About those conservative coup attempts: once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, but three times has got to be enemy action!

Posted on July 13, 2016, 1:50 am
9 mins

PHOTOS: Jason Kenney and Stephen Harper seal the deal. Actually, I think Mr. Harper was welcoming Mr. Kenney to his cabinet as defence minister in this official looking portrait found on the Internet without attribution. I’m assuming it was created with taxpayer dollars and grabbing it on that basis. Below, a few of the people who figure in this post: Former PC cabinet minister Thomas Lukaszuk, former Reform Party Leader Preston Manning, #Kudatah leader George Clark (Facebook photo), and Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark, no relation to George.

Coincidence? I’m starting to think not.

Three times since December 2014, conservatives in Alberta are known to have tried to subvert the normal democratic process by what amount to stealthy palace coups to destroy or take over another political party.

LukaszukFirst came the attempt said to have been orchestrated by Preston Manning in December 2014 to push the Wildrose Opposition led by Danielle Smith into Premier Jim Prentice’s governing Progressive Conservative caucus.

Next came the ham-handed effort by Rosehip Tea Party agitator George Clark’s rightward fringe of the province’s conservative movement to first join and then take over the NDP before its annual general meeting, a plot that came to be mockingly known as the #Kudatah.

Then came the effort this spring reported by the media to involve supporters of Alberta Can’t Wait, a unite-the-right group associated with Mr. Manning, to pack the Alberta Party’s AGM with new members, take over the party, and grab its valuable name as a prize of ideological war.

The first scheme – reminiscent of the way Mr. Manning and his advisors engineered the takeover of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada by his Reform Party back in 2003, when it was known as the Canadian Alliance – fell apart when the plotters failed to anticipate the hostile reaction of the Wildrose base, which had spent too long being encouraged to hate the PCs.

The second was fairly easily thwarted by the NDP, which was able to identify and weed out most of the conservative infiltrators thanks partly to the fact they’d never made a donation.

ManningThe third, by the sound of it, was halted when Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark lucked out and got wind of it from a newspaper columnist and moved up the party’s AGM to early June. This may only be a reprieve, however, as the takeover conspiracy may still be percolating.

Now, as is well known, former prime minister Stephen Harper’s lieutenant in Ottawa, Jason Kenney, proposes to do essentially the same thing twice more.

To his credit, I suppose, Mr. Kenney has been quite open this time about the plan, first to snatch the PC Party from its traditional big-tent conservative supporters despite his reputation as a Wildroser at the provincial level, then to use it to take over the Wildrose Party in a rare double reverse hostile takeover.

As has been pointed out by many commentators, this plan is not guaranteed to work, but it has big money behind it and Mr. Kenney has already proved he is willing to campaign in violation of Alberta’s election spending laws by pretending not to be a candidate yet for the job he’s openly seeking. I leave it to readers to decide on the ethics of that decision.

He has been endorsed by the former Conservative prime minister, Mr. Harper, and the current Conservative Opposition leader, Rona Ambrose, and many of the unite-the-right front groups set up by lobbyists with Conservative ties to push the NDP out of power, so it must be recognized that he could well succeed.

George-ClarkTaken together, these developments suggest two things:

First, that beguiled by the lamentable spelling of the #Kudatah crowd, many ordinary Albertans took the idea of politics by coup d’etat right here in our own peaceful corner of the world less seriously than they ought.

Second, that there is a predisposition toward covert and undemocratic machinations among many groups and individuals on the right, many of them powerful and well connected.

Regardless of how paranoid it sounds to say such a thing – I can anticipate the trolls advising me to put on my tinfoil hat – five attempted coups against Alberta political parties in the space of a year and half strongly suggests we are witnessing a real phenomenon.

This is an actual modus operandi that speaks to a serious level of contempt for the democratic process, and, it is said here, it is a troubling trend unique in Canadian political history. Citizens concerned about safeguarding democracy in other parts of Canada may want to keep their eyes peeled for this kind of thing too.

Of course, there are also conservatives predisposed to using traditional Canadian democratic means to achieve their goals. But they are the very people Mr. Harper, the Lord Voledemort of Canadian politics, purged from the federal Conservative Party, leaving them with precious little influence at the national level. Mr. Kenney continues to vilify them today, as in his broadsides at former PC prime minister Joe Clark, who like NDP Premier Rachel Notley is a real born-and-raised Albertan.

Greg ClarkPerhaps if the so called “Red Tories” were still around the federal party, they could exert some influence against this kind of disreputable scheming, most of which has involved figures associated with the Conservative Party of Canada after its takeover by the Reform-Alliance Axis.

Such people still exist in the Alberta PCs – the names of Sandra Jansen and Thomas Lukaszuk are often named nowadays, and former premier Ed Stelmach is one too. But they will not have much influence for long if the schemers from the former federal government have their way with their party.

Even if they manage to hang on, as Mr. Lukaszuk observed recently, “it forces political parties to be on the defensive instead of developing policies and alternatives for the benefit of Albertans.”

That’s likely the idea, especially when it comes to voters on the right side of the political spectrum.

The core beliefs of Mr. Kenney, Mr. Harper and Mr. Manning, to name three of the most prominent examples, are becoming too extreme for the average Alberta voter if they are not already. So the only way to capture center-right votes for their radical vision of society is to deny more moderate voices on the right the political space to offer competing visions.

We have already seen this happen with the Republican Party south of the Medicine Line, where the three amigos mentioned above draw so much of their inspiration.

If this still sounds unlikely, dear readers, I can only refer you of the famous observation of the English author Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond series: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”

… And five times?

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

17 Comments to: About those conservative coup attempts: once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, but three times has got to be enemy action!

  1. J.E. Molnar

    July 13th, 2016

    Aside from the many lobbyists, political characters and other nefarious organizations committed to undermining democracy here in Alberta, as mentioned in your piece, the fourth estate (mainly Postmedia properties) has begun regularly manufacturing consent for Jason Kenney’s coup d’état . A day doesn’t go by without a Kenney piece appearing in Postmedia publications and on their websites.

    Tendentious editorials, opinion pieces as well as daily news articles (without accompanying rebuttals) ensures this attempt at manufactured consent is frequent, expansive and likely to succeed. Given the proliferation of avowed consent on the radical right, it appears the final verdict on Alberta’s democratic process will ultimately rest in the hands of voters in 2019.

    Reply
    • Jack

      July 13th, 2016

      Also very well said

      Reply
  2. political ranger

    July 13th, 2016

    Thirdly, that predisposition has manifested as “the Conservative Brand” in modern parlance. In today’s political marketplace the brand is everything.
    What seems to have been missed, or purposely left out, is the idea that governance is a job. A government has things to do, that it must do, on behalf of the electorate. That is the ONLY reason for its existence. People throughout the ages have found that it is more effective and more beneficial for all to have a sitting government perform those functions that resolve the issues that arise within a vibrant, multi-purposed society. It has long been recognized that it is bloody hard work.
    These cretins, these dilettantes, the criminals, these lazy, ignorant bums, these latter-day reformed conservatives have no idea of and no intention to perform the work of government. They are simply ideologues, religionists, evangelicals. They have nothing to offer.
    That’s why harper will be remembered for the ruin and destruction of singularly Canadian values, why Klien will be remembered for blowing up fully functioning hospitals, why Mulroney will be remembered for theft and graft, why Reagan and Thatcher will be remembered for dismantling functioning regulatory bodies and the Shrub remembered for idiocy. They none of them contributed a thing!
    Now harper and Kenny want a palace intrigue, a coup to make things right in the kingdom. Then what? … he’ll sit on the throne and do what? <> It’s the ideological rule that matters, not what was done to achieve that end nor what will be done during the reign. As I’ve said, while some have complained but none have shown otherwise, this conservative ideology and these harper conservatives are no different than ISIS or the Taliban in their mindless pursuit of deliverance of their ideology.

    Reply
    • Jack

      July 13th, 2016

      Very well said!

      Reply
    • Peter P

      July 13th, 2016

      Very well put together, you rightly have all those single minded, self ingratiating religious ideological, deceitful,criminals in the same )hopefully) sinking bathtub.

      Reply
  3. Unite Alberta

    July 13th, 2016

    Haha, what a joke article.

    Reply
    • Athabascn

      July 13th, 2016

      Laugh it up and enjoy.

      After you stop laughing ask yourself what Kenney boy will do to improve your situation. I’m not referring to moral, religious, or anything ephemeral like that. Instead, focus on what he will actually do in real terms to make your situation better.

      Money is real. How will Kenney boy increase your financial situation on a personal level? Personally, I don’t own an oil company or a pipeline, nor do I work in the oil and gas industry, nor the financial sector (as in banking).

      Maybe Kenney boy will get Unite Alberta his job back, or buy him a house and pay off his debt, but I doubt it. So, why would anyone cheer for Kenney boy unless they personally benefit in some way?

      Reply
  4. Gordon M. Bullivant

    July 13th, 2016

    A well written opinion, indeed

    Reply
  5. Filostrato

    July 13th, 2016

    All I keep hearing from the various extra-right Con parties both at the federal and provincial level is their determination to “regain power”. Nothing else seems to really matter. No mention of policy, ideas, or a badly needed re-look at the way they do things – only power. Sounds like Gollum in Lord of the Rings, tying himself in knots to regain “My Precioussss…”.

    Ah, yes, the old days when the Conservative Reform Alliance Party, with its unfortunate but accurate acronym, was the latest, best thing – until it wasn’t. I believe that one of Preston Manning’s stated goals when he set up the Manning Centre to Subvert Democracy was to teach people how to infiltrate other institutions from within and then destroy them or take them over, like termites or a fungus. He doesn’t seem to have any problem with the contradiction between these despicable tactics and his way-way-holier-than-thou perception of himself.

    Reply
  6. David

    July 13th, 2016

    I suppose the right wing Conservatives get full marks for persistence. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. On the surface they say they have learned from their past mistakes, but I am not sure this is so. Their latest merger/takeover attempt still seems forced and against the will of the members of both of the parties involved. Mr. Kenney also seems dismissive of democracy when the results do not go his way, which I find troubling. There is no “accidental” government, despite his revisionist view of history. Albertans actually thought long and hard about the choices in our last election and carefully made what they thought was the best choice at the time.

    In a few years, we will get to make a decision again and the sky will not fall in the meantime. I get the sense that the Albertans “who can’t wait” are mostly political opportunists who desperately want power for their own benefit and/or for that of their wealthy benefactors, who try their very best to avoid the spotlight. I think it is that desperation which leads to all the ill conceived and anti democratic schemes they have come up with.

    It is possible they will be successful, but it is also possible Albertans will see them for the self interested opportunists they are. I would be very interested to know exactly how Mr. Kenney, who is the front man for the latest scheme, is being funded and whether in fact he is actually fully compliant will our election financing laws.

    Reply
  7. Tom in Ontario

    July 13th, 2016

    Announced candidacy or not, JK’s party will need a name. My suggestion is offered free of charge, apologies to good taste and Elmer Fudd.

    Conservative Wildrose Alberta Party

    Reply
  8. Grant Neufeld

    July 13th, 2016

    A somewhat older example dates back to 2008 when a Wildroser led an, unfortunately, successful hostile takeover and shutdown of the Alberta Green Party. (The original green folks eventually managed to start a new provincial Green Party, but it still hasn’t fully recovered to where the party was before the takeover/shutdown.)

    Reply
  9. ken

    July 13th, 2016

    Jason Kenney has an extremely powerful political action committee behind him to raise millions of dollars and to organize a complete infiltration of the progressive conservative party through openly solicited membership across alberta.

    Danielle Smith is a prime example of how a
    political mla can be scuttled when a large number of constituents buy memberships just to get rid of someone.

    Rick McIver has already filled his boots. Brian Jean sees the threat and he is scurrying around alberta trying to keep Wild Rose together. And Derek Fildebrandt is likely working out a deal with Jason Kenney for a cabinet minister position while politically knifing Brian Jean in the back.

    Reply
  10. Lulymay

    July 13th, 2016

    I might have been tempting to have a chuckle at the machinations of the extreme right’s attempts to gain a firm position with their snout firmly entrenched in the lucrative trough one more, but we here in BC have had a pretty serious gong show going on for some time now, so I will behave with my comments. Some thoughts, though. One might imagine that there are still some serious “red” tories in Canada who will willingly park their vote with the Liberals federally (who have both red and blue types) until the real progressives emerge once more to provide some common sense to their old venerable party. As well, there are a number of old CCF/NDP types who are rather centrist in their believes (along with their social values) that will park their vote with the Fed Libs as well in order to keep the HarperCons at bay. The old “trickle down” notion doesn’t just play out in economics as it has its place in politics as well. In addition, voting Conservative as been seen as the bastion of the elderly, altho in Alberta it seems to have transcended generations of farmer/rancher types who still believe they literally pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to become successful, unlike those who just expect a job from others who took the risks to gain prosperity, so to speak. That well of ‘sure’ votes is dying off and being replaced by a mix of ages, workers (both educated and non educated) and the internet which allows people to learn much more about what’s really going on both locally and nationally, especially from some well-known bloggers who are doing the heavy lifting that corporate media has abdicated from. Alberta has also had a huge influx of mixed populations that don’t have the same view of politics as the old time Albertans do so things cannot help but change. I’m not suggesting that some form of a conservative party will not get elected again, but the landscape has changed and so all political parties we have to adjust as well. I happen to think I’ve seen the best of both worlds, and am ever hopeful that future generations will be afforded that same opportunity.

    Reply
  11. TimBo

    July 14th, 2016

    Didn’t Harper already send Jim Prentice to Alberta to continue the conservative government dynasty? How did that go over?

    Reply

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