5 mil election fund is coming from ????

    Signed "Anyone but Rick "


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