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Friday, March 24, 2006

The Race Heats Up

Wow. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Politics is one of the greatest spectator sports on Earth. The show I'm watching right now is the leadership race for the PC Party of Alberta.

To recap...during the last provincial election about two years ago, the only campaign promise that Ralph Klein made was that this is his last term. Of course, as soon as he was re-elected, the question of when he'd resign began.

Ralph finally made it clear about a week ago. He'll turn in his resignation in October 2007. The people of Alberta were stuck with Ralph's long good-bye, and the very private Tory leadership race finally burst into the mainstream.

Intergovernmental Affiars Minister Ed Stelmach made it clear he'd be running for the leadership. Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Lyle Oberg made it clear he'd be running. Advanced Learning Minister Dave Hancock made it clear he'd be running.

Then, shortly after the announcement of his retirement, Klein handed down an ultimatum. Cabinet ministers who wanted to run for the leadership have to resign from their cabinet posts by June 1. According to Klein, this is to level the playing field...to make sure cabinet ministers don't abuse their powers in their campaigns.

Stelmach resigned immediatly. Oberg said he's turn in his resignation as June 1 drew closer. And Hancock started having doubts about running for the leadership, citing that he can still do a lot of good as Advanced Learning Minister.

Flash forward to three days ago. Oberg was meeting with his riding association. Oberg criticized Klein's plan to make the cabinet ministers resign. Oberg's exact quote: "If I were Klein, I wouldn't want me in the back benches. I know where all the skeletons are."

Oberg's hometown paper ran the story. Alberta's major papers ran the story. And last night, Oberg was booted out of the PC Party for his open criticism of Klein!

His exact punishment is he's suspended from the caucus for six months. He's free to re-apply for the Tories in six months, or continue as an independent. But many agree: Oberg's political career is over.

Today, Oberg issued a public apology to Klein and the Tories, but was still critical of Klein's long good-bye.

So, as we all know, things are going to come to a head in one week. On March 31, the Tories will be having a leadership review of Ralph Klein. Will Klein get a good review, and thus be allowed to leave on his own terms, or will all the leadership hopefuls chomping at the bit vote Klein out of office, and jump start the whole leadership race?

And in case you don't know, the front-runner to replace Klein is still Jim Dinning. Dinning was Klein's treasurer back in the mid-1990s. While Klein was ordering massive cutbacks and laying off thousands of government employees, Dinning was the hitman making it happen. Dinning left the PC Party in 1997 for more lucrative positions in the private sector, but he made it clear that he'd be back someday to replace Klein. Dinning has, in effect, been in campaigning for the leadership since '97.

And many agree. If you thought Klein was bad, wait until Dinning's in charge.

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