PHOTOS: Premier Jim Prentice in his new role as Supreme Leader of Alberta. He didn’t tell the Committee on Legislative Offices how to vote, nor would he ever do so. After a while, the PC members just knew they had to do the right thing. Who can explain why the Opposition acts as it does? Below: the Conservative members of the committee make their votes known yesterday. Don’t worry. The committee is still completely independent, and its members are all thoughtful individuals who know their own minds. Like these pictures, nothing that has anything to do with politics in Alberta appears exactly as illustrated. Bottom: French toast en français.


Darn that Canadian Constitution anyway! It’s forcing Alberta’s Wildrose Party-Progressive Conservative coalition to pretend this is a democracy, wasting time and causing embarrassment.

Without that inconvenient document, forced down the throats of unwilling Albertans with their unappetizingly bilingual cornflakes a couple of generations ago by the hated Pierre Trudeau, Alberta strongman Jim Prentice could just fire his MLAs for incompetence like any other self-respecting dictator. I mean, seriously, didn’t he just say they deserved to be canned?

Instead, thanks to the perfidious and sneaky Liberal prime minister, Mr. Prentice  has to pretend his MLAs have minds of their own, even while he subjects them to reeducation behind closed doors for mistakenly imagining they were allowed to think for themselves and vote accordingly.

I mean, really! How dumb can you be?

This gave rise to the excruciatingly cringeworthy spectacle yesterday of the Legislature’s supposedly independent Committee on Legislative Offices shamefacedly meeting and changing their vote from what they thought it was supposed to be a week ago, and then having to tell the media that this was a thoughtful and measured decision because, erm, you know, circumstances have changed!

You see, exactly a week ago, the PC-dominated committee voted to restore $546,000 to the AG’s budget that it turned out Mr. Prentice wanted cut. Wow! Talk about embarrassing!

Poor Mr. Prentice immediately had to call a news conference and reassure Albertans that he was overruling the committee’s decision.

That wouldn’t have been such a big problem if there hadn’t turned out that that constitution thing insisted MLAs can’t be told how to vote. Now, you may call that “responsible government,” but it’s not how we define responsible government in Alberta, where if you’re and MLA you’re responsible to the premier and that’s all you need to know.

So, yesterday, the committee had to all got together again and vote to take back that $546,000, like they were supposed to in the first place, while pretending this was all part of a thoughtful plan, which has the opposition, the less well behaved section of the media (fortunately small), the blogosphere, and most of the rest of Canada snickering at Alberta again.

Seriously, people, committee members kept telling the journalists who bothered to show up, we’re still independent. Really.

As for the Premier’s Office, it had to issue a statement explaining that Mr. Prentice is much too busy thinking about what to cut next to be ordering around committee members who, after a week of thinking about it, realized all on their own that they’d made a big mistake and got to work putting it right.

“The premier made his views with respect to the Auditor General’s budget known last week, and today the committee met to reconsider that budget,” a spokesthingy said on Mr. Prentice’s behalf, at any rate.

As for the two Opposition members on the committee, David Eggen of the NDP and Laurie Blakeman of the Alberta Liberals, they didn’t change their votes, which just means they’ll never be invited to play in the PC sandbox like the members of the Wildrose Party. Who can explain why Opposition members act as they do, or for that matter, why we even have Opposition members?

The fact the PC members of the committee obeyed the Premier’s wishes “reflects very badly on this committee and very badly on the premier,” Ms. Blakeman sniffed, a deeply shocking and hurtful thing to say to an Alberta Tory that will never be forgotten and never be forgiven.

Yes, a week is a long time in politics. But here in Alberta, a political week is eternity!

If only Opposition members, bloggers and the occasional smart-aleck reporter (the CBC’s John Archer, c’mon down!) could be made to straighten up and fly right like a PC MLA, stuff could be disappeared right down the Memory Hole where it belongs before you could whistle a bar of Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree.

On the bright side, from the premier’s perspective, this little imbroglio drove the funding cuts to the Child Advocate right out of the news pages. Who can afford luxuries like investigating the deaths of children in care when you have oil companies to look after?

How many Alberta Tory MLAs does it take to screw in a light bulb? Two. One to screw in the light bulb and one to check with the premier to make sure they’re supposed to screw it in.

Some serious questions for readers about nomenclature

I have been seriously troubled about what to call the political entity now running Alberta. The Wildrose Party-Progressive Conservative Coalition is unwieldy, and calling it a coalition may hurt some of its members’ feelings.

Anyway, you could argue it’s not really a coalition anyway if its few progressive Progressive Conservatives have been commanded to sit in their places with sunshiny faces and shut the flip up.

I’ve thought of just calling it the Wildrose Party, but then what do you call, you know, the Wildrose Party? One thought is to call Mr. Prentice’s version the Provisional Wildrose Party and Opposition Leader Heather Forsyth’s tiny band the Official Wildrose Party. When fighting breaks out, we could just use the shorthand of Provos and Officials.

Or maybe not. Anyway, I’d appreciate the guidance of readers on how to handle this.

In a related matter, now that Mr. Prentice has concluded he is Alberta’s dictator and premier for life, what should his dictator nickname be? The Guide of the Cordillera? The Light of the Oil Sands? Or just El Maximo Lider, with Danielle Smith in the role of his sidekick Che?

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  1. While I do not disagree with your arguments, the quandary Mr Prentice is in is much older, and goes much deeper, than the 1982 Constitution Act. The constitutional roots of Responsible Government in Canada date back to the Durham Report of 1838, and the first Responsible Government in what we now call Canada was established in the then colony of Nova Scotia 10 years later. Furthermore, the principles of Westminster-style parliamentary democracy were established 200 years earlier, in the mid-17th century, when Stuart King Charles I lost his head over the supremacy of Parliament over Crown.

    What we are seeing develop in Alberta, is a phony democracy, like postwar Japan under the Liberal-Democratic Party, or PRI-era Mexico, or Putin’s Russia, with Vladimir Prentice in the role of dictator. I wonder what the next outrage will be, and who will be Alberta’s Oliver Cromwell to finally put a stop to it?

  2. How about giving Prentice the nickname “Bit Bull” – the bitumen sandbox bully, and undisputed leader of the Regressing Conserva-Rosies.

  3. Regarding the Prentice mode of demonstrating disdain for democratic processes at the legislature, Frank Dabbs wrote an analysis that seems quite insightful and prescient.

    excerpt: …Klein has consolidated the unwritten constitutional framework for a workable one-party state, now so deeply entrenched in Alberta’s economy and political culture that it may never be dislodged.

    He has completed the creation of the first functional post-democratic government in North America, run by elites for elites — with the citizenry left on political standby to profit from a predatory economy if it can, and otherwise to fend for itself.

    What is more breathtaking is that this constitutional coup d’état has taken place within the framework of the law, without the need of a secret midnight cabal, and is accepted (or at least acquiesced to) as one more Alberta Advantage.


    excerpt: Klein’s political creature is not quite a plutocracy, not quite an oligarchy, not quite an autocracy and not quite a Canadian Family Compact. Neither is it quite a democracy.

    ‘…Laxer wrote last year…

    “Real democracy requires the idea of the good of the community. Real democracy challenges, indiscriminately and irreverently, all forms of privilege. In Alberta, people are no longer portrayed as citizens and wage earners in a democratic community. They are now consumers, investors and stakeholders, acting as individuals in the private marketplace. Everything public is discredited.”

    Excerpt: A longer version of this essay ……/dabbssep2006.pdf


    I think Dabb’s piece explains that the Prentice’ mode was enabled by the Ralph years.

    And during those years, were there many, if any in the RW punditry/political class complaining back then about Ralph and crew’s ‘Dome disease’ disdain for democratic process? I remember them mostly cheering Ralph and thereby endorsing the contempt for the legislature, for opposition parties, for debate.

    Is Prentice not now simply acting in sync with that ‘corporate’ political culture that long ago reduced democracy to a veneer in AB?

    To the PrenticePC+WRP coalition, the legislature/gov’t dept’s/agencies+AB citizenry is not much different than having their own corporation+employees to be cut or divested as they see fit. Of course in a joint-venture with the petro-elites, Chambers of Commerce, ABEnterprise, etc of course.

  4. How many PC MLAs does it take to screw in a lightbulb? One to screw it in, one to pay the oil lobby for the privilege of screwing it in, and one to blame the old broken lightbulb on organized labour.

    Btw, I would suggest calling the current government the WildRose Party and, since they have reverted back to their pre-oil-money fringe status, that other party can revert back to it’s old moniker, the Wildrose Alliance Party.

  5. Tip of the hat to everyone in this space.

    I can only suggest one thing. Leonid Prentice and the Eat the Future Gang.

    I understand the Frasier Institute are already wagging their finger of blame on the intolerable largesse of previous Alberta governments (who was that?) for not having already fired everyone. Sigh.

  6. My suggestion for Premier Prentice’s nom de guerre would be “The Botcher’s Apprentice”. He’s the newest PC premier to make the old mistakes of the journeymen PC premiers before him.

    The twitch many PCWRP MLA’s have developed lately has led me to rename the governing party “The Bobbles”.

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