Lyle Oberg keeps promising some mudslinging, but the man hoping to replace Alberta Premier Ralph Klein keeps forgetting to bring the mud.
Yesterday, the family doctor turned politician who is now considered one of the front-runners for the Progressive Conservative Party leadership, called a press conference where the news media were told they would hear something "juicy" that would cause "bloodletting."
Instead, reporters keen to be roused from the sleepy leadership race learned that Dr. Oberg's campaign "anonymously received sensitive information about the misconduct of another candidate's campaign" on Monday evening.
"I would have loved to bring this out and I may well bring it out at some time in the future. But I'm very concerned about the people involved and I'm protecting those people," he said.
Political watchers will recall Dr. Oberg for his cryptic warning earlier this year about "skeletons."
In March, Dr. Oberg was suspended indefinitely from caucus and stripped of his cabinet post over remarks he made about the Premier to his constituency association in the southeastern Alberta town of Brooks.
He told members he wouldn't ask them to support Mr. Klein during the coming leadership review. (As it turned out, Mr. Klein's support was so low he was forced to resign earlier than he had planned and now a leadership vote is set for Nov. 25.)
"If I were the premier, I wouldn't want me as a backbencher," Dr. Oberg told the meeting, which was covered by the Brooks & County Chronicle newspaper. "I know where the skeletons are."
Despite much prodding, the skeletons never came out of the closet and Dr. Oberg gained some great traction in the polls. It's not clear how these latest allegations of skulduggery will affect his popularity and his well-funded campaign.
Dr. Oberg said the information was passed onto his campaign by "internal sources within the legislature and abroad" who are now concerned for their jobs and their families.
But at the 11th hour, he decided to protect the anonymous sources and went ahead with the press conference.
"I went against my campaign team's advice on this one. This is me making that decision," he said.
He told reporters that he was able to verify the information, but near the end of the nine-minute news conference in Edmonton, Dr. Oberg said he hoped "their concerns are unfounded."
Jim Dinning, who was at one time the province's treasurer and is now considered the favourite in the eight-man race, was largely nonplussed by the claim.
"If he has got some specific allegations he should call the PC office and get the PC office to deal with it," Mr. Dinning said in an interview.
"If you call a press conference and smear thousands of volunteers who are working hard for seven other candidates it does nothing to inspire confidence," he added.
Dr. Oberg acknowledged that his press conference could "possibly" smear all the other campaigns until the information is publicly released.
He said that he hadn't approached Conservative Party brass before dropping his mysterious allegations yesterday to the public, but said he would talk to the party and the other leadership contenders.
The allegations are "serious," he added, but they don't have to do with financial matters and no election law has been broken.
Sean Libin, Dr. Oberg's spokesman, didn't help to clear up any of the mystery and confusion that came out of the bizarre news conference.
He said he hopes the sources "come forward on their own volition."
Party association president Doug Graham said yesterday the allegations have yet to be brought to his attention, but questioned just how serious they could be if they are neither financial nor rule bending.
With a report from Deborah Yedlin in Calgary