Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith (left), Progressive Conservative leader Alison Redford (right), Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman (centre left) and Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason (not shown) met at CBC studios in Edmonton, Alberta, on April 19, 2012.
Credits: IAN KUCERAK/EDMONTON SUN/QMI AGENCY
EDMONTON - In the 2006 federal election, a once-powerful political dynasty was on its last legs and, desperate to save itself, lashed out at the challenger on its right flank by warning voters of the scary socially conservative bogeyman that would take the country back to the 1950s.
As it was with Paul Martin's Liberals facing defeat at the hands of Stephen Harper's Conservatives, so it is this week in Alberta where the Progressive Conservatives, a dynasty in office since 1971, is trying to scare away voters from the challenger on its right flank, the Wildrose Party.
Premier Alison Redford, the Progressive Conservative leader, started the scary Wildrose meme two weeks ago, telling voters she was "frightened" - her word - by some of the ideas Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith was putting before the voters.
That idea was picked up by a group of young people in Calgary who, in a video that's gone viral on YouTube, rather hysterically begged Albertans to vote for anyone but Wildrose. The creators of the ad say neither Redford's PC Party of Alberta nor any other party was behind the ad, but the political operatives on the Wildrose campaign bus are taking that with a grain of salt.
And the attacks on Wildrose continued Thursday when, literally 30 seconds into a leaders' debate here, Liberal Leader Raj Sherman called the candidates for Wildrose "a bunch of bigots."
Redford, in the debate, was more subtle but her message was clear. When leaders were asked what they'd do about abortion and same-sex marriage, she replied darkly that, "I think it's very unfortunate in this campaign that we are talking about these issues... The rest of the country is watching us."
The PC Party of Alberta et al are making the most of the discovery of two Wildrose candidates who said something that leader Danielle Smith likely wishes they had not. As a result, one candidate has been labelled a homophobic bigot and the other a racist.
In 2004, Martin won a minority by convincing at least some voters that Harper was scary. He went back to that well in 2006 - remember the "soldiers in the streets" TV ads? - only to find voters were not buying it. Harper won.
Still, those Liberal scare tactics seemed only to infuriate Albertans who elected a clean slate of Conservatives in 2006. And now, less than a year after 67% of Albertans voted for Harper and the federal Conservatives in the 2011 federal election, the Progressive Conservatives believe that frightening Albertans is their path to holding on to power.
Preston Manning is not impressed. In an editorial published here Thursday, he did not endorse Wildrose explicitly but took a sharp shot at Redford's PCs, calling for end to the "the negative attacks and historical inaccuracies that have characterized the government's campaign in the last 10 days."
Instead, Manning argued that when Albertans vote Monday, they should ask themselves "whether the time has come for a wholesale spring housecleaning at the Alberta legislature."
With four days ago, pollsters find an inordinately high number of undecided voters - as many as one in four. Will those who've yet to be decide be frightened to stay with the status quo or will they have Manning's courage to clean?