Who benefits more from the PC takeover of the Alberta Party – the governing NDP or the Opposition UCP?

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PHOTOS: Opposition members in the Alberta Legislature as seen by many of their critics. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons.) Actual UCP Caucus members may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Outgoing Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark, Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley, and UCP Leader Jason Kenney.

Having been the victims of Jason Kenney’s double reverse hostile takeover of the Alberta Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties, the remnants of the old PC Party seem to have successfully carried out a hostile reverse takeover of their own – of the once-somewhat-liberal Alberta Party.

So the big question now has to be whether, come the next Alberta general election, the reconstituted PC Alberta Party (PCAP? perhaps pronounced Pee-Cap?) is likely to take more votes from the NDP government of Premier Rachel Notley or from Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative Party?

There has been a lively discussion about this issue in the comments section of this blog and, I must say, I am quite uncertain as to which scenario is most likely to unfold.

My instinct is that if an election were held soon featuring full slates from all three parties, the PCAP would take more votes from the NDP than from the UCP, quite possibly resulting in a UCP government.

But if the election doesn’t happen until the spring of 2019, and the UCP meltdown in the Legislature continues apace, the situation could result in another conservative vote split that could work to the benefit of the NDP.

So far, however, my personal political crystal ball is murky.

This much is clear, though: with the unexpected resignation of Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark last week, gamely touting the benefits of a leadership race as he walked the plank, it is quite apparent the Alberta Party is now very much in the hands of a cabal of old-style Alberta PCs.

The UCP clearly thinks this too, judging from commentary on social media by Blaise Boehmer, Mr. Kenney’s key digital propaganda mouthpiece.

“Do you miss the shenanigans and back room dealings of the Redford era?” asked Mr. Boehmer. “Then you should join the new PC-Alberta Party,” he concluded at the end of one of those new super-long Tweets that have taken all the fun and creativity out of insulting people on Twitter.

So if the reconstituted PCAP starts to sound like a credible challenger, expect the UCP to direct more fire at the putative leaders of the Alberta Party – to the point it may sound very much as if a reprise of the recent War of the Wildroses has broken out.

I am sure the NDP, seemingly operating on the sound principle of piloting the ship of state “steady as she goes,” very much hopes this will happen.

To prevent it, one would think, the UCP would need to project the image of being a government-in-waiting that is ready, steady and under control. Indeed, one of the slogans the UCP’s been trying out – we lead, they follow” – suggests the party’s strategic brain trust recognizes this.

Alas, the recent performance of the combined post-2015 PC and Wildrose B-Teams in the Legislature sure makes it sound as if Mr. Kenney’s re-branded Wildrose Party is being engulfed by a fully engaged dumpster fire.

As Calgary blogger Susan Wright suggested in a thought-provoking post on Sunday, the UCP’s strategy in the Legislature has been long on frantic rage and short on workable ideas.

As she pointed out, the UCP’s view Alberta should be insulting Ottawa, retaliating against British Columbia, screeching about the Canadian Constitution, and suing everyone who doesn’t do what they want sure doesn’t make them sound like a potential government in waiting.

“The expression ‘we lead, they follow’ may be a cute political slogan,” she wrote, pretty well nailing it, “but as a UCP Opposition tactic it’s coming across as ‘we have a tantrum, they press on’.

What’s more, Mr. Kenney’s emotional band of social conservative troglodytes just can’t leave the students’ rights/human rights/parents’ rights debate alone, with a result that has been described here and elsewhere as Lake of Fire 2.0.

I suggested a few posts ago that, his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, Mr. Kenney would be just as happy to be outside the Legislature for as long as possible in the run-up to the 2019 (or whenever) general election.

But if the UCP meltdown in the Legislature continues unabated, I may have to revise that view. Mr. Kenney’s famously Stephen-Harper-like iron hand may now be required on the floor of the Chamber just to keep his caucus from spontaneously combusting.

If the UCPers do bust into flames, it would be to the long-term benefit the PCAP – which still faces the formidable tasks of consolidating its coup and finding a leader who is credible, charismatic and suitably progressive on social issues, not to mention filling a province-wide slate of candidates in the not-too-distant future.

The Alberta punditocracy is abuzz with the names of likely and not-so-likely PCAP leaders – many of them women.

A continuing UCP caucus freak-out would also certainly help the NDP – which has the advantage of being in power and already has, of course, a leader who is credible, charismatic and undeniably progressive on social issues.

Categories Alberta Politics