If you want evidence the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party is done like dinner – with or without former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice sitting at the head of the table – look no further than the recent statements of Finance Minister Doug Horner.
Mr. Horner had the opportunity to do the right thing, shoulder the blame as the minister responsible for Alison Redford’s misuse of government aircraft and bow to doctrine of ministerial responsibility by resigning his portfolio in Premier pro tempore Dave Hancock’s cabinet.
Albertans would have been dumbfounded and Mr. Horner’s enemies confounded. All the more so because, as others have rightly pointed out, so few Canadian cabinet ministers do the right thing and obey the rules of the important ministerial responsibility Parliamentary convention when they’re supposed to.
We would all have been scratching our heads and asking, “Why the hell didn’t we make that man our premier?” He might even have had a chance to become the leader of the Opposition and, perhaps after a spell on the west side of the House, an Alberta premier with a mandate to govern. He’s only 53, after all. History would have viewed him with a beneficent smile, even if he never returned to politics.
Instead, he sent a defiant email to his Tory caucus – where, obviously, the knives are out for him too, just as they were a few weeks ago for Alison Redford – saying he won’t be bullied into resigning by the opposition and media. Leaked copies of Mr. Horner’s whiny and self-justifying e-pistle were soon circulating on social media, quickly leading to speculation the government is in disarray.
His message in a nutshell, like Sgt. Shultz on TV’s Hogan’s Heroes: “I saw nothing!” (You can read the whole sorry thing here.)
And for what? A few weeks more of a cabinet minister’s pay – because, sure as heck, there’s not much chance Jim Prentice or whichever of the other two wins the race to become Alberta’s final PC premier, will allow Mr. Horner into his cabinet. Not unless he has an urge for assisted political suicide, anyway.
For the opportunity to spend a few days more associating with the leftovers and dead-enders from Ms. Redford’s cabinet who make up Mr. Hancock’s ministry? I’m astonished the Opposition parties haven’t started handing out “most wanted” playing cards with the faces of Redford cabinet ministers on them in preparation for the post-election de-Toryfication campaign!
The right-wing commentariat – possibly sensing a behind-the-scenes deal between the men – is gleefully calling on Mr. Prentice to toss Mr. Horner over the side the instant he assumes the reins of power. And in this case, who can blame them?
Look no farther that Mr. Horner’s attitude if you seek evidence that the legendary sense of entitlement of the PC Party still exists, despite the shocks that have been administered to its insiders in recent weeks. In spite of moments of lucidity, these people find it very hard to believe their time may be over, and this quaint faith in the permanence and rightness of their mandate clouds their judgment, as it seems to have clouded the normally clear-sighted Mr. Horner’s.
In March, terrified at their plummeting polls and growing hostility among voters who traditionally supported them because of the seemingly unending scandals about Ms. Redford’s use of government aircraft, first-class foreign travel, vanity building project atop a government building and a general sense of entitlement, the caucus fired the then-premier and replaced her with the hapless Mr. Hancock while a permanent replacement was sought.
The sacrifice of Ms. Redford, however, appears not to have eased the fury of Alberta’s voters one bit. Now the caucus seems to be turning on the finance minister, whose ministry was responsible for the government air fleet that Ms. Redford appears to have used as her personal taxi service.
Meanwhile, the three PC leadership candidates are squabbling over whether they should have a TV debate! After all, they say, the winner of the race will be the next premier of Alberta. But hardly anyone outside the chattering classes gives a hoot. We all sense we’re almost finished with these guys, and the sooner the better.
They can have a TV debate if they want, the public seems to be thinking. The event will be incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial, as prosecutor Hamilton Burger used to shout at TV’s Perry Mason. (No relation to Brian.) They can’t even give away PC party memberships any more!
Mr. Horner is a smart guy. He has been an unusually competent cabinet minister. But after his refusal to take responsibility for the blunders perpetrated on his watch, history is unlikely to view him much more kindly than the rest of Ms. Redford’s cabinet. And the probability is high he will be the next victim of the terror that his gripped the still barely governing PC caucus.
Barring another “Miracle on the Prairies” – which at this point would be … miraculous – about the only questions remaining are when and how he’ll be forced to walk the plank.