It’s one of those weird things about Alberta that a quarter million people – or so they say, anyway, according to some sort of a calculation – actually sat down in front of a TV set last night and watched Gar Mar, Alison Redford and Doug Horner debate one another about which one of them would make the best leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives.
But as any die-hard, rootin-tootin’, cowboy-boot wearin’ Albertan can tell you, it may just be the intramural league, but the winner automatically gets to take home the biggest trophy of all – in this case, the premiership of oil-soaked Alberta. So watching the show, buying a Tory membership and then taking part in the vote may be the only kind of active democracy on offer in this place.
I wasn’t one of the watchers, though. While the leadership candidates debated, I was trapped in what was left of a rubble-strewn basement in Stalingrad being machine-gunned. I got through that ordeal still able to speak, as a matter of fact, but I’m afraid I didn’t survive falling on my own grenade. On the whole, though, that was probably a somewhat less painful fate than sitting through an hour of Mr. Mar doing his best imitation of Richard Nixon while Ms. Redford (looking scarily like Lady Thatcher) and Mr. Horner jumped all over the Tory front-runner for the way he took his leave the last time he quit Alberta politics.
Don’t worry, it was only community theatre. But one-act play rehearsals wait for no Tory, especially when you have a mean-ass director. Begging does no good. However, on the bright side, if the production goes ahead as planned, I’ll get to scream the F-word in a room full of respectable community members and their children, which seems like a reasonable response either to being overrun by the Red Army or watching the Blue Army debate on TV. Anyway, if you’re really a masochist like I am, you could catch it all later online.
As for Mr. Mar, well, surely all the people watching him last night know that three years ago he promised not to take his $478,000 “transition allowance” when he quit being an MLA to go off and be Alberta’s man in Washington, then he said he’d take it but not while he was in Washington, and then he took it anyway.
Ms. Redford and Mr. Horner argued that this was kinda sleazy. Mr. Mar asserted that it was business as usual and pretty much what any other government MLA would have done under the circumstances. As it happens, this being Alberta, this is one of those rare cases when you can say “You’re all right!” and everyone could go home happy.
Same story with the case of the nearly $400,000 Mr. Mar paid seven fat years ago to his friend and confidante Kelley Charlebois for verbal advice, no record of which apparently was ever kept. Mr. Mar said he regretted that one when it came up in the Edmonton Journal’s weirdly un-engaging, clickety-clacketing, online leaders’ keyboard debate on Tuesday.
Hope springs eternal that raising things like this will play a role in Albertans’ voting decisions, either in the all-important intramural league championship this week or in the largely irrelevant general election in the not-too-distant future. That said, though, no one who has lived here for long and has an ounce of sense is betting the bailed-out farm on an unexpected outcome.
Somewhere along the line, someone apparently forgot to explain to Alberta voters that this sort of thing is supposed to matter.
The final Tory leadership vote and the community one-act play festival are both scheduled to take place on Saturday, Oct. 1. It’s hard to say just yet which one will be more riveting.
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.