I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution,
Take a bow for the new revolution,
Smile and grin at the change all around,
Pick up my guitar and play,
Just like yesterday…
— Pete Townsend
Wow! Jim Prentice is the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and the new Premier of Alberta. Who saw that coming?
There’s no question that the Downtown Calgary Business Establishment is happy that Prentice won the PC leadership. And with some justification. This guy is no slouch. He has an impressive resume, a solid track record in business and public service, and a proven ability to build relationships. He is as Blue Ribbon as it gets. In their minds, if Jim can’t fix the PC Party, nobody can!
The Downtown Business Establishment has been solidly behind Prentice since before Prentice knew he was running for the job. Want proof? Look at the amount of money his campaign raised — roughly five times the Ric McIver campaign and about six times the Thomas Lukaszuk’s campaign — and where it came from. Roughly half of the Prentice campaign funds came from just 39 deep-pocketed donors who anted up between $10,000 and $30,000 each.
Notwithstanding that brief, dark period when — if you’ll forgive the Harry Potter analogy — the Ministry of Magic was seized by She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (Voldeford?)(Redformort?), raising buckets of money from the corporate sector and the well-heeled-and-well-connected set has never been a problem for the PC Party.
Raising money from legions of small donors, however, has lately become a much bigger problem for the PCs than for the Wildrose. And it’s clear that the PCs’ ability to raise interest among the general public has hit the skids. It is said that only 42 thousand party memberships were sold by the three leadership campaigns, a far cry from the 100 thousand the Prentice team vowed to sell on its own. Only 23 thousand votes for leader were cast — of which nearly 18 thousand were for Prentice.
Although I titled this rant with a lyric line from The Who’s 1971 classic, I am not implying that Jim Prentice is the same as Alison Redford, or Ed Stelmach, Ralph Klein, Don Getty or Peter Lougheed. I am arguing that the average Alberta voter is now so disengaged, fed up, and otherwise put off by the PCs that Party, Government and Leader are all one and the same to them. There may be a new name on the Premier’s office door, but nothing else has changed.
It’s understandable that the Downtown Business Establishment looks to Prentice to lead the PCs, like Moses might, out of the wilderness and back to the land of milk and honey. Forty three years of uninterrupted PC reign has produced a lot of milk and a lot of honey. There’s risk in upsetting the status quo, in giving up one’s security blanket, in changing the corporate culture.
And yet, it’s going to be much more difficult to get the disengaged masses on side, to convince Mr and Ms Regular Albertan that everything is different, that the culture of entitlement has been eliminated and the ship has been righted when it doesn’t look as though anything has changed except the guy at the top.
How many CEOs has General Motors been through in the last 43 years? How many coaches have the Toronto Maple Leafs had?
That is Jim Prentice’s great challenge and the uncomfortable truth that should keep his friends in the Downtown Business Establishment lying awake at night.
Pick up my guitar and play,
Just like yesterday,
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray,
We don’t get fooled again..