PHOTOS: Opposition Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney (Twitter). Below: A clear-eyed Premier Rachel Notley, former British Columbia NDP premier Dave Barrett and the late Jim Prentice, former premier of Alberta.
“Two years after Alberta NDP win, critics see signs of early election call,” a headline on the CBC website said Friday.
Not really. The CBC’s headline notwithstanding, the leaders of Alberta’s NDP Government were startlingly clear that there won’t be an election before 2019, as required by Alberta’s constitutionally silly “fixed election-period law,” passed in December 2011 by then-premier Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservative government.
Premier Rachel Notley said it: “It’s my intent to follow both the spirit as well as the letter of the law, because that’s what I think you should do. That’s what I’ve said before and that’s what I’m saying again now.”
Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman said it in the Legislature, in response to a question by Derek Fildebrandt, the Opposition finance critic: “We certainly do not intend to call the election early.”
NDP Provincial Secretary Roari Richardson said it: “I would highly doubt that.”
NDP elder statesman Ray Martin said it: “They’re only halfway through their mandate, so I wouldn’t be in a hurry to push it. Things will get better, and they’ll get better at the job.”
The people of Alberta were clear enough when Jim Prentice, the last PC premier of Alberta, called an election a year early in 2015 – they sent him packing on May 5 and elected the New Democrats.
The people of British Columbia made the same point back in 1975, when NDP Premier Dave Barrett called an election after three years in office and voters responded by bringing back the Social Credit Party, this time under Bill Bennett – a memory that was burned deep into the NDP’s political DNA.
Moreover, it’s seen as axiomatic among the Alberta NDP base that the longer Rachel Notley stays in power, the more likely she is to get her party re-elected based on the NDP’s strengthening performance.
The CBC didn’t produce a shred of evidence for this proposition, despite apparently asking several people about it – which strongly suggests this is more than just a rogue headline.
However, a few days before, the Calgary Herald’s Don Braid wrote a column reaching a similar conclusion based on a similar lack of evidence.
Mr. Braid managed to spin Ms. Hoffman’s unequivocal statement into the opposite of what she said. This was his reasoning: “She has it both ways. The NDP does not ‘intend’ to call early. She doesn’t say the government absolutely will not.”
This is nutty stuff. So what gives, really?
My guess is that, as John F. Kennedy famously said, or at least gets credit for saying, “where there’s smoke, there is usually a smoke-making machine.” In this case, the smoke-making machine is found somewhere in one of the back rooms of the campaign of the Progressive Conservative Party’s recently elected leader, Jason Kenney, which has two obvious goals.
Goal No. 1, is to ensure that Mr. Kenney emerges as the leader of any new united Alberta conservative party, which is to be made up of the new much-smaller-tent PCs and the Wildrose Opposition led by Brian Jean. That’s presumably why Mr. Kenney keeps telling the media and anyone else who will listen that a deal with the Wildrosers is imminent.
Goal No. 2, to make sure it happens fast, since that would be to Mr. Kenney’s advantage and to Mr. Jean’s disadvantage in the inevitable jockeying to see which one of them gets to run the new political entity. After all, the longer you look at that pair, the more appealing Mr. Jean looks!
In other words, nothing is going to stampede reluctant Wildrosers who support Mr. Jean into a marriage they’re not sure about faster that the prospect of an early election call by the NDP – even if the possibility of it actually happening falls into the general realm of “alternative facts,” or perhaps even “alterative reality.”
So Mr. Kenney wants to hurry, Mr. Jean wants to wait and, lo and behold, the notion of an early NDP election call emerges in the media.
Life may be full of surprises, but from out here in rainy Toronto, this actually sounds like genuine fake news!