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'Conservative activist' seeks Brent Rathgeber's Edmonton-St. Albert seat

Michael Cooper

St. Albert, Alberta

When you hear the term "Conservative activist," watch out! You might even want to run screaming from the room.

So it was not exactly reassuring to learn Wednesday that Michael Cooper, "lawyer and Conservative activist," has announced his intention to seek the Conservative nomination for the Parliamentary seat soon to be vacated, willingly or not, by Brent Rathgeber.

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I have to declare a sort of interest here. You see, I am a resident of the Edmonton-St. Albert riding that is now represented by Rathgeber. So it is certainly in my interest to ensure we replace him with a Member of Parliament who can competently represent the riding, soon to be renamed St. Albert-Edmonton.

As is well known, Rathgeber created a great brouhaha in June of this year when he unexpectedly Tweeted out that he was quitting the Parliamentary caucus of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's party of opacity, supposedly on a question of high principle about government transparency.

Rathgeber was much lauded for his stand at the time by the national media -- which was then approaching the news-free dog days of summer. This would have occurred even if his decision was in fact motivated by a fit of pique because his private member's bill to eviscerate now-suitably-cooperative CBC had itself in turn been eviscerated by his fellow Conservatives in committee.

Regardless, after his unexpected announcement, Rathgeber -- best known for hilariously asking Parliament, "Did the CBC hold an open tender for a political satire show for the Mercer Report or was the contract untendered?" -- adopted a heroic pose and published a post on his Parliamentary blog stating "I Stand Alone."

He has since dropped a few hints suggesting he is thinking of running again as an independent conservative.

Well, if he does, now that media interest in his rebellion has evanesced, he will learn just how alone he stands.

Which brings us back to the matter of Cooper, 29, who has now officially entered the production, stage right.

You won't get much of a sense of whom Mr. Cooper really is from his website. Indeed, from the long list of local Conservative and Progressive Conservative grandees endorsing his candidacy, many of whom ought to know better and several of whom most certainly do, you might even conclude he was a mainstream candidate.

Despite his recent sensibly low profile, however, you would be mistaken if you thought this.

Beyond noting that he's a lawyer with "deep roots in the St. Albert community, and years of political and community involvement," Cooper’s news release and campaign site do not have much concrete to say about his past activities. These include joining the Conservative Party at 14 and running a generously self-financed campaign for St. Albert City Council at the age of 19. The latter was not successful -- a circumstance with which this blogger can feel a certain sympathy just now.

However, a researcher who is prepared to spend some painful time digging through the turgid prose of the loony right, where Cooper remains an occasional debater on at least one website, can peel back enough layers to provide a glimpse of the real man.

Here he is, for example, excoriating such a well-known leftist as former Conservative prime minister Joe Clark in 2002: "Joe Clark’s idea on the government's role in the economy is that if something moves tax it, if it still moves regulate it and if it stops subsidize it,” the 18-year-old Cooper huffed in his role as a national councillor of the Canadian Alliance, one of several names by which Harper's party was known not so long ago.

Cooper's current nomination campaign is managed by a vice-president of the virulently anti-labour Merit Contractors Association.

Until recently, Cooper was raising money for a run at the nomination in the nearby new Edmonton-Griesbach riding. However, Rathgeber's injudicious departure has created an opportunity one can hardly blame Cooper for clutching at.

Among the enthusiastic endorsements on his website are those from such notorious right-wing public figures as John Carpay, former Alberta director of the six-member Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and Pierre Poilievre, the prime minister's Calgary-born minister of state for "democratic reform." Messrs. Cooper and Poilievre, like yon Cassius, have a lean and hungry look.

By now, readers should have an impression of where this all is heading.

The Edmonton-St. Albert riding, conveniently gerrymandered to ensure a Conservative victory in any circumstance, notwithstanding the liberal leanings of many voters in St. Albert, is obviously a prize worth having for any member of Harper's Conservative Party.

In the absence of the arrival on scene of a more sensible and appealing Tory candidate -- such people do exist, in fact -- we St. Albertans could well be stuck with another national embarrassment as our MP for heaven knows how long.

Indeed, Cooper could be around long enough to be a nuisance not just to Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair, but to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well! Heaven forfend!

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

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