Monday, 31 July 2017


We’re All Friends, Right?

Painting Alberta as a conservative province seems a by-numbers exercise. There exists a long tradition of evangelical Protestantism. A rural economy was elbowed into modern times when Leduc No. 1 propelled the province into an epoch of Big Oil, an industry not noted for its liberal outlook. Prior to the 2015 election, Albertans were content to buy into 44 consecutive years of Progressive Conservative (PC) rule. All of this is true, but not the complete picture. And right here, right now, Alberta’s conservative contingent itself is in disarray.

Shell-shocked Tories are attempting to kiss and make up with the Wildrose (WP), an angry faction calved from the once mighty Big Blue Machine. Resumption of power is the motive and no cost is too high and no ethical twist too difficult. The uneasy result is a nascent political entity known as the United Conservative Party (UCP). The common enemy is the sitting New Democrats (NDP), brain-washed socialist doormats all. Alas, already there is evidence that Alberta’s newly united conservatives may not have the wherewithal to tar each other with the same brush.

Even on a rainy day at a rodeo it’s impossible to herd all of Alberta’s conservatives under one tent. Some are centrists, some are libertarians, there’s no concrete bloc. PC leader Jason Kenney crowed that 95-per-cent of his party’s membership was in favour of merging with the WP even though barely half of them elected to engage themselves in the process. Meanwhile in Wildrose country, some disconsolate members of the recently deceased party, no strangers to ideological schisms, have opted to form another and as yet unnamed alternative to the UCP. Wait, it gets better.

The UCP is still a concept, sort of a populist sketch. It has no leader and consequently no coherent policies. Last weekend Jason Kenney announced his candidacy. With nothing to say, the former federal cabinet minister spent his speech slamming Ottawa because the nature of his Confederation is confrontation since only Albertans ‘get ‘er done!’ That’s something darn close to a miracle since the province’s school curriculum is ‘riddled with politically correct themes like oppression and colonialism and climate change.’ Former WP leader Brian Jean is already in the running; his pitch to the populace promised to ‘repeal, undo and replace much of the damage the NDP has done.’ Apparently he has policies, pre-approved by the Wildrose too - which should go over well with the disillusioned former PCs, the moderates, who lean to Kenney.

Both men necessarily spouted partisan rhetoric, but the aggrieved tones and puerile nastiness were off-putting. Stoke discord. Milk ignorance. Their messages were similar, recalling those halcyon days of coal mining and listening to songs their mothers would know. Sound bites of furious complaint. The next provincial election in Alberta will be held in 2019. That’s the future, the big picture, all there is to be concerned about. There’s a corporate whiff about the fledgling UCP, that nothing matters beyond the next set of quarterly poll results and that progress on any government file must be regressive, two steps back is good, three is better.

Not even Cher can turn back time. But before either of these dinosaurs can retro-fit and repaint 21st century Alberta in the sepia tones of the good old days, one must defeat the other, unite the right and then assemble some sort of party platform, make public spending cuts. So, razors to the strop for a back alley rumble that will last until the end of October. Each dauphin wants to dress his old party up in brand new drag. The wild card is a third candidate, a lawyer from Calgary, a chap named Doug Schweitzer, the only dark horse in the race to date. Anybody remotely familiar with the shadowy intricacies of picking a political leader knows that everything doesn’t always go as planned at the final, fateful convention, that starry, starry night when deals are sealed and daggers glint behind the canvas party banners.

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