Alberta Tories pull off byelection sweep with political equivalent of Extreme …

Another triumph for Toryland.

Four ridings suck up the Premier Jim Prentice makeover shtick.

They go for Prentice change-over-change-change.

We can now all switch to writing columns about home renovations and flipping houses.

The Wildrose had to win one. Somebody in the opposition had to win one.

After all the incredible crud dished out by the Progressive Conservatives in the recent and not-so-recent past, the official opposition party had to win one seat.

The Wildrose wanted Albertans to send the PCs a message.

Taking at least one seat away from the governing party was the only way.

The Wildrose did not win a seat. There is no way around it.

There is no message of protest.

Many Progressive Conservatives predicted their party would run the table.

Four out of four in the win column. The PCs holding all their seats. The opposition shut out. They were confident. They were right.

You can talk about how high a hill needed to be climbed.

In the last ballot battle the PCs won the seats by margins from 2,000-plus votes to 7,000-plus votes.

Former premiers represented two of the seats. Cabinet ministers held the other two.

One of the byelection seats had Premier Prentice as the PC candidate.

Another had the former three-term mayor of Edmonton and health minister carrying the Tory banner.

Still another had three strong opposition candidates fighting over the anti-Tory vote against the education minister.

All of these facts provide explanation and maybe some solace for the defeated.

But, in Calgary-West, Wildrose recruited Sheila Taylor, a former public school board trustee, known for shaking things up. She was a hell of a candidate.

Taylor is all about schools. In Calgary-West the biggest issue is schools.

And the Wildrose threw a lot of energy into her Calgary-West bid.

They knew the stakes. Calgary-West was the best place to draw a line in the sand.

Without a win, they and their leader Danielle Smith would be the ones asked the hard questions, not the Prentice PCs.

For some critics, some dissidents in this one-party state, it will be tough to swallow, tough to believe any but the most diehard could vote PC after all that’s happened in the last year, in the last 10 years.

The party is a pale reflection of its former self. The years of mismanagement, incompetence, stupidity and finally unapologetic entitlement had presumably taken its toll.

It hasn’t.

Alison Redford is gone and people are buying what Prentice is selling. Just like that.

Prentice has a plan to save the party and government.

Make nicey-nice with Albertans. Do whatever it takes to get folks to like the PCs again.

The citizens have itches, scratch them.

Don’t like provincial government planes. No planes. Think the redesign of licence plates is a waste of time and money. No plate redesign. Want the Michener Centre to stay open. It’s open.

Critics make noise about not enough places to care for seniors. Say you’ll create some.

Emergency room too crowded. The PCs will fix it.

More schools. The PCs promise more schools pronto. That’s more promised schools on top of the schools promised by Redford, the schools now known as empty fields.

It’s what passes for leadership in these trying times.

How much difference has Prentice made?

Look at the numbers. Albertans, at least the ones on Oct. 27, are willing to give the PCs yet another ride on the merry-go-round.

A clue came in the scribblings of this columnist last Saturday.

Watching candidates knock on doors on the weekend you could see the anger just wasn’t there, as it is was in a 2009 byelection.

Why not?

Because, in 2009, the target of the venom, Unsteady Eddie Stelmach, was still in office.

Now Redford is gone and a lot of individuals truly believe if you change the leader, even if most of the old gang stays, that’s all the overhaul needed.

It’s like those who see cosmetic surgery and somehow believe it’s the real thing.

Oh, during the campaign, a pumpkin sat in for Prentice in a debate where he was a no-show.

Yes, the PCs made a string of vote-getting announcements dressed up as government business.

It is true Calgary-Elbow’s Gordon Dirks did everything in his power to win his seat, including an eleventh-hour announcement of new classrooms in the riding he wanted to win.

And the Wildrose spent their time trying to show the Prentice Tories were the warmed-over leftovers of a dying dynasty.

In the end, they failed.

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