‘It’s continued anger and negativity’: Premier Prentice on attack ads

EDMONTON – Alberta Premier Jim Prentice says it’s bad form for the Opposition Wildrose party to run attack ads against him during his byelection campaign because he’s a party leader.

“When have there ever been attack ads in a byelection against the leader of a party in the history of our province?” Prentice asked when speaking to reporters in Calgary on Friday.

“It’s continued anger and negativity,” he added. “What I hear on the doors from Albertans is that they’re sick of this.

Asked later for clarification, a spokesman for Prentice referred to the tradition of party leaders not being challenged by opponents too rigorously in byelections out of respect for the position.

“The premier’s comments today were reflecting on how much the political discourse has changed,” Emily Woods wrote in an email.

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“Historically, when a leader runs in a byelection, basic courtesies are extended, and that is how the premier has always conducted himself.”

Opposition Wildrose legislature member Rob Anderson responded.

“If that doesn’t sum up entitlement, I don’t know what does,” said Anderson

“Clearly this guy thinks he’s entitled to be premier of this province and he’s had, like what, 17,000 (PC party members) vote for him?”

Prentice is running in one of four byelections to fill vacancies, with voters going to the polls on Oct. 27.

READ MORE: Premier Prentice hopes to be elected in Calgary-Foothills

Three byelections are in Calgary, the other is in Edmonton.

Prentice announced he would run in Calgary-Foothills after winning the Progressive Conservative leadership race in early September.

The opposition parties have vigorously contested the byelections.

The Wildrose party has run TV attack ads on Prentice, using a Nixonesque picture of him with his arms outstretched, fingers on both hands making the V for victory sign.

The ad mocks Prentice’s promise to clean up the spending scandals of the Redford era.

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“(Prentice promised) change, like promising to clean up government – and then handing out free PC memberships to get more votes,” says the ad.

“Jim Prentice isn’t change. He’s just more of the same.”

Opposition politicians have accused Prentice in turn of ignoring the unwritten courtesy of governing politicians not just promising but actually spending public money to buy votes while on the campaign trail.

In recent days, Prentice has launched massive programs to build schools, house seniors and reduce hospital wait times at the same time Education Minister Gordon Dirks and Health Minister Stephen Mandel are running in two of the other byelections.

IN DEPTH: Albertans to vote in four byelections 

Prentice also held an elaborate signing ceremony with popular mayors Don Iveson of Edmonton and Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi last week.

As flashbulbs popped, Prentice and the mayors signed a formal document pledging they will talk about more powers for cities.

“(And) now,” said Anderson, “(Prentice) is complaining that the opposition isn’t being nice enough to him?”

“This is the problem with the PC party. They really do feel it’s their God-given right to rule. And anybody who questions that right is out of line.”

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It’s been a bruising campaign.

On Wednesday, Prentice was mocked on social media as the “Pumpkin premier” when he declined to show up at a candidate debate in Calgary-Foothills.

Organizers put a pumpkin on the table in front of his empty chair.

On Friday, Prentice said if there is a true grassroots debate, he’ll be there.

“I’m pleased to do one if there is one that is set up, sponsored, supported and attended by the constituents of Foothills,” he said.

Prentice can’t say he wasn’t warned he was in for a rough ride.

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said in early September, before Prentice won the party leadership race, that he would enjoy no byelection honeymoon.

The Wildrose has long accused the Tories under Redford of inflicting petty slights, including cutting the caucus off from routine government announcements.

“A party that doesn’t deliver the courtesies to the opposition shouldn’t expect that they can invoke protocol when it’s convenient for them,” said Smith at the time.

“We’ll be fighting tooth and nail.”

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