Podcast: Wildrose Leadership Race

Three names are in the mix in the battle for the leadership of Alberta’s Wildrose party.  The vote, which was moved up to March 28th in anticipation of an early provincial election, will determine who will officially replace former leader Danielle Smith, who of course led the band of ethically-challenged misfits across the floor to the ruling Progressive Conservatives.

First up we have Drew Barnes, current Wildrose MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat.  A businessman by trade, Barnes has spent time as the Infrastructure and Transportation critic with the Official Opposition.  Backed by a solid record and a very good reputation, Barnes is also known for his integrity.  He was one of the Wildrose MLAs who rejected opportunism in favour of principle when he chose to respect the voters who elected him and stayed with the party.  

An effective representative, Barnes’ quest for leader is hampered in the area of name recognition.  Leadership might be in his future, but for Drew Barnes that time is not now.

Then we have former Conservative Member of Parliament Brian Jean.  He served as MP for the Fort McMurray-Athabasca region from 2004 until last year.  A former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities as well as a member of the Finance, Justice, and Industry Communities committees, Jean brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table.  

Jean, who was endorsed by current Wildrose candidate for Strathmore-Brooks and former Canadian Taxpayers Federation honcho Derek Fildebrandt, has stated he intends to tackle the problems which plague the province’s health care system.  Perhaps the obvious front-runner, Jean is perhaps the most well-known name of the three contenders.  In my opinion, his only drawback is his media presence.  I’ve watched a few interviews, including a short sit-down last week with Global Edmonton in which Jean came off as informed yet stiff.  He needs to learn how to relax in front of the camera.

Finally we have former Strathcona County mayor Linda Osinchuk from my stomping grounds.  Osinchuk, a Registered Nurse in the real world, spent several years on the Strathcona County council before sitting for one term in the mayor’s chair.  While touting fiscal responsibility, Osinchuk has also publicly stated her support for Gay-Straight Alliances in schools, an issue which will be at the fore-front in the coming months.  While known in the Edmonton area, Osinchuk lacks the province-wide exposure needed for the rapidly approaching vote.

So who of the three would be the best choice for the Wildrose, a party which finds itself on a knife-edge?  The choice could be the difference between rebirth and relevancy, and a continued spiral into oblivion for the party.

My choice?  Who do I believe is the best choice not only to breathe new life into the Wildrose, but is best equipped to go toe-to-toe with the slick and polished Jim Prentice? 

Derek Fildebrandt, but he’s not a leadership candidate, so I’ll have to go with Brian Jean.

Experience, integrity, and the strongest public image are all attributes which Jean possesses. While none of the leadership candidates have ever led a party, the time spent learning on the job and getting up to speed will be incredibly short.  The Wildrose must have someone who has a head-start, and out of the three choices that person is Brian Jean.

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