Wildrose may be leading among federal Tories

With the Albertan provincial election just a week away, this latest nugget cannot be good news for the Progressive Conservative party:

A majority of Alberta’s 28 federal MPs are quietly “leaning” in the direction of the Wildrose party, which is seeking next week to end the Progressive Conservative dynasty in the province, says Calgary MP Rob Anders.

“I think I can safely say that the majority of members of Parliament inside the Alberta caucus, that I’m aware of, are leaning Wildrose,” said the MP for Calgary West, according to Monday’s edition of the Hill Times, an Ottawa-based weekly political and public policy newspaper.

“There are still a few stragglers who are supporting the Progressive Conservatives, but they’re more reluctant to make a public admission of that because they see the numbers and where things are heading.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has told his MPs in Alberta, B.C. and Quebec to feel free to publicly endorse whichever candidates they choose, since all three provinces have parties on the centre-right competing for voters who back Harper federally, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said last month.

The news breaks as the PC leader and current premier Alison Redford had to deny reports of a rift with former premier Ralph Klein, whose nearly two decades at the helm of the PC lock on Alberta’s government looms over the campaign, which could see the PCs forced out of office for the first time in 41 years.

The campaign, in which Wildrose continues to hold a steady lead over the Progressive Conservatives, is taking a frantic turn as the PC tries to paint Wildrose as too radical on social issues to take power, after a leader’s debate last Thursday where Smith was generally viewed to have held her own against Redford.  Wildrose has attracted support by emphasizing fiscal issues, such as balancing Alberta’s budget and saving more money to Alberta’s savings fund — think of it as a hybrid of a throwback to the tradition of the prairie conservatism of Social Credit, which governed Alberta throughout the mid-20th century with the fiery small-government fervor of the tea party movement in the United States.

On Monday, even as Wildrose leader Danielle Smith tried to calm voters about the social conservatism of her party — she declared over the weekend that she, personally, is both pro-choice and pro-LGBT marriage — she was also kicking up controversy with skeptical comments about climate change. Redford and the PC have been working hard to convince voters that Wildrose is too radical on social issues to trust in government.

Typically, the kind of stories that are leaking about the PCs would indicate that Wildrose is indeed on the cusp of pushing the PCs out of power.  A week out, it seems very likely that will indeed be the result.  There are two reasons, however, that should give the PC some hope: Wildrose is only seriously contesting its first provincial election, and there’s still some doubt as to Wildrose’s perceived social conservatism.

Then again, this is Alberta, not Ontario, so the electorate is already, well, fairly socially conservative.

And in the current climate, with voters tired of an incumbent party fully 41 years in government and lacking in any signification vision, it’s not difficult to see Albertans opting for the newer party.

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