It is very clear to those close to the world of Alberta politics that Premier Alison Redford is not likely to be Premier this time next year: "dead Premier walking" is the phrase now being used. She has no friends in caucus, she is not running the Government of Alberta (Doug Horner is) and is not in control of the policy agenda (hence, no throne speech). The money which backs the party has already written her off and is looking for a successor. Alison herself should, though she is likely not (she is stubborn and determined), be seeking an out which enables her to leave with dignity and grace - Canada's ambassador to the US, Alberta Court of Appeal or a Federal judiciary appointment of note. But the void already exists.
The obvious candidate for succession is Doug Horner. He lost last time to both Garry Mar and Alison Redford and will, as soon as next week, push the budget button which will kill his chances of election by the people, never mind his own party. Thomas Lukaszuk will run - his ego and hair do will make it difficult for him not to- and loose. Jeff Johnson, scourge of teachers and threat to our school system, may also fancy his chances. But when you mention these names to people that care about Alberta and its future they all say, without exception, "you got to be kiddin' me" (or words to that effect - they are generally not this polite).
In fact, one of the failures of the Progressive Conservative (sic) party in Alberta is the lack of leadership and the failure to grow and manage succession. This has not been helped by the single transferable vote system it used to ensure that those who are front runners don't win. Ted Morton may fancy his chances, but no one fancies Ted Morton.
So the grandees of the party are looking outside the current crop of MLA's for leadership candidates. One favourite, Jim Prentice, is ruled out because of the fact that he very deliberately left politics, is making a tonne of money and finds Ontario a comfortable place to live, despite the bizarre nature of its Provincial politics. We can similarly rule out Gary Mar from making a comeback. Former industry leaders in Alberta know enough about Alberta politics not to touch it. So who?
My favourite candidate is Rona Ambrose, current Minister, MP for Edmonton-Spruce Grove since 2004, one very smart woman, and a a natural at political survival. She has experience of the Alberta government - she worked in Intergovernmental Affairs. She is currently Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister Responsible for Western Economic Diversification, Shared Services Canada and Vice-Chair of the Treasury Board. She survived some bruising times in cabinet and Government. But she is focused, a team player and smart.
To talk to, she is smart, articulate, focused and humourus. She is a smart street politician as well as a thinking politician. She knows Albertan and its challenges well and is rooted in this community. She has championed Alberta in the Commons and in cabinet, though has not always been able to deliver on everything she has championed. She is a straight talker, thinks before she speaks (a trait that some in the Wild Rose need to develop) and can hold her own in a serious debate.
While part of the rejection of Premier Redford is due to her gender - there are some in politics who still think that politics should be left to men - Rona Ambrose would take on and probably beat Danielle Smith, who otherwise looks like the next Premier of Alberta likely to be elected by the people.
So, who else? Redford's days are numbered. but part of the reason she is hanging on by the skin of her teeth is that no one can think clearly about who should succeed her. Time to talk to Rona.