Paul Hinman wants to contest UCP leadership! He has till tonight to raise $57,500! I’m not making this up!

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PHOTOS: Would-be UCP leadership candidate Paul Hinman, back when he was Wildrose Alliance MLA for Calgary-Glenmore. Below: Preston Manning, Ted Hinman, and Ernest Manning.

Paul Hinman? Seriously?

Has somebody stumbled over a mysterious time capsule buried by the Wildrose Alliance Party way out on the lone prairie? Probably somewhere down there in Southern Alberta around Cardston, or maybe over Taber way?

It could’ve happened! And when they popped the lid – whoever found it, that is – out scrambled Mr. Hinman, brushing the dust off his suit. Sort of like a genie that grants only three wishes: “parental rights,” “conscience rights,” and “recall elections.”

The backstory in a moment, but first an observation about the announcement Monday by the former Wildrose Alliance leader, former Mormon missionary and avowed social conservative that he’d sure like to seek the leadership of the United Conservative Party and replace NDP Premier Rachel Notley in the province’s top political job.

The timing is darned weird. Nominations for the UCP leadership race close tonight. And you have to have a $95,000 entry fee to run – $20,000 of which the new party promises to refund to candidates who behave themselves.

Mr. Hinman told the CBC yesterday he’s $57,500 short. Still, he’s got a nice website, and he says he hopes to come up with the cash by tonight.

Don’t laugh. He’s had unexpected successes before. Just the same …

OK, back to the backstory:

The Wildrose Alliance was the nutty right-wing party that back in the mid-Naughts was begotten by the union of the Alberta Alliance Party and the Wildrose Party of Alberta. From this odd coupling sprang the latter day Wildrose Party, which is not exactly the same thing as the aforementioned Wildrose Party of Alberta, but close enough for Wild Rose Country.

Sorry, but it gets more complicated.

Into this strange brew were added bits of the Canadian Alliance Party of Stockwell Day, successor to the Reform Party of Preston Manning and predecessor to Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party of Canada, which was famously the product of the reverse hostile takeover of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada engineered by Mr. Manning. (For the sake of simplicity, some liberties have been taken with this timeline.)

Also added were a dash of Social Credit Party (once led by Mr. Manning’s dad, Premier, later Senator, Ernest Manning), the Alberta First Party (don’t even ask!), and the Alberta Party, which is not really a relation to the formerly liberal now centrist conservative party of the same name, although it sort of is as well. There are probably others I have missed.

From this mélange were conceived the latter-day Wildrosers, whence sprang the UCP, itself the beneficiary of a reverse hostile takeover of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, carried out according to the master plan devised by the Mannings, pere et fils. (Don’t believe me? Read Political Realignment by the elder Manning, rumoured to have been written by the younger, published a half century ago in 1967. Your public library should be able to get you a copy.)

But all you really need to know if you’re not from around here is that we create right-wing fringe parties out here on the western expanses of the Great Plains like church ladies bake pies – and then they seem to absorb the big mainstream parties, instead of the other way around.

Sooner or later, certain names keep popping up. One of them is Mr. Hinman’s.

For a spell in the Naughts, Mr. Hinman was the sole Alberta Alliance member of the Alberta Legislative Assembly. He was the honourable member for Cardston-Taber-Warner, best known as the home of the first Mormon temple outside the United States. By merit of his lonely status, he became leader of the Alberta Alliance in the House. In the dispensation of the fullness of time, he helped merge that party into the Wildrose Alliance, won the leadership of the combined party, and promptly lost his Deep South (Alberta) seat to a Progressive Conservative.

The Cardston riding, by the way, was once held for the Social Credit Party by Mr. Hinman’s grandfather, Edgar “Ted” Hinman. Ted Hinman was the elder Mr. Manning’s Provincial Treasurer, from 1955 to 1964.

In 2009, Paul Hinman surprised everyone, including himself, but especially the Liberal candidate, and got elected in a by-election to represent the Calgary-Glenmore riding. Once again by merit of his lonely status in the Legislature, he became the Wildrose Alliance’s acting leader until Danielle Smith came along vowing to lead the Wildrosers to the electoral Promised Land. We all know how that worked out.

As for Mr. Hinman, he was not reelected by Calgary-Glenmore voters in 2012.

Mr. Hinman, having been a Mormon missionary to the Philippines in his youth, is a pretty unabashed social conservative, although a likeable enough guy in a slow-spoken way if one doesn’t think too hard about the kind of society he would prefer us all to live in.

Since his announcement the day before yesterday, a lot of people have been speculating on social media that this is part of a devastatingly clever plot by UCP leadership frontrunner Jason Kenney’s strategists to keep former Wildrosers from voting for former Wildrose leader Brian Jean and win over the extreme social conservative vote.

The problem with this notion is that it assumes former Wildrosers would vote for Mr. Jean as leader, which many of them won’t, and that Mr. Kenney doesn’t already control the social conservative vote, which he does.

So, personally, I think Mr. Hinman was likely just feeling bored and ran the leadership bid up the virtual flagpole to see if anyone would salute.

We’ll know tonight how that works out. I’ll get back to you.

Categories Alberta Politics