PHOTOS: Hate to burst your balloons, Tories, but Brian Jean says any new new united right-wing party will be the Wildrose Party, and nothing else. (Wildrose.ca photo.) Below: Wildrose Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt, front-running Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Jason Kenney and a group of smokers … actual young Alberta tobacco users may not appear exactly as illustrated.
In case you’re still wondering how this unite-the-right thing is supposed to work, Wildrose Leader Brian Jean has clarified matters for you.
The party that emerges when the dust has settled will be the Wildrose Party, he told the world earlier this week. The Progressive Conservatives will be no more – although, certainly, the “new” Wildrose party (which will not be new at all, of course) will soon try to rebrand itself “conservative.”
Mr. Jean’s refreshing honesty is important, because up to now all would-be unite-the-righters – including Jason Kenney, who is all but certain to become the PC leader on March 18 in Calgary – have been pretending that what emerges after the next step in his double reverse hostile takeover would be a merger of Alberta’s two principal conservative parties.
For his part, Mr. Kenney has claimed what results will be an entirely new party, although he has not explained how that could happen over the objections of the Wildrose leadership, or what would happen to the estimated $1.5 million in PC constituency bank accounts and candidate trusts that Daveberta.ca has reported would have to be forfeited if the party was dissolved. The Wildrose Party would not lose as much, because it quickly spends most of the funds it raises.
So, despite the efforts of other Wildrosers to say it ain’t so – Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt, for example, Tweeted this week that “unification should respect both Wildrose & PC members as equals” and called for negotiations closed to the media – for the reasons Mr. Jean pointed out, it cannot easily be so.
Mr. Jean made his clarifying statement while attending a Wildrose Party town hall meeting in Camrose on Monday. He told participants that if unification happens, it will be under the Wildrose structure, and furthermore that he will be a candidate to run the united party.
According to a media report, Mr. Jean told participants in the forum that joining up with the Tories “is a small price to pay if we can have Wildrose as the legal framework for the conservative movement going forward.”
And while the Wildrose Party has divisions of its own, as evidenced by constant rumours of factional warfare within the Opposition legislative caucus, it is hard to see how this could be any different without the consent of the Wildrose leader.
This presumably means the PCs under Mr. Kenney or anyone else are stuck with this reality if they decide to proceed with this union of unlike minds. At least, not without a Wildrose coup to depose Mr. Jean, and that would likely take too much time.
So if Alberta’s conservatives move to union – red Tories, progressive conservatives and the like take note – it will be as members of a new, possibly even more radical, version of the Wildrose Party that emerges as Alberta’s new “conservative” political entity.
Anti-smoking group says poll shows Albertans want $1.50 more tax on each pack of smokes
Two thirds of Albertans would like to see additional tax of $1.50 on every 20-smoke pack of cigarettes sold in the province, the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Alberta says.
The online survey in January by Leger Research, done for the coalition of well-known health organizations, also indicated three quarters of the 1,500 respondents want to see at least a third of the billion dollars in tobacco taxes collected by Alberta earmarked to help smokers quit and keep young people from starting.
The group argued in a press release yesterday that the additional taxes are needed because cigarettes now more affordable in Alberta than any other province because of the combination of too-low taxes and historically high incomes. It only takes an average 22 minutes of labour for Albertans to buy a pack of 20 cigarettes in Alberta compared with 25 minutes in B.C. and 26 minutes in Saskatchewan, the coalition’s news release stated.
The coalition was quite sharp in its criticism of Alberta’s NDP Government for not being more aggressive in its approach to tobacco suppression, in particular its failure to direct funds raised in taxes to smoking reduction and prevention programs.
Tim Wilson, press secretary to Health Minister Sarah Hoffman, said in a statement that “the province allocates close to $20 billion to health care in Alberta, and this includes Alberta Health Services smoking cessation and prevention programs. …While we are not looking at more revenue levers at this time, the government will continue to work with all of our partners to support the downward trend in smoking rates for Albertans.”
Opposition Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt expressed skepticism about the approach advocated by the coalition. “I’m generally fine with devoting revenue to sin taxes to combating the sin, rather than cash for general revenues,” he told me in a Twitter message. “I just don’t think constantly raising sin taxes is the answer. Very regressive taxes.”
A spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the self-styled anti-tax organization that has on occasion appeared to co-operate on tax issues with the tobacco industry, said the group was not planning to publish a statement about on the coalition’s idea.
This first section of this post also appears on Rabble.ca.