And the winner is … Derek Fildebrandt

Organizers of last night’s Alberta leaders debate did Freedom Conservative Party leader Derek Fildebrandt a huge favour. By saving the bearded Airbnb magnate from the 90-minute smear-fest, the media consortium made him the clear winner.

United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney was smarmy, sarcastic and imperious. He made no apologies for his party’s racist, homophobic standard-bearers. And he continued to dodge the “kamikaze” candidate issue that will dog him for the remainder of the campaign.

Premier Rachel Notley, who kept her sights squarely on Kenney, landed a few well-placed jabs. But she was too busy haranguing the UCP leader to adequately explain and defend the NDP’s record, let alone outline its vision for the next four years.

Liberal leader David Khan seemed uncomfortable behind the podium and made far too many references to being a “constitutional law lawyer.” (One would have been just fine.) Give Khan credit, though, for projecting the most “positive” image to viewers. He largely stayed out of the muck.

As for the Alberta Party’s Stephen Mandel, he was at his best confronting Kenney over the UCP’s controversial stance on gay-straight alliances. He sounded like a true “progressive” conservative, an increasingly rare bird in Canadian politics. That being said, Mandel was at his worst every second he was on camera in that ill-fitting suit jacket.

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