In fewer than 10 days Albertans who are card-carrying members of the Progressive Conservative Party will begin the election of a new Party Leader, and Premier of the province. The vast majority of voters will know as little about the current crop of candidates as they did in 2011 when they elected Alison Redford as Leader/Premier.
In spite of the post-2011 experience, the media, the party voters and the population as a whole seem totally unconcerned about delving into the character and emotional I.Q. of the current crop of candidates.
As someone who was a Minister of the Crown for 7 years, and subject — along with my family — to sometimes annoying scrutiny, I am not advocating the paparazzi approach to scrutiny, feeding cheap voyeurism. But Albertans need to be searching for more — and better — information about their next Premier.
To be Leader and Premier is to be ‘first among equals’. Mr. Prentice was a member of a federal caucus, and Mr. Lukaszuk and Mr. McIver are currently members of the provincial caucus. How have they been looked upon by their caucus colleagues? Are they full and active participants? Do they communicate effectively? Do they reach out, or do they wait for others to come to them? Do they tend to be collaborative or confrontational? Do they work their relationships effectively and get things done in caucus? Are they into debates early, or do they listen and enter later? Are there examples of them exerting moral leadership?
Have they accepted and endorsed the model of the paramount leader, seeing themselves as followers until now, when they can seek the paramount position themselves? Did they simply defer to previous paramount leaders? Do they beg off responsibility by saying they were not a leader while they were ‘merely’ an M.L.A./M.P. or a Cabinet Minister? Would they expect such servitude from the next Cabinet?
To be Leader and Premier is to be ‘at the big desk’. What do former subordinates say about each candidate’s attitude toward uncomfortable messages? Do the candidates use subordinates to insulate themselves from uncomfortable messages, or do they encourage those around them to ‘speak truth to power’? Based on their past experience, what do we know about their attitude toward Ministerial responsibility and accountability? If any one of them had been Premier two weeks ago, what would they have expected of Finance Minister Horner when he begged off accepting responsibility for the management of the government’s fleet of aircraft? Does any candidate have a temper that discourages passing along difficult messages? Does any candidate have a temperament that attracts synchophants to his team rather than tough and honest team-mates?
Each candidate had a pre-political career. How community minded was each? What was the focus of their community activity? What service clubs did they belong to? Did they ‘play well with others’? Were they involved in successful community projects? How are they remembered by the people who worked along side them in the community?
Each candidate has a ‘kitchen cabinet’ — a small group of trusted advisors they spend time with, both on- and off-the-clock. The make-up of that group speaks volumes about the candidate’s maturity, core values and interests, world-view, attitudes toward the electorate, and attitude toward ‘insiders’. Who does the candidate work with on communications, fundraising, organization, policy development? On the other hand, who is not at the candidate’s table? What does the make-up of the kitchen cabinet say about the candidate’s attitude toward accessibility, transparency, even-handedness?
On September 6th, will party members know anything more about the substance of their chosen candidate than they did in 2011? Or, will voters be choosing from among well-packaged candidates whose character may surprise us all in the next 18 months, just as we have recently been surprised?