rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Moment of maximum danger still awaits Alberta's right-wing Wildrose Alliance

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

So far, 2010 has been pretty rosy for Alberta’s far-right Wildrose Alliance Party.

Despite what you may have read in the media, however, the good times are not guaranteed to continue for the new political party. The Alliance's moment of maximum political danger is likely later this year and in early 2011 when it starts choosing local candidates to run in the provincial election expected in 2012.

Right now, the Alliance smells like a rose. In former broadcaster Danielle Smith, it has an appealing leader who makes loony right-wing nostrums sound like common sense. She has captured the imagination of many Albertans, including building a huge fan club in the media. With many Albertans weary of the lacklustre leadership of Premier Ed Stelmach's Conservatives, this translates into strong polling results for the Alliance.

In January, the party wooed two Conservative MLAs to its ranks. Former cabinet minister Heather Forsyth, MLA for Calgary-Fish Creek, will appeal to many female voters and moderate Red Tories. Rob Anderson, MLA for the suburban Airdrie-Chestermere riding north of Calgary, will satisfy the party's fiscal-conservative base.

At the time, as many as a dozen more Conservative MLAs were rumoured to be pondering crossing the floor. A shrewdly moderate budget in late February stanched the flow of treasonous Tories for the moment, but Wildrose strategists -- many with close ties to Stephen Harper's federal Conservatives -- are working hard to get the defections to resume.

Smith has played the political game with skill, smoothly avoiding issues that frighten voters but animate her party's base -- privatization of health care, dismantling public education and restricting access to abortions.

Bankrolled by wealthy and powerful energy companies, Smith's party came to the game with resources. Yet there’s not much public concern about its source of money because little about the party's fundraising has been reported.

However, things are bound to get more difficult for Smith when her party starts picking candidates who are not already MLAs.

Unlike the established parties, the Alliance doesn't have a proven mechanism for choosing candidates. It must create a political machine from the ground up. To do this, it will draw on many Albertans with no experience in politics. So right from the get-go, the potential for cock-ups, ill discipline and confusion will be greater than in an established party like the Conservatives.

What's more, because the party appears to have a real chance at power, there will be plenty of interest in its local candidate nominations. From the Alliance's perspective, this is good and bad. Good, because hard-fought nomination races build excitement. Bad because it is bound to attract candidates from the party's far-right base, many of whom will be chosen and some of whom are sure to be pretty scary! Smith will find making these committed social conservatives behave themselves and sing from the same hymnbook like herding cats.

Thus the probability is high that at an awkward moment a Wildrose Alliance candidate will say what he or she really thinks – and perhaps what the Alliance leadership really thinks, too, but is too smart to say aloud. A moment of unvarnished right-wing honesty could be enough to sink the party's chances with a still-nervous electorate.

Moreover, sooner or later worrisome details about who is funding the party are likely to leak out. New election advertising legislation, passed in 2009, will prevent the Alliance's rich friends from ginning up a third-party "concerned Albertans" campaign to help them at this delicate moment.

Naturally, the government and the other opposition parties will seize any such embarrassing opportunities to hammer Smith and her candidates.

The danger for the new party will be even greater if the premier decides to head it off by calling an election earlier than 2012, as he may well do if he sees an opportunity to snatch back a victory, forcing them to hurry nominations.

These challenges will be the true test of Smith's mettle as leader. If she can overcome them, she will probably be Alberta's first woman premier and the province will lurch further to the right. If she can't, she will merely be a footnote in history.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.