Alberta Diary

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David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. His 1995 book, A Poke in the Public Eye, explores the relationships among Canadian journalists, public relations people and politicians. He left journalism after the strike at the Calgary Herald in 1999 and 2000 to work for the trade union movement. Alberta Diary focuses on Alberta politics and social issues.

Why Alberta's Wildrose Party is not long for this world

| April 26, 2012
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith (Photo by Dave Cournoyer, used with permission)

The Wildrose phenomenon will disappear from the Alberta political scene almost as quickly as the party's leader took a powder after her concession speech at the golf club in Okotoks on Tuesday night.

Sure, we've all heard the promises about what a great opposition the Wildrose Party is going to make, how well leader Danielle Smith did to build it out of nothing in jig time, and how they'll be back in 2016 to really kick Tory ass. All talk, of course.

There are several reasons why the Wildrose is likely to quickly wither on the vine -- an appropriate enough metaphor for such a delicate little flower in Alberta's harsh climate. The principal one is simply this: Uniting the right has worked too long and too well for the people who bankroll right-wing governments to allow this to continue.

Oh, sure, they might think about letting Wildrose strategist Tom Flanagan have one more kick at the cat before he retires to Palm Springs -- but he'll be what in 2016, a hundred and two?

Seriously, people, if the Wildrose Party can't make any inroads as the opposition, and that seems unlikely in the unforgiving new world of Alison Redford's huge and smart Progressive Conservative majority, it'll blow away on the Prairie wind for the simple reason its funds will dry up.

Corporate donors who benefit from a united right just aren't going to pay to keep it divided. So if Wildrose donations were way up when it looked like they just might form a government, you can expect them to be way down hereafter.

The Wildrose Party was a clever gambit thought up by some of the uber-rightists surrounding Prime Minister Stephen Harper to repeat the trick of the neo-Con Reform Party's hostile reverse takeover of the federal Progressive Conservatives. They got seed money from some junior oil companies, lined up the mostly compliant media and pollsters and were off to the races.

The only problems turned out to be that the population of Alberta was paying more attention than anyone gave it credit for, and the 41-year Tory dynasty -- by which the right has done very nicely in this province over the years -- had deep roots in the community and didn't just roll over and surrender.

In other words, the plan didn't work and the people who paid to work it will soon return to more effective strategies.

It's said here that if the Wildrose flops in Opposition -- which seems pretty likely given the shallow talent pool of its caucus and the fact it doesn't really disagree with the government on most issues anyway -- their bagmen will quickly fold up their empty bags and trudge home.

Big Business will go back to trying to get its favourite candidate elected to leader of the PCs, and the Wildrose is likely to become increasingly attractive only to the kinds of kooks whose "bozo eruptions" sealed its fate the week before the general election.

The fly in the ointment with the traditional approach is that Redford is likely to be around for quite a while now. So to make it work its corporate sponsors will need sufficient patience to play a long game.

What's more, their most likely replacement candidate, Ted Morton, is almost as old as his pal Flanagan. Worse, Doctors Flanagan and Morton, along with that Harper guy, were the trio of neo-Con boobs from the University of Calgary who dreamed up many of the Wildrose policies Smith now says she must reconsider because they sent voters screaming for the exits. You know, like sending the Mounties packing and dropping the Canada Pension Plan. They also advocated opting out of the Canada Health Act.

Meanwhile, if you thought bozo eruptions were a problem for Smith when everyone figured she was about to form a government and have cabinet portfolios to hand out, just wait till she starts trying to control this gang on the wrong side of the Legislature!

Seriously, do you think the likes of Joe Anglin, the American-born ex-Green ex-Marine from Rimbey, is going to pay any attention to Smith when she tells him to button up? Good one! And heaven only knows what other surprises lurk in her caucus. Bitter people with extremist views who a week ago were imagining measuring the drapes for their cabinet offices.

Mark my words, before long we'll be calling the Wildrose opposition the Tourette Party. Caucus members with an ounce of sense will be quietly petitioning to rejoin the Tories every one of them used to be a member of. And all the ambitious little Harper neo-Cons who helped out with the campaign will drift back to Ottawa.

No, it will soon be apparent that the real opposition in the Alberta is coming from the same place it always came from -- the NDP and Liberal benches.

Just to make it perfectly clear how things work, Redford's Natural Governing Party will likely subtly and deniably ensure that a few rural municipalities are firmly reminded of the foolish decision they made on election day.

What's more, a certain governing federal party will be made to deeply regret its aid and comfort to Smith and the coup plotters. Indeed, the Redford Tories may very well conclude there's nothing wrong at all with a strategy that's worked well for Ontario and Quebec over the years -- doing what it can to ensure a different party entirely thrives in Ottawa than sits on the government side of the provincial Legislature.

Well, maybe that's too much to hope. But for all these reasons, the plucky little "upstart" Wildrose Party is not long for this world.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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Comments

Excellent, thanks again David. You are actually very, very correct again, particularly in stating "the Alberta population was paying more attention than given credit for." ...There may be hope yet.

Just reviewing election proceedings and came across what is apparently an internal volunteer booster poster from WKRP …’er sorry, the WRP. Ok, just joking. Chuckle! But to coin Indiana Jones; “Nihilist’s, I hate these guy’s.”

It’s a modified version of the smoky orange ‘Apocalypse Now’ Poster only with Danielle Smith, Tom Flanagan and Link Byfield in the credits - sorry, couldn't seem to re-post here.

...Ha! 'Nihilists," Maybe that's more like outright quoting, "Walter Sobchak" (John Goodman) in the Big Lewbowski.

Friggen' Nihilists, most of Alberta's Wildrose Party - WRP - don't even know it but (and you said it above) "they're on a mainline to hell with nothing but a chaotic and cathartic Catharsis for a guide" - self (starting to quote from my own books). Theirs is an ultimate game of monopoly where in reality, before the game winds up, social unrest up-heave's just like with the Student protests in Quebec right now.

I ain't preaching anarchy 'neither, I'm just the Doomsayer - If these 'Pure Capitalists' are allowed to mature out of adolescence, we're in for big, big trouble. Remember it's the Republican Conservative Industrialists behind Monsanto and their genetic experiments of grass, roots and berries. There's no mention of what’s going on in their secret labs; my feeling is a 'better class of workers' - our replacements and a prelude to the Zombie Apocalypse.

I think there might be a problem there though--I mean finding your proverbial leftwing upstart party with seed money. Perhaps those powerful agenda-setting environmental conspirators Michael Creighton depicted in his State of Fear might do be available. Or might Ayn Rand have had a few leads (too bad she's dead or we could ask her). Or maybe those foreign subversives the federales are all hepped up over? 

Nice to think Smith might be gearing up for a sudden conversion. It's possible--after all the Bloc Québecois started out as disaffected conservatives...

This is your best column, yet, David.

Remember, it was publicly announced that the "Blue Committee" would be sent in post-election to ensure that the two right wings of the family feud merge. This will no doubt happen, especially since Danielle is talking about shifting some of the party's draconian social and environmental policies to more moderate ones during their fall convention. As you say, what will distinguish the two parties from each other, then? Not much.

The only statement you've made that I question is this one:

"the.... new world of Alison Redford's huge and smart Progressive Conservative majority"

I don't consider a party that has consistently been regressive and damaging towards the environment, water, and health care, among other public good issues, to be "smart." Efficient. Clever. Ruthlessly effective in enacting its regressive policies, perhaps, but "smart"? Not in my definition of the word.

Maybe, Albertans aren't as far right as we Easterners imagined. Maybe, many were appalled at the thought that Smith might cut taxes, declare a deficit and close and sell off some public schools. Tax cuts and closing public - not private - schools were 2 of her promises. The private religious schools would not have felt a thing -- in fact, they would have prospered. That would have appealed to the fundamentalist loonies who support the Wildrose. They've never made peace with Darwin. Redford's win is also a blow to U.S. style right-wing parties. Still, you wonder what a left-wing version of the Reform party could do if it had the seed money.

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