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The Globe and Mail

Alberta's politicians have a thing for props

Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith adjusts her stetson while campaigning in Cochrane, Alta., on April 5, 2012.

Jeff McIntosh/Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

It seems Alberta's political leaders never met a prop they didn't like.

Whether it's Liberal Raj Sherman rolling up his sleeves, New Democrat Brian Mason going all populist, Danielle Smith on a horse or Alison Redford's habit of having her supporters hold PC signs up behind her, Alberta's election has become a camera-ready affair.

It's in keeping with a tradition of Alberta Politics. Two decades ago, the last time the PCs faced a serious challenge, Liberal leader Laurence Decore had a habit of waving his wallet around to remind voters of Alberta's deficit. It didn't work, as the PCs still won. When he won the Liberal leadership last fall, Dr. Sherman once again waved his wallet around.

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Typically, the daily leaders' tours include half a dozen or so stops, half of which are strictly photo-ops - no interview, no press conference, just the party leader doing something that makes a nice photo or quick bit of video. It may not seem like much, but those photos are the ones on websites minutes later, on the news that night or a newspaper the next day. In today's case, that next day is Thursday - the first leaders' debate, when the media attention will be even higher.

As such, Ms. Redford has two photo ops scheduled Wednesday evening, while Mr. Mason and Mr. Sherman were both prop-heavy earlier Wednesday. That will feed the photo-hungry news cycle for a day, but tomorrow's a new one - a debate, and a chance for Dr. Sherman to bust out his wallet once again.

Ms. Smith, meanwhile, was hunkered down in debate prep Wednesday. If she, as a result, comes out firing in the debate, she may not need any props.

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