Brad, the Great Wall of Saskatchewan

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To Wildrose Party supporters here in Alberta, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is the great and the good, the topic of hundreds of social media paeans, a guy who can simply do no wrong.

I guess this shouldn’t be too surprising, seeing as their own party is tearing itself to pieces in a power struggle between Leader Brian Jean and The Young Pretender, Finance Critic (re-confirmation pending) Derek Fildebrandt.

Seriously, if this keeps up, Alberta’s whole “unite the right” question could be settled within a few days, with the old Progressive Conservatives the only registered political party of the right left standing!

That wouldn’t be exactly what right-wing Godfather Preston Manning’s been hoping for, but it would probably be close enough to keep him happy. Heaven knows what those “unite the right” prosperity funds would do then … go on asking for donations, I suppose.

Not that I’m predicting this, mind, I’m merely acknowledging the possibility.

I mention Wall because a recent news story out of Saskatchewan has him musing about “transformational change” in that province’s health-care system, up to and including, in the words of the CBC reporter who actually listened to him, “one single health region as exists in Alberta.”

The Wildrose position here has been the opposite, pretty much since the creation of Alberta Health Services, with lots of talk of restoring individual independent hospital boards, breaking the huge province-wide health care delivery system into the smallest and most chaotic chunks possible.

That said, what the official party policy is at this moment is less clear — the only current party document I could find last night that mentioned it called ambiguously for the government to “gradually decentralize the delivery of health care services to the local or facility level.”

Of course, health-care services are delivered at the local and facility level now. The question is, who gets to run things, and from where?

Well, there’s not much point calling the party’s communications boffins just now — they don’t seem to be answering very many calls and emails.

But Wildrose supporters clearly support the smash-it-to-bits approach, leastways, if their reaction on social media to yesterday’s post about the appointment of Dr. Verna Yiu as president and CEO of AHS is any indication.

So what happens if Brad Wall takes up Alberta’s approach in Saskatchewan, where, according to the Wildrose right, everything is perfect in every way every day of the year? Does he break the hearts of his many Alberta fans, or do they wash their former party’s criticism of Alberta Health Services down the Memory Hole?

Or do they, as they often do now on other topics, simply hold “two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously … accepting both of them…”?

Getting back to the War of the WRP, Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell published a story yesterday suggesting Fildebrandt’s quote in the Wildrose Party’s kiss-and-make-up news release Tuesday was published without the renegade Strathmore-Brooks MLA’s approval.

The statement in the release attributed to Fildebrandt read: “We should move forward as a unified caucus and party behind the leadership of Brian Jean.” (Emphasis added.)

According to Bell, the party official and Fildebrandt ally who talked to him said the MLA, in the columnist’s words, “didn’t want to make that bold declaration until fences were mended and emotions cooled down.” From which we can safely infer, presumably, that fences are not mended and emotions have not cooled down.

Now, making up quotes in press releases is not unheard of, and may even be de rigueur in some circles. Publishing them without getting the permission of the figure quoted is not standard operating procedure anywhere.

It’s tough right now to assess what the heck is going on in the Wildrose Party, Bell observed, a statement with which anyone who is paying attention would agree.

Speaking in Calgary Tuesday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said that “with respect to the waffling back and forth in terms of whether Mr. Fildebrandt is in or out, or on side, or whatever it is today, I think we see a party that’s in a bit of disarray.”

That would understate things considerably.

She went on to observe that the infighting in Wildrose ranks “showed that they’re really not ready to engage in a national conversation on behalf of Albertans.” No kidding!

The Alberta right is fond of claiming Notley’s New Democrats were elected in a “fluke.” Has it occurred to anyone that the real fluke on May 5, 2015, was the election of the Wildrose Party, instead of the PCs, as the Opposition?

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog,

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe...