Barbarians not at the gates -- yet
In the world of Albertan politics, few people's words carry more weight than that of Preston Manning.
So when Manning speculates that Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Alliance may very well be a serious threat to Premier Ed Stelmach and the Progressive Conservative party, it's time for Stelmach to listen.
Stelmach's state of mind in the wake of Smith's victory to become the leader of the Alliance has been a matter of some speculation. Stelmach insists he isn't worried about the Alliance.
"It's like when you get into a hockey game," he recently told reporters. "You get all pumped for it. There'll be a lot said, but we're still focused on our plan for Alberta. We still have a sizeable majority. The people gave us a strong mandate to do what's right for Albertans."
"We have a sizable majority; people gave us a strong mandate to do what's right for all Albertans," Stelmach added more recently. "We'll continue to do that."
Of course, if a mandate is a static notion, Stelmach would be entirely correct. In teh 2008 provincial election won 53% of the popular vote -- albeit in an election in which few Albertans voted.
But if one were to accept an argument that the notion of a mandate is a more of a living sentiment of whom the citizenry have entrusted with the moral authority to govern, one could make the argument that Stelmach's mandate has been significantly eroded.
Of course no reasonable individual expects a government to govern according to polls. And with the Conservative party still commanding the support of 38% of Albertans -- still a plurality -- the Tories remain well-situated to continue governing.
“You have to keep in mind the Conservatives still lead in all categories,” says Faron Ellis, a political scientist at the University of Lethbridge. “The barbarians are not at the gates of the legislature just yet.”
But the key words should be considered "just yet".
Preston Manning -- an individual who could well have become Premier in Stelmach's place, if he had opted to enter the contest -- has recently noted that Stelmach's government appears tired and troubled in the eyes of Albertans, and all Smith needs to do is present appealing policy to become an ominous threat.
"We're halfway there in the sense that there is a party that's been long in office and does appear to be struggling to have anything new or different to contribute," Manning mused. "It has yet to be seen whether the Wildrose Alliance has the other side of the equation."
When Paul Hinman, Smith's successor as leader of the Wildrose Alliance, won the recent by-election in Calgary-Elbow, he won on a campaign slogan that encouraged voters in the riding to "send a message to Ed".
If as luminous an authority on Albertan politics as Preston Manning believes Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Alliance could become a threat to the Alberta Tories, it's time for Ed to start getting that message.