Friday, May 18, 2007

Ralph Klein's old riding

The by-election battle for Calgary Elbow is drenched in symbolism. It was Ralph Klein's fortress, the unchallengeable fiefdom from which he ruled the Oil sheikdom of Alberta. Klein's carefully manufactured and massaged persona of the former mayor who still drank with his constituents down the pub, allowed him to maintain a cult of personality based on carefully constructed 'rough hewn populism'. His riding elections resembled coronations.

But Ralph is gone and times have changed.

Even in his last election, the bloom was off the rose. The Conservatives lost several seats in Calgary to the Liberals, came close to losing more and saw a big drop in their province wide support. This time his fading radiance isn't there to offer any protection to those who remain.

And some of the local elites seem to have finally soured on the Tories. Our Mayor's war of words with our distant rural focused new Premier over infrastructure funding, egged on by populists in the local media led by Rick Bell at the Sun has cast some doubt onto the Conservative's aura of inevitability. The thing to remember about Alberta's famous political mono-culture is that every forty years or so, like the shifting of magnetic poles there's a millenarian scale change and the dominant party is wiped out by the opposition, who then hold on for another forty years.

I'm hopeful that our massively changing demographics might have begun to bring some political maturity to my province and we can break the dynasty habit.

Both the Libs and the PCs have picked their candidates for next month's by-election. The ANDP is holding a contested nomination between Al Brown & Garnet Wilcox next week.

Listen closely and you might hear the first pebbles of the Alberta Conservative dynasty beginning to slide down the mountain. The symbolism of losing King Ralph's old fortress would certainly accelerate the process.

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