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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dave Hancock: A Good Man Who Comes to the Aid of the Party

Dave Hancock was recently selected by the PC Caucus to be the interim leader of the party pending the outcome of the forthcoming leadership contest.  This may be the smartest thing they have done in the past week or so.

Dave is Mr. Social Progressive & Fiscal Conservative amongst Alberta's elected politicians. He has been involved in the party from his youth at the University of Alberta.  I met him first when we both worked on the Joe Clark leadership of the federal PC in 1976.  He served as President as established the Statement of Principles for the party that defined the progressive aspects of the PC party.

Elected initially in 1997 he has been a perpetually successful election performer often winning with the largest margins in the province. He has served in a wide array of portfolios and been Deputy Premier more than once. He has been the deep thinker and strategy guy in the PC caucus and Cabinet for years.  A cerebral quality not often appreciated or respected by the Reform/Alliance leaning "common sense" MLAs.

He pursued the leadership in 2006 when Dinning and Morton were beat by Stelmach. I was very involved in his campaign helping to develop the campaign platform with him and others. Knowing he would not make the first ballot cut he chose to visibly support Stelmach before the first votes were counted.  Many think that move was politically courageous.  It was but it was also a strong signal to his supporters and others in the progressive branch of the party they ought to rally behind Stelmach.  Dave correctly saw Stelmach as the best way to update the progressive policies of the party beyond the Klein years.  It worked...for awhile.

Dave's diligence and dedication will ensure the business of government keeps going aligned with the PC party agenda set out in the recent Throne Speech and Budget.  The administration will be given the respect and room to do their jobs, at least until the next leader comes in.  I expect under Dave's interim watch there will be some significant but quiet execution of the policy and programs that have been passed but also passed over pending for implementation.  I say this given his strong affirmation that Bill 45 and 46 are the "law" and they will be implemented. It is a double-edged sword for progressives.

So don't expect flash and dash from Dave.  Do expect a steady hand on the tiller and a mature respect for the caucus and Cabinet members who are still around to govern given the leadership campaign activities that will distract them.

He can't stop the internal caucus dissent, that is not his job.  He will also have to deftly handle the natural divisiveness inherent in the thrust and parry of the leadership race.  He will run the province professionally while the party participants are away campaigning and hoping to find a suitable leader to appeal to the rest of Alberta.

This must be a moment of pride and humility for Dave as he get the trust and respect of the Caucus and the PC Party as interim leader.  It also has to be bittersweet as he serves as the bridesmaid and not not as the bride.  Such is life.  Such is politics.  Such is democracy.