Wednesday, 25 July 2018


SAINTS PRESERVE US

Here We Go Again

The province of Alberta has been a member in good standing of the Canadian Confederation since 1905. Its political history is a bit peculiar. Once a party attains power it tends to keep it for decades, an era becomes an epoch for others squealing for their turn at the public trough.

This quirky pattern led in part to the formation of the new United Conservative Party (UCP), battle tested to date only in by-elections. It is the manifestation of cries to “Unite the Right!” The right was in disarray following the 2015 provincial election whose result was a resounding majority for the left of centre New Democratic Party (NDP). Before the NDP’s “We won! We actually won!” moment Alberta had been governed by the Progressive Conservatives (PC) for 44 consecutive years.

PC rule over time followed the law of declining returns as the party’s administration slid from dynamic and responsible, to complacent and arrogant, and ultimately sank to a nadir of indifference. No one inside the circle of power or lobbying around its diameter even imagined for a moment that the price of oil would drop like a fouled soccer striker. When booms go bust, as they must, fingers get pointed by enemies and allies alike. Some of the PC membership believed that the party was too centrist in its proposed economic solutions, and there were niggling social issues besides, silly stuff like human rights. This schism was the genesis of the farther-right Wildrose Party (WR).

Former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney, a student of ex-prime minister Stephen Harper, himself a cunning puppeteer who engineered the unification of the right on the national level, managed to graft the two provincial factions together in the guise of the UCP. Kenney then set about consolidating his leadership of the new party by squashing WR rival Brian Jean, he too a former Harper regime cabinet minister, and a fellow alarmingly prone to verbal and social media gaffes. Kenney also seized the opportunity to remove another potentially prickly pear thorn from his shoe as he focuses on the 2019 provincial election. He banished one Derek Fildebrandt from the nascent UCP caucus.

Until Friday, Fildebrandt sat in the legislative assembly as an Independent. The honourable member from Strathmore-Brooks was first elected on the Wildrose slate. Fildebrandt is one of those guys who believe ethics is the study of people who are not white men. He is a documented expense account fiddler. Perhaps a little slow too because he did not get away clean following his involvement in a hit-and-run. He seems to be one of those politicians we all see through, one who pursues their own self-interest over that of their riding, their province and their country.

Fildebrandt is now the self-anointed interim leader and only member of his primordial Freedom Conservative Party (FCP). Pity Kenney, who as ringmaster of the conservative circus, has tried to pitch a big, all-inclusive tent. Apparently the newly unified Alberta right is unable to contain itself yet again. The FCP is beyond the fringe taking a hunting knife to the seams of the UCP big top. Kenney’s coalition is too “vanilla” for Fildebrandt.

The freedom fighters’ goal is to shed the yolk of Ottawa’s colonial oppression and “obliterate the NDP.” Fildebrandt imagines the FCP as a grassroots movement that will engage “Alberta patriots.” Do you hear a dog whistle? Cup your hand to your right ear. The sound you hear is shriller than the pitch Kenney uses to summon "average Albertans." The vast majority of Canadians live within three hours’ drive of the American border. A vast majority of those reside in urban centres. The FCP is betting the farm on a dwindling number of disaffected rural voters. The inconvenient truth is that the only Rural Alberta Advantage most of the electorate is aware of is a Toronto indie band.

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