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Evil twins: Alberta Tories assail Wildrosers, and vice versa

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I'll admit I laughed out loud when I read in the Calgary Herald that Alberta Premier Alison Redford had accused her far-right opposition, the Wildrose Party, of being an organization ready to break any rule to win.

Not that I doubt Redford for a moment on this one, which she delivered in a speech Friday night at the start of her Progressive Conservative Party's policy conference in Edmonton. Indeed, I reckon she pretty much nailed it as far as the Wildrose Party and Opposition Leader Danielle Smith are concerned.

The Wildrosers are, after all, the Alberta home office of the yin', chitin', vote-suppressin', Senate packing' federal Wildrose Party down in Ottawa that's headed by Prime Minister Stephen "Calgary Steve" Harper. And the ties between the Calgary Gang in the national capital and Wildrosers back here on the western edge of the Great Plains are well understood by all and Sundre (Alberta joke, that) to be extremely cozy.

So it was pretty hard to argue with Redford when she took note of the $90,000 fine levied by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission against the Wildrose Party for an improperly identified robo-call just before the 2012 provincial election and suggested between the lines Smith's party must have known they were breaking the rules when they broke them.

The company that made the robo-calls for the Wildrose Party, evocatively, was the same Edmonton firm used by the mysterious Pierre Poutine to direct voters identified by Conservative campaign callers as supporters of other parties in numerous ridings to the wrong polling stations or polling stations that didn't exist.

It's just that the party Redford leads is one that, you know, is also ready to break pretty well any old rule to win pretty well any old fight!

Redford's PCs were, after all, the conservative party that saw nothing wrong with drug store bazillionaire Daryl Katz's $430,000 donation, which magically turned out to comply with the province's maximum $30,000 donation law after an investigation by Elections Alberta. (See, it was actually several donations, just rolled into a single cheque for convenience sake.)

Nor were the PCs concerned about generous insider shares once sold to another PC premier's wife, or the high cost back in the day of undocumented verbal advice to a minister's political aide who was nevertheless later rewarded by being made the party's executive director under Premier Redford.

Nor, for that matter, were they seemingly troubled by the possibly illegal use in 2011 of the PC Party's own membership list to help a polling firm conduct a survey that just happened to vault a certain leadership candidate into the premier's job. You know, the leak that prompted the stinging rebuke by the party president, who vowed to launch an investigation to get to the bottom of whom the leaker was, a promise that was forgotten as soon as Redford emerged victorious.

And all that's without even raising the topic of public service labour relations!

Anyway, you get the picture.

Meanwhile, one has to give Redford credit for keeping the $90,000 CRTC fine on the agenda longer than it was thought here that she could, and indeed for managing to up the ante a little.

The premier challenged the Wildrose to release the details of the CRTC’s ruling -- which was communicated to the party by the national broadcast regulator but not published, and only revealed by Edmonton Global TV News -- instead of trying to pass it off as a mere administrative penalty.

This, the Wildrose Party refused to do, at least over the weekend, giving the Tories a credible reason to keep the issue on the front burner for a little longer.

The tone of the weekend policy conference -- notwithstanding a few hundred protesters in the rain outside on Saturday -- suggests any actual internal party opposition to the premier in advance of next fall's leadership review is subsiding.

So instead of trying to appear as hard-edged as the Wildrosers to woo back Tory turncoats, Redford seemed to be returning to last year's efforts to paint her party as less extreme on economic and social issues than Smith's version of Alberta conservatism.

"We know that the Opposition will redouble their efforts to deny who they really are in the months ahead," Redford told the Tory policy conference. "And I fully expect them once again to sweep some of their extreme policies under the rug, and to pretend to be something that they're not. But they'll only succeed in exposing their own hypocrisy."

And who can doubt Redford's parallel assertion that "we see every day, and we certainly saw today in the news, political parties that are prepared to get involved in tactics that undermine the political process."

Count on it that everyone at her party's policy conference understood that through this none-too-subtle reference to the federal vote-suppression court judgment last week she was connecting the dots from the vote suppression tactics used by Harper's federal party, to the prime minister himself, to his close friends in the Wildrose Party back here in Alberta, to that party's own robo-call woes.

What she didn't say, of course, is that while most Wildrose members are also federal Conservatives, so are a similar percentage of her own party's members.

In other words, if you want to put an end to these kinds of shenanigans, you're probably not going to achieve that goal by voting for either of these two conservative parties. Just saying.

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

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