Now that the Orange Team has crushed the Blue Team and Blue Team Captain Jim Prentice has taken his ball and gone home, we must ask the difficult question of what is to become of the swiftly exiting former premier's previously dynastic Progressive Conservative Party?
As an organization that for some years has had no reason to exist but to remain in power, and which is now pathetically reduced to the third party in the Legislature, it seems probable that the PCs will rapidly wither and die as a political entity. Even the political science professionals agree with this assessment.
If only soon-to-be-Opposition leader Brian Jean will let them, the 10 remaining PC MLAs will likely slink across the floor of the Legislature to join the (not so) Green Team as soon as circumstances permit. (It is unclear as yet, in light of the potential cost of apostasy against Wildrose dogma by its current MLAs, if MLAs crossing the floor to join the Wildrose caucus will be paid $100,000…)
Regardless, the hostile reverse takeover of the PC party dreamed of by Preston Manning and his backers will at last be complete -- although not in quite the triumphant form they had imagined.
After that, as they say, there will be nothing left of the PCs but the memories, and those will not be particularly pleasant ones.
Well, that would be a sad day for an institution that played such a huge role in the lives of so many Albertans for so many years, so I am here to propose an alternative, happier scenario that provides opportunities for the party, its members, and many unemployed MLAs alike.
Why don't the Alberta Progressive Conservatives tear a page from the history of the United Farmers of Alberta and restructure into a commercial venture?
Alert, and very old, readers of this blog will recall that the UFA, which started out as a farm lobby group in the first decade of the 20th century, formed a majority government with 38 of 61 seats in the Alberta Legislature after contesting the 1921 general election as a political party. The UFA also elected two members of Parliament the same year.
You may not be aware of this, but you have the UFA Government to thank for the legal sale of brew in beer parlours in this province, not to mention the important fact Alberta gained control of its own natural resources in 1929 under the UFA, even if the now-departing PC Government eventually decided just to give them away to foreigners.
Alas, notwithstanding such major policy successes, things went south not long after that with the Great Depression and the revelations in 1934 that UFA leader and premier John Brownlee (for whom the Brownlee court house in Edmonton is named) was being sued for seducing the 18-year-old daughter of a family friend, a stenographer in the Attorney General's Department.
Premier Brownlee blamed the scandal on the Liberals, another political party that all but disappeared in this year's provincial election, accusing them of being part of a vast conspiracy involving the unfortunate young woman for political gain. This, however, is not related the sorry state of the modern Alberta Liberal Party, after Raj Sherman led it over the edge.
Brownlee was forced to resign in disgrace in 1934 and the UFA was completely wiped out in the next year's election, which saw the rise of William Aberhart's Social Credit Government, which captured 56 of the 63 seats in the Legislature.
Faced with destruction of Biblical proportions -- an image, surely, that would have appealed to Aberhart -- in 1939, the UFA disbanded its political arm but hung around as a farm supply business, which eventually became the chain of more than 100 rural fuel stations that still operate throughout Alberta. (Readers may follow the links in this story for assurance that I am not making any of this up.)
Which brings us to the present and what the PCs could consider doing now that the May 5 election has ended so badly for them -- if for considerably less salacious reasons than those that spelled the doom of the UFA government in 1935.
Clearly, the time is right to restructure the party as a chain of urban fuel stations -- just the thing for a new century of transportation, complete with alternate fuels and electrical charging points.
Since the price of oil is bound to bounce back sooner than Prentice tried to persuade us to believe, this could even make current PC members -- say, those Albertans who still hold Alberta PC Party cards -- fabulously wealthy, or at least in line for a small rebate cheque once or twice a year if they buy enough gas with their PC credit card.
They could even adopt a slogan like "Choose Alberta’s Future (Fuel)" and reintroduce personalized pump-jockey service employing some of the many former PC MLAs, chiefs of staff, sympathetic deputy ministers and the like who are now looking for work in the private sector.
Personally, I look forward to gassing up -- or recharging -- my personal transportation device with green fuel under the Blue PC oval while I grumble about how the decades-old NDP Dynasty led by revered Premier Rachel Notley's less successful successors still hasn’t imposed a carbon tax.
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
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