The captain of the RMS Wildrose and her officers slip quietly away from their sinking ship in the darkness. Actual Wildrose leaders may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith and Wildrose House Leader Rob Anderson. Both are expected to be rewarded for abandoning ship with cabinet posts in PC Premier Jim Prentice’s government.
As of today – even before we are certain of everything that has happened in the last 48 hours or what will happen in the next 48 – we can be confident of this: the Wildrose Party is finished.
I do not mean it’s washed up in some metaphorical sense, or that the party is simply unlikely to win the next election.
No, I mean that thanks to the deal cooked up between the leadership of Opposition Leader Danielle Smith’s party and Premier Jim Prentice’s unreformed Progressive Conservatives, whatever the details are, the Wildrose phenomenon is done like dinner.
Even if it has a half-life in the Legislature as the rural Wildrump Party, it will be as electoral zombies, the living dead.
Even if by some miracle Mr. Prentice’s PC caucus grew some principles and told the Wildrose surrender party to go to blazes, the remaining shattered caucus would have not a shred of credibility.
No one will now want to be associated for long with a name that will become a synonym for perfidy and surrender, undignified and unsavoury. Any holdouts of the Wildrose Legislative caucus who decline to make the humiliating walk to bow before Mr. Prentice’s throne would do better to rename themselves Social Credit!
Indeed, the only reason left for them to hold out now is to fight over the party’s substantial war chest – raised in significant part from small donations given by the party’s now-scorned true believers.
In an act of cowardice and duplicity that is genuinely shocking – and these strong words are completely fair and reasonable under the circumstances – the principal leaders of the party have abandoned their followers and their principles as well, if they ever really had any.According to media reports, Ms. Smith is expected today to lead most of her pathetic caucus to Mr. Prentice’s PC benches in the Legislature. This is a development unprecedented in Canadian Parliamentary history. Rumours say she will be rewarded with the meaningless bauble of the deputy premiership, and Wildrose House Leader Rob Anderson with another cabinet post.
For those of us with a healthy skepticism about what motivates the principal figures of the Canadian right, the self-interested self-immolation of Alberta’s Wildrose Opposition over the past few days is nevertheless both astonishing and genuinely contemptible.
Carried out in secret, without a whisper of what they planned to their own supporters, the Wildrose captain and her leadership elite silently slipped into the lifeboats and rowed stealthily away from their sinking ship. Their presumptive goal: to put their own careers and wellbeing ahead of the sacrifice and effort of their adherents.
Together with the Progressive Conservatives they claimed to despise, who until a few days ago they described as the archfiend incarnate, they will now create, in the words of their articles of unilateral surrender to Premier Jim Prentice, “the most ethical and transparent government in Canada.”
Oh please! It is to laugh aloud. Or, for their naïve supporters, to cry tears of bitterness and shock, as many of them were doing yesterday on Twitter and other social media sites.
They’ll get over it, the persuasive Mr. Prentice presumably told the Wildrose leaders as he wooed them. I am not so sure. Their supporters’ sense of betrayal, if you ask me, is entirely warranted, and will run deep.
Whatever new expanded PC party emerges once the dust has settled in a day or two will be dedicated to two principles only: preserving the entitlement of its insiders, who will now include Ms. Smith and Mr. Anderson, and ensuring that Alberta’s bitumen flows unvexed to the sea.
The PCs’ strategy at least is understandable – and more in character – but they too hardly come off smelling like a rose. As was pointed out by many ordinary Albertans of all political stripes on social media yesterday, the PCs aimed their last campaign at the electorate’s mushy middle, promising mild progressivism in contrast to the Wildrosers’ frightening social conservatism.
And then they did this! Well, seriously, what did you expect? Except for Mr. Prentice and his ministers of health and education, these are exactly the same people who cheered Alison Redford through the last three bizarre years.
They fooled you once, so shame on them. No need to say anything more about that!
Surely the cynicism and contempt of Albertans for the Wildrose will run deeper than for the eternal Tories, if only because they pretended to be something a little different – and they fooled us for a spell, even some of us who didn’t support their market fundamentalist program.
No one said politics is easy. But history is rife with the names of people who accomplished something by sticking to their principles, and continuing to fight when the odds said their goals seemed impossible.
As the oft-quoted American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead so famously said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Well, if we imagined those at the front of the Wildrose Party comprised a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens, we have now been set straight. Danielle Smith, it’s said here, could have changed Alberta. But even if she becomes the deputy premier for a spell, she will sink into well-deserved obscurity before the decade is over.
What happened? No jam! The wind went out of Ms. Smith’s sails when she and her advisors realized it wouldn’t be all that easy. Anyone could run a successful campaign against Alison Redford. Jim Prentice was a tougher customer.
So when they hit a speed bump and won none of the Oct. 27 by-elections, the party shattered into a thousand pieces of glass.
In fact, their supporters were tougher than their leaders and could have made a good showing in the next election. But I guess winning by increments built up through hard work in opposition didn’t meet the schedule preferred by Ms. Smith and Mr. Anderson.
What happens next remains to be seen. Someone will form the opposition. Maybe the Liberals for a spell; maybe the Wildrump, if there are enough of them. There will be a fight over the money and someone will win it. Ms. Smith will smile and get to make a few announcements. Mr. Prentice will plead poverty and call an early election before the RCMP reminds us of all the things Ms. Redford got up to. This being Alberta, it’ll probably work.
You know what? I often complain that my Alberta New Democrats have very little to show for their stick-to-itiveness and principles beyond “moral victories.”
But I’d sure as hell rather have an Alberta NDP-style moral victory than suffer a collapse of principles and moral fibre the way the Wildrose Party just has!
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.