EDMONTON – Alberta’s great plate debate is far from over.
The three candidates vying to become the next Progressive Conservative party leader and premier said Thursday they want to revisit the current online voting competition to pick the province’s next licence plate.
“Clearly it struck a nerve with Albertans and I think it’s important if you’re going to change symbols that you have a broadly based discussion with people and hear what they have to say about it,” said Jim Prentice.
“I’m interested in hearing what people have to say and (would) make any decisions based on what I hear.”
Just over a week ago, the province launched an online competition allowing Albertans to pick a new licence plate to replace the current red on white model.
Voters can pick from three designs, all created by the U.S. conglomerate 3M. Each is a variation on the same theme: prairie landscape in the foreground, mountains in the background.
Voters have until Aug. 19 to pick their favourite.
The competition has been criticized because the current slogan on the plate “Wild Rose County” has been taken off and replaced by the web address alberta.ca.
The Opposition Wildrose Party, blood foes of the governing Tories, call the slogan removal a petty and politically motivated slight, something Service Alberta Minister Doug Griffiths has denied.
Local designers have also said they want a say on the plate. One Edmonton firm has already submitted its version, complete with the mountain tops soaring in a jagged cut along the top.
The Wildrose Party has already launched online campaigns for a new slogan and a new design.
PC leadership candidate Thomas Lukaszuk said the Alberta plate needs Alberta designers.
“I would probably put the brakes on it (the competition) and give Albertans more input,” said Lukaszuk. “I would like to see more artistic input.
“Those plates will be on our vehicles for at least a decade if not more. Why not have something made by an Albertan as opposed to some designer from 3M in the United States?”
Lukaszuk called the controversy over the Wild Rose Country slogan “a little bit of silliness,” adding, “I particularly didn’t have any issue with the slogan the way it was.”
The plate has not been updated in 30 years and the new design is to be introduced in the spring.
The new plates will have a reflective coating to make them easier to read in low light.
“The fact that they need to be reflective I understand. That’s a good idea. Changing the slogan looks petty. That’s a bad idea,” said candidate Ric McIver.
“And I’m the worst judge of what’s good art and what isn’t on the plate, but obviously having an Alberta company with an opportunity to bid on the work like anybody else is a good idea.”
Prentice said he wants to see a plate featuring a slogan and the mountains.
“My personal favourite (slogan) is what our first premier and one of governor generals referred to as ‘The Wild Land of Freedom,'” he said.
PC party members vote for a new leader in September.
Premier Dave Hancock, the leader until a new premier is chosen, said he wouldn’t close the door on a new design, but said he’s leaving the issue to Service Alberta and Griffiths.
“We can look at all sorts of options, I guess,” said Hancock.
“It’s interesting that people are getting so excited about it.”
Hancock said that, in a way, the plate was designed by Albertans because an earlier public opinion survey indicated they wanted a licence plate that reflected Alberta’s shield.
“So you got someone (at 3M) to put those things together,” said Hancock. “I don’t know how many ways you can design mountains, prairies, and sky.”