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Alberta Finance Minister Doug Horner meekly throws his support to Jim Prentice

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Doug Horner

Another qualified and long-expected candidate for the post of the first permanent post-Alison-Redford leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party has meekly thrown his support to the party's Crown Prince, heir apparent and Ascended Master, Jim Prentice.

As has been said in this space before, this is a pity for the party, as Finance Minister Doug Horner is probably the best qualified for the job of all the other putative contenders -- a list that would include Prentice.

But the Tory Borg Hive has made up its unified mind, and the Prentice Juggernaut has commenced its slow roll north to the Capital Region from the banking executive and former federal cabinet minister’s hometown of Calgary, sometimes called Baghdad on the Bow in honour of its role as centre of the civilized world. Several small towns along the Queen Elizabeth Highway, once known as Alberta Highway 2, are expected to be crushed, and are said to be thankful for the opportunity.

Still, maybe it's just me, but Horner's Tweet, reported in my local community bi-weekly under the romantic-sounding headline "Horner says Prentice the one," rang just a trifle plaintive: "Glad to see @JimPrentice enter the #pcldr race. I stand 100% behind him. Looking forward to signing the nomination papers! #ableg #pcaa."

Well, it's always better to stand behind a juggernaut than in front of it, and whatever Horner is, he is not a dummy. He did, apparently, sign the Prentice papers in a definitive gesture of surrender.

"Jim has a history of being a team leader and that’s what we need in our group right now," Horner told the St. Albert Gazette, whose coverage area includes part of his riding, with what I imagine was a barely audible sigh. The group in question, of course, is the Progressive Conservative Party and its caucus, which in March dismissed former team leader Redford.

Probably Horner revealed a little more than he intended when he added, "certainly a lot of the same supporters that were backing me are backing Jim now." But then, that's the way it is in the PC party nowadays, and Horner is hardly unique in that regard.

Since Prentice's anonymous spokesperson or persons began to speak ubiquitously on his behalf, most of the many qualified candidates within the caucus have bowed to the conventional -- though not necessarily accurate -- wisdom that (a) the party must be led by an outsider to survive, and (b) that outsider had better be the godlike Prentice.

Prentice picked up his nomination papers to general rejoicing in Tory circles on Thursday, presumably the sort of thing that is now big news here in Alberta. "It's official," the PC Party thereupon breathlessly Tweeted. "Our first two potential candidates have come and picked up the nomination papers."

The other was former infrastructure minister Ric McIver, although it is still not too late for McIver to do as Prentice's secret agents, secret admirers, secret Toronto political navigators or whatever they were suggested and either fail to get around to filing his papers or formally pull out of the race.

The other purported candidate still sort of in the race is the recently coifed Labour Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, who at last report hadn't even picked up his papers yet.

Candidates have until the end of May to come up with their $50,000 nomination fee, but must pay a $20,000 deposit as soon as they pick the papers up, which may or may not tell us something about the state of Lukaszuk's war chest.

Among the candidates who publicly tested the waters, already officially out of the race are former Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, former municipal affairs minister Ken Hughes, Energy Minister Diana McQueen, Attorney General Jonathan Denis and Horner. Hughes, Denis and now Horner have all formally endorsed Prentice's apparently inevitable elevation to Máximo Líder of Alberta.

As for Prentice himself, not only did he Tweet he is now an official #pcldr candidate, he's even included the phrase "Running for @PC_Alberta leadership" in his Twitter profile -- and you just can't get much more authoritative than that, can you?

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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