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What kind of message will Alison Redford send Stephen Harper in the next federal election?

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Screen grab of Rob Anders, grabbing 40 winks

The probability is very high that the next Canadian federal election will happen before the next Alberta provincial vote.

So, will Premier Alison Redford's Tories just sit on their hands? Or will they get out and actively work against Prime Minister Stephen Harper's so-called Conservative Party of Canada, whose Alberta MPs so openly betrayed their provincial kin in the election that took place on April 23?

This will become an increasingly important question as the next federal election approaches -- especially if the NDP under Thomas Mulcair manage to hang onto or increase their edge in the national polls.

Harper's Conservatives did things for both sides, but they misread the polls just as badly as the rest of us (except Warren Kinsella, apparently) and as the campaign progressed they tilted openly toward the Wildrose Party, with which they share a destructive and apparently increasingly unpopular market-fundamentalist theology/ideology.

Harper's federal Tea Party lent seasoned campaign staff and expertise to Danielle Smith's Wildrose version, and contributed Wildrose candidates and workers from the ranks of federal Tory MPs' staffs. Tory MPs endorsed individual Wildrose candidates and, in the closing days of the campaign when a Wildrose victory really seemed possible, Harper let loose his Alberta caucus to campaign openly on behalf of Smith's neo-Con party.

Indeed, a case could be made during the campaign that at the strategic and technical levels, the federal Conservatives and the Wildrose Party were virtually interchangeable.

Tom Flanagan, the overconfident Wildrose campaign manager, once played a similar role for the prime minister -- until he wrote a book that lacked the prime ministerial imprimatur and which seemed to some readers to take credit for many of Harper's accomplishments. Perhaps his Wildrose volunteer work was part of an effort to restore the prime minister's affection.

Smaller Tory fry included unsuccessful Wildrose "Senate" candidate Vitor Marciano, who has played numerous important roles for the Harper Conservatives; Ryan Hastman, the unsuccessful former federal Tory candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona; and Ryan Sparrow, the former federal Tory spokesperson suspended from that job for suggesting the father of a soldier killed in Afghanistan was a Liberal because he dared to criticize Harper.

Calgary-West Member of Parliament Rob Anders, the Harper confidante and national embarrassment that Redford once had the temerity to challenge for his nomination, was particularly active in the campaign to unseat the Alberta premier and her party.

Anders may be best known nowadays for calling South African hero Nelson Mandela a "terrorist," working as a professional heckler for a fairly odious U.S. Republican candidate and falling asleep before the cameras of the House of Commons. Still, he is a formidable campaigner with close ties to the PM's office, so it is significant that he lent two of his closest associates to the Wildrose campaign.

Andrew Constantinidis, Anders' former riding president, was the Wildrose candidate in the provincial Calgary-West riding, where he was defeated by former Alberta Health Services chair Ken Hughes, who in turn is close to Redford and has now been named to the Energy portfolio. Tim Dyck, another member of Mr. Anders’s constituency brain trust, was the Wildrose candidate in Calgary-Bow, where he was defeated by PC Alana DeLong.

On the other hand, Harper's Conservatives loaned Redford a bus and … um, I think that's it.

So now that the dust from the provincial election has settled, whatever the Alberta Progressive Conservatives do officially, you can be sure of one thing: There will be no enthusiasm among the leaders of this obviously still powerful provincial party for helping the Harperites.

No one from either Conservative party is going to say this aloud, of course, but you've got to know it will be a factor in the federal election that will likely happen in 2015.

This doesn't mean the federal Conservatives won’t take the majority of Alberta seats. Enough Albertans just aren't paying attention that it's unlikely to change deeply entrenched voting habits out here this go-round, or maybe ever.

But a little mindful Redford Tory neglect could just be enough to push the NDP over the top in a couple of additional urban ridings, sending a sotto voce message to Harper's boys in Ottawa that their perfidy was noted, and is remembered.

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

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