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

Posted on November 14, 2017, 12:16 am
7 mins

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.

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

  1. ronmac

    November 14th, 2017

    Isn’t the NDP “centrist” enough? Why do we need another centrist party when the leader of the NDP and current premier is said to be channeling Peter Lougheed?

    Reply
    • Farron Kelly

      November 14th, 2017

      Because modern conservatives can’t fathom the idea that austerity is a failed concept.

      Reply
      • Tiddo

        November 14th, 2017

        Or that democracy means other peoples’ opinions matter too sometimes.

        Reply
  2. Maureen

    November 14th, 2017

    Rachel Notley is easily as progressive Centre as Peter Lougheed. She has my vote. The best Premier by far for Alberta.

    Reply
  3. David

    November 14th, 2017

    I tend to agree with your assessment, an increase in support for the Alberta Party could be negative for the NDP in the short term, but hurt the UCP more after that. Part of the reason is simple math. The Alberta Party, if it becomes more credible, could take votes from all other parties. Even if it takes many more votes from the UCP, at this point the UCP has more votes to spare. Another part of the reason is the chameleon like history of the Alberta Party. Over the years it has shifted from fairly right wing to centre-left and now appears to be moving rightward again, depending on the group that captures control of the party. However, impressions take time to change. It is possible some centre left voters will still regard the Alberta Party as a possible option for them, even if that is no longer really the case.

    A lot depends on who the Alberta Party chooses as a leader. It is small, so it needs to catch a very big fish. I can only think of one person in Alberta that would give it a good chance of electoral success and I really doubt that person is interested. They sort of need someone like Laurence Decore, a politician with a fairly established base that is not a big C conservative, but who could appeal to centrist and other voters. If they choose someone closely associated with Redford the UCP will pound them mercilessly for that, probably successfully. If they choose a leader that does not have a seat, it will be difficult to raise their profile enough, unless that person already has a quite high profile.

    Sometimes political strategists come up will all kinds of bizarre convoluted theories, but I think in the case of the Alberta Party the most obvious scenario is in fact the case. A group of former PC’s are now homeless and looking for a party to takeover and recreate in their own image. It will could essentially become a battle for former PC voters between the UCP and the Alberta Party. To attract these votes the Alberta Party will have to clearly tilt a bit towards the right economically (but be more moderate on social issues), so I think its appeal to NDP voters will be limited. The Alberta Party has the advantage of not having the tarnished image of the PC’s, but it also has the disadvantage of not having any legacy voters. I think these tend to cancel each other out.

    I think it will become the third party in our province, to some extent replacing the PC’s, but I don’t think it will become number two or number one in the next few years, unless they somehow get a really fantastic leader.

    Reply
  4. POGO

    November 14th, 2017

    Passin’ through my old home town for a long weekend was a real eye opener! You people have really got to get your moral relativism together! As far as I could determine, you’re all pretty decent folk. The sad fact was, I realized that like my favourite animals, you are easily herded by loud noises! Hate the gays? Hate deficits? Hate your neighbour because he/she is cashing a government pay-cheque while be trans? Nah. One on one I’d convert everyone of you supposed bigots. You’ve just been manipulated! Tell the instigation squad to iron their short pants and fornicate their way back to Kansas where Rob Anders, Ezra Levant, and our new knight of darkness, Jason Kenney come from.

    Reply
    • tom in ontario

      November 14th, 2017

      Kansas? Nope, they’re from Alabama, home of Judge Roy Moore.
      Want to get elected, stick to the three Gs.
      Love your god, hug your gun, bash those gays.

      Reply
  5. Bill Malcolm

    November 14th, 2017

    A housekeeping note. “I am sure the NDP, seemingly operating on the sound principal …”

    The last sound principal I had was in high school.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      November 14th, 2017

      Yikes! I blame auto-correct. It’s been fixed. Thanks as always. DJC

      Reply
  6. Christine Brown

    November 14th, 2017

    Ok, I know they aren’t exactly on your radar David et al, but why are the Alberta
    Liberals never mentioned in your blog! David Khan is doing an excellent job rounding up candidates for Alberta constituencies, and bringing issues to the forefront (especially PACs which I note neither the UPCs or the NDs want to touch – makes you wonder why). The Liberals are the only centrist party; the Alberta Party is just another Conservative Party, the UCP is, well, that goes without saying, and any party that racks up $90 billion in debt during their short tenure (NDs) is not getting my centrist vote.

    Reply
    • anon

      November 15th, 2017

      Yer so right Christine. The roof on my house needs replaced, but that will just put me in debt and replacing it will not put one penny in my pocket.

      Who needs them roads, hospitals, schools, or public transit? When the plaster caves in I will just tell my wife and kids we have a great balance sheet with no debt. Being a good liberal, I will buy a plastic sheet to cover the beds.

      Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      November 15th, 2017

      Christine: Alberta Liberals are frequently mentioned in my blog, although I acknowledge not as much as the NDP (which is the majority government of Alberta, after all), the UCP (which is the Opposition, and therefore by definition the government in waiting, and according to some polls likely to form the next government), and now the still-rebranding Alberta Party (which looks to become a home away from home for former PCs disillusioned with the UPC that would restore the vote split on the right the UCP was created to eliminate). All three, in my estimation, deserve coverage. The Liberals are now definitely a less significant party and, notwithstanding their storied history in this province, they are now like Social Credit little more than an insignificant fringe. I think David Khan is a fine person, but the only role he can hope to play is as a spoiler for Alberta’s substantial progressive vote. I have been proved wrong before, but once David Swann retires, I think it is very unlikely the Liberals will be able to elect anyone to the Legislature. This gives Mr. Khan the luxury of being able to advocate effectively for worthwhile causes, for example, PAC accountability legislation, on which the NDP will now probably follow his lead, but it doesn’t make the party a serious player. If anyone really has a right to complain about my coverage, it’s the supporters of Social Credit, which I really have ignored. DJC

      Reply
  7. Jim

    November 14th, 2017

    Does Katz’s money come along with Mandel? That could make a big difference.
    It is interesting talking with former PCers about Kenney and the UPC the word uncomfortable comes up a lot.

    Reply
  8. November 15th, 2017

    We’ll be running a full slate, David. Perhaps a rewrite of your blog?

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      November 15th, 2017

      I’m sorry? Where did I give the impression the Liberals wouldn’t be running a full slate? DJC

      Reply
  9. Farmer B

    November 15th, 2017

    I think the NDP, the UCP and the Liberal’s could all potentially lose votes to the Alberta Party. The question in areas like Edmonton where the NDP are strong and rural Alberta where the UCP are strong can the Alberta Party get enough votes to split the vote and influence outcomes? Area like Calgary, Red Deer, and Lethbridge will be interesting to watch. Before the UCP, Calgary certainly had the most PC support of any area in Alberta. I certainly think what was looking as a 2 horse race in 2019 could easily become a 3 horse race with well run and publicized leadership contest in the Alberta Party.

    Reply
  10. November 15th, 2017

    I think that the Alberta Party and the NDP will force Kenney’s UCP to actually come out of the closet andenunciate some clear policy for Albertan’s instead of the same old pablum that they like to peddle.

    The meaningless statements of supporting family values (whose family, whose values), law and order (as though anyone is against this), everything is Ottawa’s fault, balanced budgets, cutting Government fat (most of which they created), open for business (as though the others are not), etc, etc.

    I do not think that this BS will cut it next time around without some concrete policies and statementa of action around them. I do not think that the UCP will be successful if they run another Prentice like or a Bill Smith like campaign. The voters have become a little wiser over the past few years.

    I suspect that the last election jarred Albertan’s into realizing that broken promises, name calling, and pork barreling no longer has to be an inherent part of Alberta Politics.

    Reply
  11. David Bridger

    November 16th, 2017

    The only advantage an Alberta Party may have is in the name. In Saskatchewan we have the Sask. Party which implies that it is something other than the old PC Party which it basically is. Same people, new name.

    However since it was formed of former PC MLAs and former Liberal MLAs it worked up till now but all the former Liberal MLAs have retired from politics.

    Whether the Alberta Party can perform the same trick in Alberta remains to be seen.

    The Notley NDP are very much a centrist party.

    Reply

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