PHOTOS: Alberta Premier Jim Prentice considers whether to listen to the conscience of the conservative movement. What do you think he’ll do? Actual Alberta politicians may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Blogger and former Wildrose (Alliance) Party president John Hilton-O’Brien (photo grabbed from his Twitter account).
Fallout from the march of the Mudville Nine from the Opposition Wildrose benches to the government’s Progressive Conservative caucus continues to drift across Alberta. So serious is the contamination in some conservative circles that whole regions of the province may have to be declared Zones of Alienation like the area around the nuclear city of Pripyat in the former Soviet Union.
One of the more recent and interesting entries into this discussion is a blog post by John Hilton-O’Brien, a former president of the Wildrose Party who describes himself as one of the party’s founders. I can’t tell you the exact moment in 2015 that this post was published because Mr. Hilton-O’Brien seems to use a rather oddball application apparently procured from a company called RackNine Inc., with which many readers of this blog will be familiar in another context, which does not appear to provide a publication date.
Regardless, on the theory that Mr. Hilton-O’Brien’s comments might not otherwise be seen by folks in the circles that read AlbertaPolitics.ca and Rabble.ca, it’s worth examining a couple of the points he makes.
Mr. Hilton-O’Brien entertainingly uses his sympathy for the current plight of former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and the MLAs who followed her deep into the PC back benches to set up his judgment that she was guilty of “colossal bad judgment.”
“They will probably suffer from tremendous uncertainty and anxiety until the next election, and may be followed by guilt and shame for a long time,” he observes, suggesting to me that the radioactivity stirred up in conservative circles by the defections will not die down for a long time yet, notwithstanding the fact it will likely make little difference to Alberta Premier Jim Prentice’s immediate future potential for electoral success.
“For them to cross in the way they did amounted to a gross abandonment of their duty,” Mr. Hilton-O’Brien writes in what may well be a good summary of the views of most of the party’s supporters. “Claiming that they did it ‘for conservatism’ merely casts a shadow on anyone claiming to follow that movement. I think I am right to be angry – as is every Wildrose member, and every Albertan.” (Emphasis added.)
So, he asks, what should the Wildrose Party do now? In trying to answer that question, Mr. Hilton-O’Brien goes on to wander down the rabbit hole of modern Canadian conservative self-perception: “We founded Wildrose on a single, simple idea; that the value and dignity of the human person is more important than any idea or social structure.”
I don’t think so. Indeed, I don’t think there’s been a Canadian political party since the Communists faded into irrelevance more dedicated to the pure idea of a “perfect,” hermetic ideology than the Wildrose Party – which is what, long term, makes the 11 Wildrosers in the now-divided Tory caucus such a dangerous Trojan Horse inside the PCs’ big tent.
In fairness to Mr. Hilton-O’Brien, however, I know this self-assessment by most conservatives of their ideology is sincerely believed – notwithstanding the evidence of their leaders’ behaviour and legislative program. Mr. Hilton-O’Brien provides as evidence of this view “the crowd-funded relief fund for the Wildrose staffers abandoned by the floor-crossers” hours before Christmas. But wasn’t the fund in question started by staffers employed by the NDP caucus?
Regardless, Mr. Hilton-O’Brien’s proposed new role for the Wildrose Party – which to me indicates just how dire the straits are in which the party’s remnants have found themselves – is to become a sort of conscience of the conservative movement, a decentralized entity that can wag its finger meaningfully at the PC front benches and spring into action to fund-raise for needy friends.
“This network may allow us to resolve some long-standing issues that the PCs could never get a grip on,” he says, drawing toward his conclusion. “Danielle Smith has missed her opportunity – but the members of the Wildrose party are just in time to take theirs.”
If this idea sounds familiar to people on the centrist left, it should. If you ask me, it’s a non-starter, and a recipe for never having meaningful influence, let alone power.
The sad fact is that voters who vote will never flock to a “conscience” party, and so all you get to celebrate as a supporter of one are “moral victories.” More than just the Wildrose remnant needs to jettison the idea there’s any kind of political future in that!
Well, good luck to Mr. Hilton-O’Brien with his proposal. I don’t think Mr. Prentice is worried, although perhaps Ms. Smith should be.
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.