By Garrett Simmons
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Albertans could be headed to the polls sooner, rather than later.
Thursday afternoon, in a phone interview with The Herald, Premier Jim Prentice addressed the election speculation swirling across the province.
“It could be not too far away,” said Prentice. “My advice would be to enjoy the Easter weekend.”
The long-speculated spring election likely won’t be impacted by recent polls, which put the Progressive Conservative in a dead heat with the Wildrose, according to the premier.
“I?don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the polls,” said Prentice, who added he’s confident the recently-passed budget can win over the electorate. “My perspective is Albertans think the budget has been balanced and protects front-line services and asks us all to pay a little more.”
From what he’s heard from southern Albertans, the budget has been viewed as a reasonable attempt to balance a wide range of factors, some of which, like the price of oil, are beyond the government’s control.
Speaking of southern Alberta, Prentice also addressed the weekend defeat of Gary Bikman in the nomination race to represent the PCs in Cardston-Taber-Warner. One of 11 Wildrose party members who crossed the floor, Bikman joined former leader Danielle Smith and former Wildrose MLA Rod Fox, as floor crossers who lost nomination races.
“Contested nominations are the lifeblood of the Progressive Conservative Party, and you never know who is going to win until the votes are cast,” said Prentice, as the premier contended there wasn’t much of a connection to draw between the three cases. “I?think it varies riding to riding.”
In the case of Bikman, Prentice thanked the MLA for his many years of service, and said the nomination race came down to two great citizens who engaged in a hard-fought, clean nomination battle, won by M.D. of Taber Reeve Brian Brewin.
“Brian is similarly a great candidate and will do a great job as MLA,” said Prentice, who admitted Bikman might have faced pushback immediately after his decision. “He felt it was difficult in the time right after the floor crossing.”
Bikman, in a letter to the editor in the April 1 edition of The Taber Times, took that sentiment much further.
“To you, our former supporters, we are cowards and traitors,” he said in the letter. “Any attempts to explain what was happening inside the party or our fears our caucus would collapse are see by you as excuses, not explanations.”
Bikman had hoped himself, and other Wildrose floor crossers, would have until 2016, during the legislated timeframe set out for the next election under the Alberta Election Act, to fully explain their motives.
“In hindsight, from a purely personal point of view, we erred,” he said in the letter. “Too trusting and a bit naive — perhaps?”
But Prentice played down talk the floor crossings led to the demise of the three candidates, and added of the 11 members who left the Wildrose, five won their nominations, while three others resigned. He added Smith, however, faced a unique set of challenges.
“Danielle’s situation was different, and she faced some head winds because she was Wildrose leader,” said Prentice.