David Heyman

Politics, as Carl von Clausewitz didn’t exactly say, is merely a slightly more civilized version of war. Thus, among the immutable laws of politics is this one: When in doubt, shoot those whose loyalty is in question and blame your communications people.

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is in deep trouble in Calgary, thanks to the challenge by Danielle Smith and the far-right Wildrose Alliance. Conservative Energy Minister Ron Liepert, no slouch in the right wing department himself, is one Calgary member of Stelmach’s cabinet who is likely to be swept away by the Wildrose wave in the city that’s still angry more than a century after it wasn’t picked as Alberta’s capital.

So it couldn’t have been good news for a former journalist, sometime Calgary aldermanic wannabe and Liepert staff communications thingy named David Heyman that the Calgary Herald — his erstwhile employer — outed him yesterday as working for Kent Hehr, the Liberal MLA who is running for mayor of Cowtown.

The Herald reporter who wrote the story sounded genuinely astounded to learn that a Conservative would be helping out a Liberal. My goodness, what an oddity, the story all but exclaimed under the headline “Party lines blur in Calgary’s civic race as Grit MLA gets PC help.”

Liberals all mixed up with Conservatives! Good lord, what next? Could this be the end of Alberta civilization as we know it? Could it violate a Biblical law?

After all, this is unheard of. Well, except for the time Alberta Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky gave up his career as a Liberal MLA to sit on the side of the House that has cabinet seats, of course, or when tax-and-spend Calgary Mayor Ralph Klein gave up his Liberal tendencies to become a slash-and-burn Conservative. Or when former Conservative Cabinet Minister Nancy Betkowski re-branded herself as Nancy MacBeth and ran as the leader of the Liberals. Or when…

But, other than those times … nothing like this has ever happened before!

In truth, you’d think that Liberal-Conservative cross-dressers would hardly be news, even in all-conservative-all-the-time Alberta. Just ask any New Democrat what he or she thinks — if he or she can even tell the difference…. You’d surely think such a revelation wouldn’t cause such a sense of journalistic wonderment — but then, presumably they live sheltered lives down there at the Calgary Herald nowadays.

Indeed, one fears that the Herald might put in for a National Newspaper Award for this scoop — and, worse, the way things are going, win it!

One could make the case, of course, that by running to be mayor of Calgary, Hehr is actually helping the Conservatives. After all, he’s currently the Liberal MLA for Calgary Buffalo — a job he hasn’t yet given up. Nevertheless, just the announcement of his candidacy has weakened the flagging Liberal caucus in the Legislature. If he wins, his departure might mortally wound it.

Then again, Hehr’s taking a powder from the Legislature could merely open the door to another Wildrose victory in Calgary. Anyway, alas for Heyman, the foregoing kind of analysis is probably just too subtle for Stelmach and his strategic braintrust — of which Heyman was once a part before the premier shook up his bumbling communications team early this year.

More likely, Heyman’s exposure in the Cowtown gutter press will bring him under the jurisdiction of the immutable political law cited above. He is, after all, now identified as something just a little less than a perfect loyalist, and he is a communications specialist to boot, if only for a cabinet minister with fading prospects. Moreover, if Stelmach is not in doubt about his own prospects by now, there may be no hope for him.

So, given that the premier is in fact something of a survivor, it seems likely that Heyman will soon find himself in the gunsights of Stelmach’s remaining loyalists.

His best hope? Probably he should pray for a nice job at Calgary City Hall.

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

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...