Brent Rathgeber

ST. ALBERT, Alberta

Edmonton-St. Albert Member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber — who since decamping from the federal Conservative Parliamentary caucus last June has become the Canadian media’s favourite Independent MP — has floated the idea of setting up his own political party.

When he’s not lecturing Canadians on the need to run the CBC as a charity or tilting at the prime minister’s incredible power-generation windmill, Rathgeber, 49, has taken to complaining locally about how hard it is for ambitious Independent candidates to raise money for their campaigns compared with members of national political parties.

No transfers of funds from party headquarters, dontcha know, when there’s no party headquarters to transfer funds!

Well, duh, one is tempted to say. Still, it’s news of a sort that Rathgeber, who seems determined to seek re-election, floated a party balloon a few days ago in the St. Albert Leader, a weekly newspaper in the riding.

While vowing never to join another established political party — the only ones in this part of the world available to a candidate with Rathgeber’s credentials and self esteem anyway being the Liberals and the New Democrats, who might not welcome a candidate of his views — the disaffected former Harper Tory suggested his local supporters were pondering the idea of “starting a local party purely for the purposes of fund-raising.”

“I will consult extensively with constituents before committing to a fledging political party,” Rathgeber promised cautiously, however.

Well, as one of Rathgeber’s constituents, here’s my two bits: Nobody’s had an idea quite this charming since Nova Scotia New Democrat Paul MacEwan got kicked out of the provincial Knee-Dip caucus in 1980 for calling the party’s leader a Trotskyite. (Or is that a Trotskyist, I can never remember.)

Anyway, MacEwan thereupon established the Cape Breton Labour Party in his hometown of Glace Bay and proceeded to thump the local NDP candidate and anyone else foolish enough to run against a local candidate who’d done his homework. Later, alas, MacEwan had to fold the CBLP, seeing as he was its only successful candidate. He ran, successfully once again, as an Independent.

Since 1990, MacEwan has been a Liberal, which I suppose is something to which Rathgeber could aspire, as there have always been lots of Liberals in St. Albert, which for years was almost French enough to support a candidate from the Bloc Quebecois!

Joining the Greens would be out of character, and the M-Party — readers know the one I mean — would be a problem for Alberta Diary, because every time I use that word this blog gets kicked off a bunch of corporate web browsers!

Anyway, if Rathgeber had asked me — which he never does, seeing as I don’t take him seriously enough — I would have encouraged this idea but advised him that, like an Internet domain, your party name is everything. It really needs appropriate political antecedents, a symbolic local touch, plus just a hint of ideology — which is why “Wildrose Party” is such a great name.

At the same time, one wants to avoid unintentionally hilarious acronyms — “Conservative-Reform Alliance Party,” springs to mind.

The only moose regularly spotted around here, unfortunately, is a cow, which would rule out the “Bull Moose Party,” which otherwise would be rather good even though it was already used before by a bunch of so-called progressives. Alas, about the only quality Rathgeber shares with Teddy Roosevelt is the thing about long guns.

Other animals seen regularly in these parts don’t led themselves as well to what Rathgeber seems to have in mind — all those coyotes in particular.

Political groups called Leagues always seem to end badly — Spartacus League, Social Credit League and the League of German Maidens, just for three examples. Worse, sooner or later, such groupings always seem to succumb to the temptation to wear matching shirts. (Red, green and white in the examples above, if memory serves.)

Personally, for Rathgeber, I lean toward something like the Big Lake And Sturgeon Ticket, which at least as a good acronym that won’t have to be changed two days later, and probably describes what’s going to happen to him in the next federal election.

I’m sure readers can do better, though, and I appeal to them to provide suggestions, which may be left here in the comments section for Rathgeber’s consideration.

Meanwhile, the race to replace Rathgeber as the Conservative MP for the renamed riding — which will henceforth be known as St. Albert-Edmonton — continues to generate mild interest locally.

Just today, declared candidate Ryan Hastman posted a blog designed to woo the ever-vocal St. Albert local business community away from lawyer and market fundamentalist ideologue Michael Cooper, who is the favourite of the entire local Tory party establishment, provincial and federal.

Provincial Tories seem to like Cooper because, unlike Hastman, he has never flirted with the Wildrose Party — although, these days, having the Wildrose vote in suburban Edmonton may turn out to be more useful if Hastman becomes the candidate.

Hastman, who ran for the federal Tories against unassailable New Democrat Linda Duncan in Edmonton-Strathcona in 2011, promised to set up a small business advisory council and, by implication, buy Chamber of Commerce members coffee and donuts a couple of times every month.

Other names mooted about in the St. Albert contest include Kevin Tam, a Conservative who worked for the Alberta Liberal Party, and Alex Tsang, who has a Facebook page.

Others are certain to surface soon, though, as the Conservative nomination hereabouts is assumed among party stalwarts, lulled by years of easy successes, to be a go-directly-to-Parliament ticket once the party cadres’ decision is sent to voters for a pro forma ratification.

Calgary Conservative Ron Liepert makes attempt to knock off Rob Anders official

Well, the Calgary rumble on the right reported in Alberta Diary on Jan. 7 is on. Former AM radio disk jockey and Alberta Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Ron Liepert made it official yesterday by issuing a press release and launching a website saying he’ll challenge Calgary West MP Rob Anders for the Conservative Party of Canada nomination in the newly redistributed Calgary Signal Hill riding.

Liepert, an MLA in the PC governments of Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford, who served the latter two premiers in important cabinet posts, floated the trial balloon on a website called “,” which he said yesterday had had received 3,000 visits. He apparently judges that to be enough to go after the person best known as Canada’s Worst MP.

Both men are formidable campaigners with reputations for a lack of diplomacy that borders at times on outright crankiness — although, when it comes to being a crank, Anders has got to be the champ.

For this reason, the nomination fight promises to be highly entertaining, as long as non-Tory voters in the riding aren’t seduced by the notion Liepert’s fundamental economic views are really any different from Anders’.

Nevertheless, despite the fact Liepert is the toughest opponent Anders will have faced in his political career, the smart money should probably remain on Anders, the only Canadian MP to vote against honourary citizenship for Nelson Mandela. Anders appears to enjoy Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s quiet support and the backing of suburban Calgary’s obviously comatose electors.

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...