ST. ALBERT, Alberta
Timing is everything, I wrote of former St. Albert city councillor James Burrows back in February 2010: “If Mr. Burrows can get the Wildrose nomination, the timing could be perfect for him.”
Well, the party announced yesterday that Mr. Burrows has indeed got its nomination for the St. Albert riding in the next general election. But if a week is a long time in politics, a year and a half is darned near an eternity, and it’s a different Alberta now than it used to be back then.
So it remains to be seen if the timing will be as good for the ambitious and locally controversial former three-term councillor and sometime Alberta Liberal, who was turfed from office by a mere 14 votes in the October 2010 civic election, as it looked as if it might be back in the spring of 2010.
One could argue, of course, that what’s really interesting isn’t what party Mr. Burrows, 47, is going to run for, but whether or not Ken Allred, St. Albert’s 70-year-old Conservative MLA, will run again.
There was a day when it was widely rumoured that Mr. Allred would himself switch to the Wildrose Alliance, or perhaps retire, but he’s played his cards pretty close to his vest on his plans. Here’s a bet, though, that Mr. Allred will run again for the Tories, now that the wind again appears to be blowing their way with Premier Ed Stelmach about to go over the side.
He has vocally endorsed far-right Conservative leadership candidate Ted Morton, so it is possible the outcome of the leadership race will now influence his decision whether to stay or to go.
If Mr. Allred seeks re-election, he won’t be the only retirement-age Alberta Conservative politician re-considering another kick at the electoral can now that the Tory elevator seems to be going up again as the Wildrose elevator goes down. A week ago, Alberta Speaker and longest-serving MLA Ken Kowalski announced that he will be seeking his tenth term since 1979!
No doubt part of Mr. Kowalski’s motivation is the desire to hand his annoying Wildrose opponent in the Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock riding, far-right bloviator and sometime “senator in waiting” Link Byfield, his metaphorical ass. But the real story is that these kinds of decisions by politicians who could gracefully fade into the woodwork strongly suggest that no matter whom they choose as leader, the Alberta Tories no longer fear the Wildrose Alliance as much as they did a year ago.
So this could be bad news for politicians like Mr. Burrows, for whom not too long ago the Wildrose Alliance have looked like a certain ticket to electoral success.
Mr. Burrows has no shortage of detractors in St. Albert, but he has also proved in the past he knows how to get elected whether his political enemies like it or not. If he hadn’t been suffering from a cold the week before the 2010 municipal election, it’s likely he would have been able to squeeze another 15 or so votes out of the electorate. And he’s sure to work harder for a prize like a seat in the provincial Legislature.
It’s not clear if being a former Liberal will help or hinder Mr. Burrows in one of the few Alberta regions with a strong history of voting for Liberals. Traditional Liberal voters may distain him as a turncoat gone over the loony right, or may find him less threatening than a candidate from the party’s scary ultra-right.
Or they may simply not care, because St. Albert is a rare Alberta where other parties win votes from time to time too.
Despite their historical strength in the region, the Alberta Liberals don’t yet appear to have found a candidate to nominate in St. Albert. Perhaps local Liberals are waiting for the outcome of their leadership race?
Nor have the New Democrats, who could benefit from warm feelings for Jack Layton and the lingering Orange Wave.
Meanwhile, while they have barely registered in any polls so far this year, the Liberal-like Alberta Party, has two potential candidates fighting over the nomination in the riding – former New Democrat Tim Osborne and St. Albert fire fighter local firefighter Victor Fernandez.
NOTE: A reader informs me that Alex V. Bosse is seeking the Liberal nomination. Readers can look at his tweets at http://twitter.com/#!/ALXV5 .