Wildrose, the party that “almost” broke the unbroken stranglehold that the Progressive Conservatives have held in the Alberta’s Legislative Assembly since 1971, is gearing up for a leadership election come June.
Wildrose is still, technically, the Official Opposition – the party holds only 5 of the 17 seats it had won in the 2012 provincial election, and is technically tied with the provincial Liberals in terms of number of seats. A political opportunist might suggest getting one or two of the more-progressive PCs to cross the floor to the Liberals (who haven’t been a credible candidate for government in the province since 1921) in order to push Wildrose back to insignificant third party status. Once touted as a right-wing, grassroots, fiscal alternative to the tax-raising, anti-economy, corrupt Progressive Conservatives (must be the Progressive part they’re calling fiscally irresponsible), the party was able to jump from fourth party status in 2008, behind both the Liberals and the NDP, to form the Official Opposition in 2012. Despite some opinion polls between 2012 and last fall suggesting a Wildrose government in 2016, that no longer seems the case. Between Oct. 27, 2014 and Dec. 17, 2014, Wildrose lost 12 MLAs: one to sit as an independent and two to the Progressive Conservatives in November, with an exodus of nine (including leader Danielle Smith) to join the PCs in mid December; a feature which shook the Canadian political world in a way that hadn’t been seen since the Orange Wave of ’11.
In her defence, Smith said she felt her decision was actually a victory for Wildrose, having brought down two PC Premiers, and now uniting under one man who was going to lead the province “in the right direction”. Despite having criticized previous floor-crossers, Smith seems to echo the mantra, oft touted by Federal Conservatives, that it’s best if one person, one party, controls everything all the time, as only one view can be right – an attitude which is uncomfortably totalitarian, but which many politicians like to take in their approach to government.
Progressive Canadians ought to be grateful that Wildrose has been muted – despite Smith’s best efforts to moderate the party’s policies towards social issues, a series of “bozo-eruptions” back in 2012 by her candidates and the party’s refusal to adopt any anti-discriminatory policy had left them looking even more like a bunch of unintelligent, bigoted whack-jobs than they were already viewed as by many in the public sphere.
Smith might have abandoned a sinking ship, but the five lone MLAs aren’t playing Nearer My God to Thee just yet; though the band is in the wings waiting for their cue. Interim Leader Heather Forsyth – who is not seeking the leadership nor re-election – told The Canadian Press that there were six candidates for the leadership, thus two more than seats they have in the Legislative Assembly right now. Looking for a job – having been twice denied a candidacy for the next federal election – Conservative MP Rob Anders (Sleeping Andy) briefly expressed interest in putting his name forward. However, Heather assures us that
dead weight he doesn’t qualify as he isn’t a member of the party as of January, for which I’m sure Wildrose is incredibly grateful, as they don’t need a leader who’s literally asleep at the switch.
Short of some cataclysmic change in the political wind of this country, the Progressive Conservatives will continue to govern Alberta at least after the next election. Who will form the Opposition is anyone’s guess. And what will Danielle Smith and Rob Anders being doing afterwards? Well they could probably put their names forward to lead the Conservative Party of Canada, which could be in the market for a leader shortly.