I’m not all that sorry to report to readers that I skipped the dreary ride to Vermilion, once the seat of the mighty privatizer Steve West and therefore a symbolically appropriate place to officially start the Summer 2011 Alberta Conservative leadership race.
Dr. West – who appropriately enough came by his honorific by being a veterinarian – was the Lord Voldemort of Alberta politics and the actual brains behind Ralph Klein, whatever you may have heard about anyone else. His efforts live on in the Richest Place on Earth’s crumbling and under-staffed health care system, teacher-deprived schools, electricity distribution chaos, regional planning discord and rubble-strewn infrastructure. But, je digresse.
Naw, it’s more than 200 kilometres from my redoubt in St. Albert along the potholed Yellowhead route and you’d go airborne and experience an extremely harsh landing if you tried to do it at autobahn speeds.
And now that the first media reports are filtering in, it’s clear that the trip wouldn’t have been worth the gas and the grief. By the sound of it only about 100 more members of Alberta’s stout rural yeomanry showed up in V-Town tonight than effete city-dwellers made it out to a similar Alberta Liberal affair in E-Town yesterday.
What’s more, according to the Edmonton Journal, the six candidates to replace Premier Ed Stelmach failed to take off the gloves and mouthed only the usual anodyne platitudes. Sorry, but if you’re going to drive two hours each way on that road, I think you deserve to see six combatants in the Thunderdome and some blood on the mats. (“Five men enter! One woman leaves!”)
Apparently they only completely agreed on one thing: “Near the end of the debate,” intoned the Journal, “candidates were asked whether they would offer provincial support for the construction of a new arena in downtown Edmonton. They unanimously vetoed the idea.” (Emphasis added.)
So, I guess we can safely draw one conclusion from all this: As soon as the leader is selected, the provincial election past, and the eternal Alberta Conservatives safely restored to power, provincial taxpayers will be ponying up for a new Edmonton arena.
The next leadership debate is set for July 28 in Grande Prairie, which is even farther along an even worse road.
This post also appears on rabble.ca.