Life on Alberta's campaign trail: a death sentence for the waistline


Alberta Wildrose leader Danielle Smith picks up a take out order at Peter's Drive-In while making a campaign stop in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, March 31, 2012. Albertans go to the polls on April 23. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Doughnuts, sandwiches, watered-down coffee, beef jerky, pop - life on the campaign trail can be a death sentence for the waistline.

Regular meals are little more than a faint hope, but would-be premiers need to fuel their long days without piling on weight, as some politicians are prone to do during campaigns.

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For Progressive Conservative leader Alison Redford’s strategy is simple: Atkins.

“All protein,” she says, after a dinner of steak and prawns on the campaign trail, which she has been on for over a year, dating back to her campaign to win the leadership of the PC party.

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith also has a number of rules on the road: frequent stops at Tim Hortons for coffee - lots and lots of coffee. Rarely is she without a Roll up the Rim to Win cup. (So far, staff have mostly won more free coffee.)

Another all-party dining directive: Lunch and dinner is always ordered from whatever restaurant is considered the local institution in the communities she visits. As such, the meals are always workmanlike: mostly sandwiches, but on occasion more exotic, such as Chinese food in Drumheller during one Wildrose stop. (Ms. Smith’s dogs, Turk and Caine, have proven themselves disciplined while those on the bus are eating. Rarely do they beg. They have their own supply of dog food anyway.)

Media travelling with each party pay the cost of travel and a lunch, which is included. On Monday’s PC campaign, that meant steak sandwiches from a small-town grill. The “sandwich” part was misleading, though - they didn’t bother putting it on a slice of bread. It was just a giant steak, paired with soggy fries and plastic cutlery. Dry cleaning bills abound.

But elections strategies change, and so too do diets. A poll Tuesday put Ms. Redford’s PC party 13 per cent behind Ms. Smith’s Wildrose, which was now firmly on track to form a majority and end 41 years of Tory rule. PC campaign staff, as such, switched up their dietary approach - darting out of their Lethbridge hotel, in search of beer.