Now with wimpy Ed as leader the election comes down to hard fisted Realpolitiks. Despite polls saying Ed's Tired Old Tories are at 40% that is a serious crash in popularity, the direct result of Ed's mushy leadership.
The leadership debate showed that this is not a race about who will be premier, but rather which party will govern and which one is the opposition. While Taft and Stelmach vied for Premiership, Brian Mason showed himself as the leader of the Opposition.
And even then party politics and labels are not as important as the local campaigns. Because there is a lack of political process that involves us as citizens.
Liberals have called for strategic voting, and Albertans will. But it won't necessarily be for the Liberals. Sure they will gain seats, as will the NDP.
Hinman and his right wing rump party are destined for the dustbin of history, splitting the vote on the right. Hinman is fighting for his political life just to retain his own seat.
Instead of venturing into Calgary, Wildrose Alliance Leader Paul Hinman campaigned in his home riding of Cardston-Taber-Warner, knocking on doors and attending a barbecue with supporters.
And who knows the Green Party may even have a chance, with their appeal to rural Tory voters disenchanted that Farmer Ed has become Alberta CEO and the mouthpiece for Big Oil.
Tomorrow there will be a sea change in Alberta. A record number of folks are voting in advanced polls. There are hundreds of thousands of new Albertans and consequently undecided voters. Conservative party supports will stay home in droves unsatisfied with Stelmach's regime.
Barely 5 per cent of the electorate could be bothered tuning in to the only leaders' debate of the campaign.
And voter turnout, which hit historic lows last time with a meagre 44-per-cent turnout, could well drop even lower on Monday.
“The turnout's going to be brutal,” says Arnie Hansen, an Onoway-area cattle rancher and oil driller who has come in to the fertilizer supplier this sunny afternoon.
“That's the way it works in Alberta. They stay home. They don't vote for someone else. They just stay home.”
All in all it looks like perhaps we will have a minority government. Or at least as close a semblance to a minority government after 76 years of the One Party State. Who will lead this new government is anybodies guess.
Polls have repeatedly projected an 11th consecutive Tory majority on Monday, but they also reveal a persistently large number of undecided voters - even this late in the campaign. Meanwhile, a surprising number of voters are calling for a change in government, are unhappy with Progressive Conservative Leader Ed Stelmach and are willing to switch their vote.
"There's definitely a lot of fluidity yet in the voter commitment," said Harold Jansen, a political scientist at the University of Lethbridge. "Voters are ready for a change. They're ready for something different, but none of the opposition parties have done a good job inspiring it."
The undecided segment has all parties - especially the Tories - in a knot.
But it ain't about leaders or party labels. It is about issues though. And voters will decide what issues are important and vote for their issues, which leaves Stelmach's Tired Old Tories in a very weak position.
And in the final analysis this election is about who has the hard slogging political machine in each riding. Who can get out the vote. It's the closest thing to real election this province has seen since 1971.
And I would remind folks who say the opposition parties are weak, that back in 1971 the Lougheed Team that came to power had only 6 sitting MLA's.
And when all is said and done its not just about who gets to govern but who is the opposition. That is the understated part of this election. And surprise, surprise guess which party looks good for that job.
During the campaign, Brian Mason's New Democrats have shown they have the policies and philosophy to provide effective and consistent opposition.
Neil Waugh, Edmonton Sun, Sunday March, 2, 2008
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