Things Could Have Been Different

They came close.  Some assumed it was inevitable. 

The past few decades saw two people ascend Alberta’s electoral ladder to the point of almost sitting in the Premier’s chair, only to have circumstance prevent it from happening.  Looking back, one wonders what the province’s political landscape would be had history been different.

They are…

Laurence Decore (MLA 1989-97)

As leader of the Alberta Liberal Party from 1988-1994, the late former Edmonton mayor represented the closest any leader and party came to ending the decades-long rule of the Progressive Conservatives until the PC’s own self-inflicted fall from grace years later.  In dictating a brilliant economic narrative going into the 1993 election, Decore capitalized on the public bitterness towards the former Don Getty-led Tories, which led to Getty stepping down and being replaced by popular former Calgary mayor Ralph Klein.  The fact that Klein’s economic platform almost mirrored Decore’s was obvious, yet voters ultimately decided to stay with the group (devil?) they knew. 

Decore’s legacy during his brief time in provincial politics remains strong.  Not only did his economic ideas appeal to moderate conservatives, he was genuinely likable.  Under his leadership, the Alberta Liberals enjoyed their highest popularity in a century which, to provincial Liberals, is actually a bitter memory given their current poll numbers.

In a ‘six degrees of separation’ sort of way, Decore’s story leads to…

Jim Dinning (MLA 1986-1997)

Am I biased?  Of course.  I’ve known Jim since 1987 when he attended a Calgary high school Model Parliament featuring a young and rising political star as Prime Minister. (*wink)

After first being elected in 1986 and serving as Minister of Community and Occupational Health (1986-88) and Minister of Education (1988-92), Dinning became the architect of an economic plan which was the foundation of the ‘Klein revolution’ (precursor of the infamous Alberta Advantage).  At the time, the situation was becoming dire.  While we weren’t at the statistical bottom in the nation, we were certainly falling faster than any other provincial economy.  Systematic restructuring efforts and cuts were instituted to the ultimate benefit of the province and to the utter dismay of provincial unions and leftwing activists.  To this day, you can still find a few teachers around the water cooler uttering with disdain the name ‘Dinning’ along with ‘Klein’. 

After some years back in the private sector, Dinning attempted a return to provincial politics with his 2006 run for PC leader.  And here’s where history took a turn.  At times during the campaign Dinning saw poll numbers which put him 20 points in the lead over the nearest competitor.  Then, it what was publicly viewed as a continuation of internal back-stabbing that began with the removal of Klein, the party split between Dinning and candidate Ted Morton.  The narrative was born which painted Dinning as ‘too liberal’ while Morton was the real conservative.  Effective enough was this strategy that, through the party’s voting process, the vote was split to a significant degree the unexpected – and truly unwanted – result occurred: dark horse Ed Stelmach came up the middle to win. 

It started the party on a path which led directly to their fall from power a few years later.

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