Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman offered his best wishes to premier-elect Jim Prentice this week, even as he expressed doubt over the situation inherited by the new Alberta Progressive Conservative leader.
Strankman compared the governing party’s establishment to a “den of snakes,” saying that its leadership has become “far, far too comfortable with what we believe to be a sense of entitlement, and the status quo.”
Anyone wandering into that situation trying to improve things is liable to get a “snake bite,” said the Wildrose MLA.
Prentice, a former federal MP and cabinet minister, was elected leader of the Alberta PCs on Saturday, defeating Ric McIver and Thomas Lukaszuk, and receiving 17,963 votes, or 77 per cent of the total.
McIver and Lukaszuk, both sitting MLAs, received 2,742 votes and 2,681 votes respectively, out of a total of 23,386 ballots cast during the weekend’s leadership convention.
That total is far lower than seen in past conventions; for instance, more than 72,000 votes were cast in 2011, when Alison Redford was elected leader, and around 144,000 voter participated in 2006, when Ed Stelmach replaced the late Ralph Klein.
Strankman pointed to the decline in voter engagement as an indication that Albertans have lost confidence in the PCs.
“It’s incredible that such a low number of people could have input into the democratic process in this regard,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that some of these inequities of the provincial government have led to that.”
Prentice replaces Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Dave Hancock, who has served as both premier and interim PC leader since Alison Redford’s resignation in March.
Neil Brown, MLA for Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill, has indicated he will step down from his seat, allowing Prentice to run in the riding in an upcoming byelection. The fall legislative session is scheduled to begin Oct. 27.
Strankman did offer some positive thoughts for the premier-elect.
“I wish Mr. Prentice the very best in trying to improve the province of Alberta,” he said. “That was the same goal that I had when I became involved with the Wildrose (Party).”
Strankman, who continues to run his farming operation from his residence in Altario, said he would juggle his responsibilities as MLA with the work of harvesting in the coming weeks.