Calgary MLA Dave Rodney to make way for new Conservative Leader; ex New Democrat Karen McPherson to join Alberta Party

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PHOTOS: Calgary-Lougheed MLA Dave Rodney, centre right, gets close to the new Conservative leader … in 2011. Below: Newly elected United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney; another look at Mr. Rodney, the renowned Everest summiteer; and Alberta Party recruit Karen McPherson (Photo: Connor Mah, Wikipedia Commons).

Members of the Alberta Legislative Assembly resume their efforts this morning and those who follow the goings on under the Dome in Edmonton are abuzz with excitement in the expectation of entertainment to come.

Not only is the United Conservative Party Opposition no longer leaderless – or, rather, no longer burdened with a confusing surfeit of would-be leaders, some of whom don’t seem to like each other very much – but it would appear the minuscule Alberta Party Legislative Caucus is also about to grow by 100 per cent, from one member, to two.

As was reported in this space yesterday, Jason Kenney, late of the Reform Party, the Conservative Party of Canada and the cabinet of former prime minister Stephen Harper, has as ascended to the leadership of the UCP. This was no surprise, although the social conservative Mr. Kenney’s decision to immediately seek a seat in the Legislature in a by-election engineered by the resignation of a willing MLA, was a bit of one.

Nevertheless, Dave Rodney, elected four times as Progressive Conservative MLA for Calgary-Lougheed and now the UCP representative for that district, announced yesterday via the traditional Parliamentary Tweet he would step aside to make way for his “dear friend” Mr. Kenney.

“Honoured to pass the Calgary-Lougheed torch to my dear friend-our intrepid @Alberta_UCP Leader-@jkenney,” quoth Mr. Rodney, who has an undistinguished 13-year legislative career but has climbed Mount Everest, twice.

The expeditions to Everest, indeed, appear hitherto to have been the summit(s) of Mr. Rodney’s public career, and one need only to ask him about them and he will be happy to provide details. Although, come to think of it, I don’t recall him holding forth on the high-altitude Himalayan oxygen bottle battle referenced in his Wikipedia biography.

Still, while appearing at the side of a new leader is not an activity completely unknown to the expeditious Mr. Rodney, his decision to make way for the Kenney Juggernaut was mildly surprising nevertheless, as he really has no transferable skills to earn a living beyond getting re-elected in a safe Tory seat. “Not a superstar,” a former caucus colleague who shall remain nameless amid all the online congratulations, summed the climber up succinctly.

Well, Mr. Rodney’s repeated successes in Calgary-Lougheed suggest the more dynamic Mr. Kenney should have little trouble in the upcoming by-election, whenever it takes place.

Meanwhile, it seems former New Democrat Karen McPherson has announced she is joining the Alberta Party Caucus, which with party leader Greg Clark will soar to two – although, as Albertans learned in 2015, legislative caucuses should never be ruled out completely just because they’re small enough to fit in a telephone booth. *

Ms. McPherson, the low-profile MLA for Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill elected on Premier Rachel Notley’s coattails in the NDP sweep on May 5, 2015, abruptly left the NDP Caucus on Oct. 4 to sit as an Independent, expressing her disquiet with what she called in a social media post the polarized state of Alberta’s provincial politics and gently criticizing the government for not having a plan to eliminate the province’s deficit.

By coincidence, this took place the same day as former Wildrose Party president Jeff Callaway quit the UCP leadership race, apparently having fulfilled his purpose of serving as a stalking horse for Mr. Kenney (the hunter) to bring down former Wildrose leader Brian Jean (the prey).

Soon to follow Ms. McPherson to the Alberta Party Caucus, legislative rumour mongers insist, will be a former PC MLA – possibly Calgary-South East MLA Rick Fraser, who quit the UCP in September to sit as an Independent, mildly criticizing the UCP for its divisive approach to politics and lack of compassion.

Former Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, in 2014 and 2015 a minister in the late premier Jim Prentice’s PC cabinet, is said to be working assiduously behind the scenes to make the Alberta Party a credible alternative located somewhere along the political rainbow between the NDP’s orange and the Kenney Cons’ blue.

With two more members, the Alberta Party would achieve sufficient mass to become an official party in the Legislature.

Mr. Mandel’s next challenge – if the Legislative rumour mill is to be believed – would be persuading Mr. Clark to step aside as leader so someone more likely to rev up Alberta voters could be recruited for that role.

So far, Mr. Clark is unique in Alberta Legislative history. He is the only Alberta Party MLA ever elected as an Alberta Party MLA. He has never, however, climbed Mount Everest.

* Readers will be interested to learn that a “telephone booth” was small structure fitted with a coin-operated landline telephone designed to provide a single caller with limited privacy and protection from the weather. Telephone booths, known as “call boxes” in the United Kingdom, were ubiquitous in the mid-20th Century and were frequently used by superheroes in Hollywood “films,” a primitive form of video, to remove their civilian garments and slip into uniform. Really! I’m not making this up. DJC

Categories Alberta Politics