When Shannon Stubbs saw the empty chair, she decided she had to take the seat.

Stubbs, who had supported the governing Tories since her teens, was sitting in the Vegreville Social Centre in late August with 500 or so others in Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach’s home riding.

They wanted answers and wanted to voice their anger over a proposed monster power line that could cut through their prime farmland.

All the opposition party leaders were there — David Swann of the Liberals, Brian Mason of the NDP and Danielle Smith of the Wildrose Alliance.

There was one empty chair, left for Stelmach, who was actually down the road holding a news conference saying he couldn’t attend because there was a potential conflict of interest — he owns land that may have a line run through it.

“I just couldn’t believe he wouldn’t show up to be accountable,” said Stubbs, who has now been nominated as the Wildrose candidate to take him on in the next election, slated for the spring of 2012.

The 2012 contest is now shaping up as something of a uncivil civil war — conservatives once comrades in arms now taking up election signs against one another.

Three of the Alliance’s four legislature members — Rob Anderson, Heather Forsyth, and Guy Boutilier — all crossed the floor to join Paul Hinman, who rocked the Tory boat a year ago when he won the Alliance’s first seat in the PC stronghold of Calgary-Glenmore.