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Wednesday, June 19 2024 @ 10:25 MDT

That didn’t take long.

Alberta Politics

Back here I opined about the fact that Danielle Smith was basically done as Wildrose Party Leader. I figured that there would be a leadership review, the far right of her party would revolt and demand a far right leader and Smith would end up riding off into the sunset. Well things happened much faster than I thought and despite no leadership review it would seem that Smith and 8 of her fellow Wildrose MLA’s will head their own party off at the pass and head on over to the government benches.

This is a bit unprecedented as I can’t recall any party leader crossing the floor while their party still exists. It’s a little unexpected as I had thought that the party may turf Smith and elect a new leader. This turn of events leaves a lot of questions. What will happen to the Wildrose Party? What of the floor crossing members? What does this mean for the Progressive Conservative Pary? What does it mean for Alberta?

I’ll look at the Wildrose Party first. Now one of the reasons Smith may have decided to cross the floor is the WRP’s recent denouncing of their own inclusionary policy. This hard right social conservatism probably doesn’t sit well with Smith’s own libertarian philosophy and her leadership must have been an uneasy one. In fact Smith was probably choses as leader to put a more centrist face on the party’s social policy. Given many of the comment’s I’ve heard from WRP supporters on the radio as well as on line comments from various news sources would suggest that the base was never too keen on being an inclusionary party, I think this doesn’t bode well for the party in the future. With a social “moderate” at the helm, the WRP was on the verge of electoral success during the last election - that is until two events. First an Edmonton area WRP candidate was found to have a web page stating that homosexuals were doomed to roast in a lake of fire. This was followed shortly by a Calgary WRP candidate basically stating that people should vote for him because he was white.

As an aside I live in a rather culturally diverse section of Calgary. The WRP signs that were popping up like weeds in my community virtually vanished the day after the vote for him because he’s white comment

This basically puts the hard-right social and theological conservatives at the helm of the WRP at this point. From what I glean from the comment sections of newspapers, as well as social media, this is a good thing from the average WRP supporter’s point of view as “real conservatives” are now in charge of the party which will win them the next election. Except it won’t. Now I suppose that most of the hard-right conservatives of this province tend to hang out with other hard-right conservatives (given their disdain for pretty much any other political point of view, I find it hard to believe that they would maintain many friendships with people who hold differing views very long) which would tend to colour their views to the point where they think that pretty much every Albertan thinks the same way. They are wrong of course. The fact that Calgary, likely the most conservative (and Conservative) city in the country continues to elect a non-white, Muslim mayor is evidence that most Albertans are actually socially progressive, or at the least not socially conservative. So with the departure of the more socially centrist MLAs and members from the party (there were a few high profile members departing after the repudiation of the inclusion proposal) this leaves the hard right in charge of the WRP. This will make the party again unpalatable to the general electorate of the province. This is not a recipe for electoral success, but it is one for electoral disaster. If the WRP adopts a hard right socially conservative Tea-party-esque agenda they may hold on to a few rural seats in the southern Bible belt part of Alberta, but it would cost the WRP any chance of winning a seat in the cities.

So unless the remaining adults in the WRP can take control, the party is doomed to become a rump hard-right Tea party that will be relegated to the political wilderness. Not that this would be a bad thing.

So what is to become of the floor crossing members? The WRP supporters on line are livid of course, claiming that they’re all “traitors” and that they’re just doing it for the money and pension (which is exactly the same as the money and pension as opposition members get). Given the example of Rob Anderson who initially crossed the floor to the WRP, then won the subsequent election (despite big “TRAITOR” signs along the highway in Airdrie, what’s it with conservatives thinking everyone’s a traitor?) I suspect for most of the floor crossers there will be little in terms of consequences beyond the general fortunes of the Progressive Conservative party itself. Smith herself may pay a higher political price at the polls as former leader, but even then that may not happen depending on who is running against her.

What does this mean for the Progressive Conservative party? Not much other than a near total victory over the WRP. Though there are now 9 more farther right conservatives in the party caucus, the party itself is still mostly centre-right and will unlikely take a hard right turn anytime soon. Prentice is no red Tory, but he’s still a centre right conservative. So baring any major fumbles by Prentice in the next year or so, the PC party will enjoy another cakewalk through the next election back into government. It may not have the 72 seats it now has, but a comfortable majority is still theirs if they avoid any stumbles.

So what of Alberta? The weakening of an already weak opposition is not the best thing that could happen, but it is for the most part the norm in Alberta. Things will likely continue as they pretty much have for the past 40 years, generally mediocre government that’s made to look good because oil and the money it brings gushes from the ground and the boom and bust that comes with it. Beyond that don’t expect a lot to change between now and the next election.

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