Wildrose and PC party members alike vote 95% in favour of Alberta conservative merger

Posted on July 23, 2017, 3:10 am
8 mins

PHOTOS: Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, who says he will resign as Alberta Opposition leader to pursue the leadership of the United Conservative Party, creation of which endorsed by members of the Wildrose Party and the Progressive Conservative in a merger vote yesterday. Below: PC Leader Jason Kenney, who hasn’t yet said when he’ll announce his leadership run for the united party, which is assumed, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, strictly for electoral comparative purposes, and the late British Labour prime minister, Harold Wilson.

By now it can’t have escaped the attention of anyone who follows Alberta politics that members of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties have voted to merge their parties into a single political entity by percentages worthy of a North Korean election.

The Yes vote percentage for both parties was, coincidentally, 95 per cent – that is to say, for those of you who like to know these things to the precise percentage point, 94.9 per cent for the PCs now led by Jason Kenney and 95.4 per cent for the Wildrosers now led by Brian Jean.

While the favourable result was not unexpected, it seems likely a merger endorsement with numbers that stratospheric should be enough to settle down any remaining conspiratorially minded skeptics in Wildrose ranks about the outcome of the vote in spite of Friday’s party PIN problems.

The numbers of PCs and Wildrosers who voted to create the “United Conservative Party” – the Alberta right’s answer to the Vulcan mind meld – were curiously similar too.

A total of 24,598 Wildrosers voted, and 23,466 said yes to the merger, while 27,060 PCs voted and 25,692 said yes. The Wildrosers said that was about 60 per cent of the voters eligible, the CBC reported from the party’s special meeting yesterday in Red Deer. The Conservatives don’t seem to have said, but with a claimed membership of around 50,000, the turnout would be about 55 per cent. Given the importance of the vote, the turnout is probably a worthy topic of some future interpretation.

In the mean time, it almost seemed as if the same people were voting in both parties – which, come to think of it, may have been the case!

The prevailing narrative in conservative circles, and therefore in the Alberta media, will now be that as a result of yesterday’s unite-the-right vote, the NDP government of premier Rachel Notley is done for. This may indeed be the case in 2019 or whenever the next Alberta election takes place, but as blogger and political analyst Dave Cournoyer wrote yesterday, it may not turn out to be as simple as the right would like to believe.

“Since the morning after the NDP’s victory in the 2015 election, many Conservatives have talked about merging the Wildrose and PCs parties as if it were a silver bullet to winning the next election,” Mr. Cournoyer wrote on his Daveberta.ca blog before the vote tally yesterday evening. “While the NDP have not been the most popular government in Alberta history, Conservatives underestimate Rachel Notley at their own peril. Notley is a smart and savvy political leader and, as 2015 proved, she is an incredibly talented campaigner.”

By way of comparison, since I mentioned it in the lead, the last North Korean parliamentary “election” on March 9, 2014, saw 100 per cent of all voters support Outstanding Leader Kim Jong-un’s Fatherland Alliance, according to official North Korean sources. This is a percentage of the vote United Conservative Party supporters now sound as if they think may be a reasonable aspiration for them in 2019. The North Koreans also say voter turnout was 99.97 per cent.

Die-hard Alberta conservatives with a legitimate victory to celebrate today may resist seeing it this way, but everyone on both sides should take a deep breath and remember that if, as British Labour prime minister Harold Wilson famously observed in the 1970s, a week is a long time in politics, two years is an eternity.

Cournoyer again: “Conservatives in Alberta have a track record of shooting themselves in the foot at the most inopportune times.” This is a phenomenon known locally as “bozo eruptions,” from which no political party is immune, of course.

A scary fund-raising opportunity like this was obviously too good to pass up, and Premier Notley’s New Democrats got right to work last night defining the UCP as “an even more right wing, more regressive political group” than the PCs or Wildrosers.

In a fund-raising email to members and supporters, the NDP called the UCP “far from the mainstream values we know Albertans cherish.”

“Jason Kenney has vowed to out kids to their parents if they attend meetings of Gay-Straight Alliances,” the email says. Derek Fildebrandt, the Wildrose finance critic and like Mr. Jean and Mr. Kenney a likely candidate to lead the new party, “has promised over $7 billion in cuts to education, health care and other programs.”

It is fair to say that one significant result of the merger vote is that after an illustrious history of more than four decades in government, progressive conservatism is dead in Alberta, at least as a distinct political entity, presumably for all time.

For his part, the CBC report said, Mr. Jean announced after the vote he would be resigning to run for the leadership of the UCP “as soon as papers were filed for the new party.”

Given Elections Alberta’s rules for parties, that may be slightly more complicated than most coverage of last night’s announcements suggested. The UCP does not yet exist as a legal entity, for example, although the parties can be expected to approach Legislature Speaker Bob Wanner soon to ask to sit as a single Opposition party.

That means the first order of business for the new party will be picking an interim leader to lead the united legislative caucus until the leadership vote scheduled for Oct. 28.

The UCP Caucus will need to find someone for that job who can prevent bozo eruptions among caucus members, has no leadership ambitions or favourites and therefore won’t offend the candidates, is capable of speaking in complete sentences, and won’t scare the kiddies when he or she does so.

Given those tough requirements, I’d suggest someone like Nathan Cooper of the Wildrose Party or Richard Starke of the PCs, assuming, of course, that Dr. Starke has no interest in reliving his experience running against Mr. Kenney.

32 Comments to: Wildrose and PC party members alike vote 95% in favour of Alberta conservative merger

  1. jay

    July 23rd, 2017

    Judging from the all the trash talk of the past two years, in the MSM and social media and coming to a head, apparently, last night, right-wingers in Alberta seem determined to make Rachel Notley the underdog.

    Reply
  2. J.E. Molnar

    July 23rd, 2017

    When the merger balloons falling from the rafters have deflated, just like the egos of those unrepentant right-wing posters and supporters, the UPC will turn its collective efforts to the nasty leadership campaign that lays ahead.

    Once all the celebratory juking is complete on the 50 yard line, leadership candidates will dig their heels in and begin that god awful process of shredding their esteemed new colleagues apart like wild dogs. This leadership race will be a campaign where backstabbing meets sleaze and dog whistle and wedge politics collide head on…with the truth being the first casualty of the campaign.

    If you’re a social democrat you’ll likely enjoy the spectacle of the right eating its own. With perverse delight, I know I will enjoy every backstabbing moment as if I were watching ‘Game of Thrones’ — Alberta style.

    Reply
  3. Bob Raynard

    July 23rd, 2017

    I agree the dual 95% vote does seem a little coincidental, and it did remind me of the ‘elections’ in the old USSR. In fairness, however, if the merger vote was as dreamed up as a USSR vote, they wouldn’t have reported such a low turnout.

    I also agree that the low turnout does beg a lot of questions. These are not dis-engaged members of the general public who can’t be bothered to make the trip to a polling station to vote in a general election. Rather they are people who care enough about the political party to make the effort to acquire a membership. By their actions, then, they are clearly politically engaged. For these people to then not bother participating in a vote to determine the very future of the party they have made the effort to join, when it can be done much easier than voting in a general election, is just bizarre.

    I wonder if we will hear from the non-participants in the next few days saying the electronic system denied them voting privileges. It will also be interesting to see how many of them say they intended to vote ‘no’. Given some of the shenanigans the Harperites engaged in (while both Kenney and Jean were in caucus) like robo-calls advising known opposition supporters that polling locations have changed, nothing would surprise me. Kenney’s supporters’ behaviour during the PC leadership race have rendered me immune to surprise.

    Less dramatic, but probably more likely, is the non-voters are people who have turned their backs on their respective parties, especially the (formerly Progressive) Conservatives While some high profile PC members made a point of renouncing their membership (were their names removed from the voters list?) in response to Kenney’s leadership victory I expect a lot of others simply boycotted the vote. This seems more likely on the PC side, who knew they had little chance to prevent the 50% merger threshold.

    Given the Wildrose’s 75% threshold, the loud voices of dissent we heard leading up to the vote, and the PIN problems, I think it is less likely the WR vote is not as simple as just failing to vote, however.

    Stay tuned folks…

    Reply
    • July 24th, 2017

      since one could be a member of both the Wildrose and PC, I wonder how many members voted twice.

      Reply
      • David Climenhaga

        July 24th, 2017

        Given the 50 per cent range voter turnout and the number of members signed by both parties in a rush before the vote, it seems likely that the percentage of double voters was quite high. We will never have accurate information about this, of course. DJC

        Reply
        • tom in ontario

          July 24th, 2017

          The blogger’s suspicious mind. Betcha he even suspects they dredged up votes from the local boneyard.

          Reply
          • Keith McClary

            July 25th, 2017

            Social Credit?

  4. Simon Renouf

    July 23rd, 2017

    As I mentioned a few weeks ago, it’s useful to remember that the Lougheed era of success for Alberta’s conservatives resulted from splitting the right rather than uniting the right. For many years before 1971 the right in Alberta had been united under the Social Credit banner. Part of Lougheed’s breakthrough was to recognize that in an increasingly affluent and urban province, Social Credit’s social values were a handicap in elections.

    For the first decade of the Lougheed era there was a considerable Social Credit opposition to the right of the PCs: the So-Creds achieved 41% of the popular vote in 1971 (25 seats), 18% in 1975 (4 seats), 20% in 1979 (4 seats) and were finally wiped off the electoral map in 1983 (1%, 0 seats). But that right fringe never went away.
    While Preston Manning was elected federally for the Reform Party in 1993, he had been heavily involved in the So-Creds and other right fringe entities in the seventies and eighties, and apparently up to today.

    The challenge for the leadership of the UCP will be much more than controlling bozo eruptions: it will be to fashion policies that appeal to its base (to a large extent that old Social Credit/Reform fringe) without alienating the urban voter. It’s perhaps conceivable, but no easy task. Nothing’s going to drop into their laps.

    Reply
  5. ronmac

    July 23rd, 2017

    With all this political bickering and talk about uniting the right these days, I am reminded of the fate of Leon Trotsky.

    I am referring of course to the infamous icepick buried in the back of Leon Trotsky’s head in Mexico in 1940 (put there by one of Stalin’s assassins) which ended years of ideological squabble among the revoltionary left.

    With a leadership race on the horizon things are only going to get nastier. In fact, there is talk that Kenny is so disliked there is talk of the right splintering even more. The unite the right movement may become so frustrated that they may start looking for a magic bullet (esp. if Notley morphs into Peter Lougheed).

    While I am no way advocating the use of an icepick as a way settling political differences, we should at least consider the upside. You have to admit an icepick buried in the back of a rival politican’s head is an elegant statement. It gets people’s attention. It tells them once an for all it’s time to STFP and fall in line.

    On the world stage it will certainly grab people’s attention. It will send a strong message that Canadian politics has suddenly turned nasty, that we are no longer just a nation with “nice people” and “sunny ways.” We are somebody you do’t want to mess around with, especially Putin if he’s thinking about grabbing an arctic island.

    Once again I am not advocating the use of an icepick to settle political differences. I am just considering the possibilities (in the unlikely event) if it should happen.

    Reply
    • Sassy

      July 23rd, 2017

      Or one of the candidates is outed as a gay man? That would get people’s attention.

      Reply
      • ronmac

        July 23rd, 2017

        even more shocking if he came out as a vegetarian

        Reply
      • Athabascan

        July 24th, 2017

        Sorry Sassy,

        You are behind in the news.

        Reply
  6. Sassy

    July 23rd, 2017

    Fishy, to say the least. I thought it odd when Michelle Rempel (Calgary MP known to be a staunch Wildrose and unity supporter) let the media know she was having trouble getting a PIN. I thought, oh boy, the behind-the-scenes ring leaders are getting in front of the inevitable accusations of cheating. I now think the mainstream media will downplay evidence of foul play and downplay news that disgruntled PCers and Wildrosers are moving to, or creating, other parties. Unless there is a robust, informal communication channel for these former party members, it will APPEAR everyone is getting behind the new UCP. Even though I do not support the right-wing parties, I actually feel a bit sorry for those naive Albertans who were conned in this process.

    Reply
  7. Val

    July 23rd, 2017

    that’s interesting to observe the author, who very often highly praises leadership of such infamous individuals like Putin, Castro with their assured 100% popularity, got to be upset by 95% internal support of chosen direction in two local political parties.
    anyway, could be result was cooked up but nevertheless, outside of political circles this have no impact at all. majority of albertans not really care about. important only an effectiveness of a ruling government, direct and indirect impact of their actions on day-by-day life of majority of albertans and what an opposing side will bring to a table in 2019.
    2015 election was rather a rebellion of voters against selfishly disconnected ruling party of the time but not any indicator of popularity of NDP. Due to absence of another cardinal alternative, voters gave the chance to NDP and Ms. Notley to implement new style of governing. must admit, her performance during election campaign was quite promising. sadly her performance as top provincial manager isn’t so good and her constantly declining popularity shows, she’s not able to handle this issue and surely disconnected from provincial residents pretty much in same way as her predecessors.

    Reply
    • Murphy

      July 23rd, 2017

      As always, Latka, I applaud your grit. Many with such a limited facility for language would have given up by now, but you are clearly committed to one day learning to use the English language. Despite setbacks like the jumble you posted above, you never give up and that is something that demands recognition!

      Reply
      • Athabascan

        July 24th, 2017

        Kudhata Val?

        Reply
      • Val

        July 24th, 2017

        have no idea what you’re talking about but noticed – every time you appearing only to respond to my comments by oral diarrhea.
        given that your responses have nothing to do with topic but still appearing – not really hard to figure out your real name David.

        Reply
        • Athabascan

          July 25th, 2017

          Hey Val,

          Spew diarrhea, and guess what kind of responses you get in return?

          Oh, by the way, it can’t be oral since these are written comments, unless you count the voices in your head, or those dictated to you by your political master(s).

          Reply
          • Val

            July 25th, 2017

            you’re posting here under murphy name as well?

            i thought it’s author of the blog, who previously told he censoring comments for inappropriation but for some reason allows (and not once) the comments which clearly purposed attempt to insult opponent.
            but what do i know about progressive left customs and habits. could be it’s a new normal.

  8. Sassy

    July 23rd, 2017

    I still have this feeling Rona Ambrose is going to sweep in and take over from a squabbling “bunch of boys”. It seems the media has been grabbing onto any story relating to her views or activities. Recently, they announced she was appointed as a Board Director for TransAlta. Why was that national news?

    Reply
  9. Farmer B

    July 23rd, 2017

    Albertan’s will now have a left of Center party in the NDP, the Alberta party in the center and UCP to the right of center. Unfortunately the only party with a realistic plan, the Alberta Party, is the least popular and receives by far the least financial support. The constant attempt to portray Rachel Notley as the second coming of Peter Lougheed makes me laugh. Having said that he did create a level is spending that was unsustainable and he abandoned the ship before it sank and created the environment for the success of Ralph Klein. The NDP’s deficit spending is creating an environment for a similar upheaval in public policy.

    Reply
  10. Eleanor Gregory

    July 23rd, 2017

    So has anyone started referring to these folks as the Unicons?

    Reply
    • Scotty on Denman

      July 24th, 2017

      There were Green alligator savers and high-brow geeks
      Some broke-back camels and some chimpanzees (no relation to Adam and Eve)
      Some rats and rats and rataphants to ensure the unborn
      Oh them silly Unicons!

      Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      July 24th, 2017

      I like to use the term unicorn instead of climate change denier. Based on the research of the eminent group of Irish scientists known collectively as the Rovers, unicorns were creatures who happily played games in the rain, blissfully ignoring the signs of impending climate doom. Further research hopes to determine if the games they were playing involved ATVs, quads etc.

      Reply
  11. jerrymacgp

    July 23rd, 2017

    I wonder why politics in Western provinces are so binary: it’s either the NDP or the “anti-NDP” (a bit like protons and anti-protons, which mutually annihilate themselves if they touch each other), with no viable middle ground. East of the Manitoba-Ontario border, there are at least three viable parties: in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces, it’s the NDP, Liberals and the PCs, while in Quebec it’s the Liberals, the PQ, the CAQ and the ADQ. But in Saskatchewan and BC, and now seemingly in Alberta, politics are organized into the binary choice between the NDP and the so-called “free-enterprise” unified conservative parties, those being Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan Party and Christie Clark’s BC Liberals, with more centrist third parties relegated to the ranks of the political fringe. What’s up with that? (My familiarity with Manitoba politics being quite limited, I don’t know if that province has a more Eastern, viable three-party or a more Western, binary political scene).

    Reply
    • Scotty on Denman

      July 24th, 2017

      First let’s admit the NDP is not as left as the right makes out, and could in most cases in the West surrogate for centrist parties. Furthermore, dippers consist of entrepreneurs, small business owners and other “free enterprisers.” Perhaps because the NDP is more known for support of public as well as private enterprise, it might surprise some that nominally centrist and conservative —or Tory—parties share these accommodations with their supposed ideological rivals. When labour unions were strong thirty years ago, the NDP were as polarizingly partisan as their counterparts on the right obliged them to be; but the decline of unionism and concurrent softening of lefty rhetoric has revealed more starkly the heightened partisan rhetoric of the right which, these days, happens to be almost antithetical to Tory mores of the past.

      The question might be better asked as to why the Western neo-rightists have cultivated aggressive partisanship to such an extent (some suggest it’s a vote suppression tactic designed to compensate for the neo-right’s generally lacklustre recruitment of younger members), making all rivals appear to occupy the opposite extremity. Centrist parties do appear occasionally, as between the ascendant BC NDP and the then moribund Socreds, or between the Manitoba NDP and PCs. But these seem so often usurped (like the BC Liberals were by Socred ghosts) or jilted by strategic voting that one might wonder if Westerners really do prefer bipolar politics.

      Personally, I think election surprises all over Europe and North America indicate voters are tiring of excessive partisanship, and the search for the ‘third way’ is manifest in, say, Alberta where the NDP has moved conspicuously toward the centre as that province’s first supposed lefty government. The tripling of Green seats in BC’s recent contest, I think, indicates the same. In both cases long-reigning regimes were toppled, but not by mass movement to a diametrically opposite partisanship.

      Western provinces’ remoteness from the deeper history of the East correlates to comparatively less political sophistication, polarization, and long-reigning governments. IMHO, polarization antidotes waves of new ideas that have immigrated to the West over the last century, so instead of cultivating ideological diversity, voters support either the cliques typical of low-population regions, or oppose them from the outside without much further highbrow ado. Many Westerners are newcomers even today, which contributes to a copacetic attitude towards governments whilst newcomers get established. But, once they do, a palpable desire to elect better governments results in what we Westerners might perceive as anomalous election results. Have to remember the East is economically much larger and more sophisticated than the West, but the West is maturing in its own way. Alberta has changed a lot in the past forty years, and especially in the last fifteen—which might mean the era of long-reigning governments is coming to an end, done in by ethnically diverse immigration and receding oligarchies of the resource extraction past.

      One big change is happening to politics: the environment. Alberta is acutely sensitized to this fact, for obvious reasons.

      Finally, the long lasting and not-so-obvious multigenerational effects of cronyism typical of remote, immature jurisdictions should not be discounted, even after many of the politico-economic milestones have been passed. Newcomers had traditionally dealt with cronyism as an in-or-out problem, evident as when one ideology suddenly supplants another in a big way, like when the BC Socreds fell to the NDP, which itself was nearly wiped out by the BC Liberals—and when the Socreds ruled for decades after the United Farmers regime, only to be replaced by an even longer reigning PC government. All these are polarized phenomena, one is either for or against the government, not so much on ideological differences, but on the perceived amount of favour one is likely to get. These phenomena are fading away too.

      Reply
  12. FCS

    July 24th, 2017

    This pathetic bearded fool is really like Trump: living in his own bubble and has no sense of risk assessment. Everything that doesn’t fit his views on how the world should be is fake news. The Alberta NDP has an approval rating that is worse than Trump’s and anyone with a keen appreciation of political moods should realize that it is a hole that is hard to plug, but everything is fine and dandy until his friends in the high place got thrown to the unemployment line.

    Reply
  13. Albertan

    July 24th, 2017

    Agreed, the number of eligible voters who actually voted, was not stellar.
    And more, now, the dog and pony leadership show begins.

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      July 24th, 2017

      Moreover, we don’t know how many votes were cast per eligible voters (some voted more than once), and therefore whether the number of actual votes exceeded the number of eligible voters.

      Reply
  14. David

    July 24th, 2017

    There are some odd things with those numbers which are impressive sounding on the surface.

    First, I think the nearly identical results in both parties is a highly unlikely co-incidence if two separate groups of voters were voting. Therefore, it seems to me it is likely that the voters were one group (ie. the voters bought memberships in both parties and voted in both races). While that was allowed in this situation and even encouraged by some it does bring up questions to how many people actually bought memberships. There were reportedly over 90,000 memberships sold, which seems fairly impressive, but when you divide that by two 45,000 is not quite so impressive. The old PC’s did much better than that in most of their leadership races.

    Second, is the strong show of support for unity by those that voted contrasted with the 40% + or so in each party that voted “I don’t care”. The turnout was not that great and shows an ambivalence among members that contrasts starkly with the strong show of support for unity from those that did vote. This of course leads to question – why did the 40% not vote? Were they somehow discouraged from voting, did they get bad PIN #, etc… ? Also, who are the 40% + that didn’t vote? If they are long time volunteers, supporters and donors of the predecessor parties this could be a sign that there is less enthusiasm for unity than it appears on the surface. If that 40% or so quietly packs their political bags and leaves UCP (either for another party or they become political non participants) then UCP could be in more trouble than it appears.

    There was undoubtedly a great show of support for UCP and that was reflected in the news headlines over the last few days, but below the surface there may be currents flowing in another direction that have not been noticed by the mainstream media. So the UCP vote was a PR success so far, but that image may not totally reflect reality.

    Reply
  15. pogo

    July 24th, 2017

    So! Hurray! 1% of actual voters in Alberta have swept the NDP to the dustbin of… but wait! Some tiny angry core constituency of soulless opportunists who play on psychotic grievance over the failure of whack-job pseudo prophets, to accurately predict armageddon have assumed the mantle of saviors of Albertan culture? Good fucking grief! https://youtu.be/SYkbqzWVHZI

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      July 25th, 2017

      Agreed!

      I routinely get 100% of the vote and therefore unanimous support whatever I do or decide. Let’s leave out the fact that only one person votes. I’m sure that has nothing to do with it.

      Wow! That’s a lot of support, and it beats Kenney’s Unite the White scheme.

      Reply

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