PHOTOS: UFA fuel stations today dot Alberta, giving hope to the remnants of the once mighty PC Party’s membership, who could transform the former political entity into something like this. Below: A shifty looking premier John Brownlee, who led his government to an unhappy end, and premier Jim Prentice, who did the same thing, although not for nearly as interesting a reason.

Now that the Orange Team has crushed the Blue Team and Blue Team Captain Jim Prentice has taken his ball and gone home, we must ask the difficult question of what is to become of the swiftly exiting former premier’s previously dynastic Progressive Conservative Party?

As an organization that for some years has had no reason to exist but to remain in power, and which is now pathetically reduced to the third party in the Legislature, it seems probable that the PCs will rapidly wither and die as a political entity. Even the political science professionals agree with this assessment.

If only soon-to-be-Opposition leader Brian Jean will let them, the 10 remaining PC MLAs will likely slink across the floor of the Legislature to join the (not so) Green Team as soon as circumstances permit. (It is unclear as yet, in light of the potential cost of apostasy against Wildrose dogma by its current MLAs, if MLAs crossing the floor to join the Wildrose caucus will be paid $100,000…)

Regardless, the hostile reverse takeover of the PC party dreamed of by Preston Manning and his backers will at last be complete – although not in quite the triumphant form they had imagined.

After that, as they say, there will be nothing left of the PCs but the memories, and those will not be particularly pleasant ones.

Well, that would be a sad day for an institution that played such a huge role in the lives of so many Albertans for so many years, so I am here to propose an alternative, happier scenario that provides opportunities for the party, its members, and many unemployed MLAs alike.

Why don’t the Alberta Progressive Conservatives tear a page from the history of the United Farmers of Alberta and restructure into a commercial venture?

Alert, and very old, readers of this blog will recall that the UFA, which started out as a farm lobby group in the first decade of the 20th century, formed a majority government with 38 of 61 seats in the Alberta Legislature after contesting the 1921 general election as a political party. The UFA also elected two members of Parliament the same year.

You may not be aware of this, but you have the UFA Government to thank for the legal sale of brew in beer parlours in this province, not to mention the important fact Alberta gained control of its own natural resources in 1929 under the UFA, even if the now-departing PC Government eventually decided just to give them away to foreigners.

Alas, notwithstanding such major policy successes, things went south not long after that with the Great Depression and the revelations in 1934 that UFA leader and premier John Brownlee (for whom the Brownlee court house in Edmonton is named) was being sued for seducing the 18-year-old daughter of a family friend, a stenographer in the Attorney General’s Department.

Premier Brownlee blamed the scandal on the Liberals, another political party that all but disappeared in this year’s provincial election, accusing them of being part of a vast conspiracy involving the unfortunate young woman for political gain. This, however, is not related the sorry state of the modern Alberta Liberal Party, after Raj Sherman led it over the edge.

Mr. Brownlee was forced to resign in disgrace in 1934 and the UFA was completely wiped out in the next year’s election, which saw the rise of William Aberhart’s Social Credit Government, which captured 56 of the 63 seats in the Legislature.

Faced with destruction of Biblical proportions – an image, surely, that would have appealed to Mr. Aberhart – in 1939, the UFA disbanded its political arm but hung around as a farm supply business, which eventually became the chain of more than 100 rural fuel stations that still operate throughout Alberta. (Readers may follow the links in this story for assurance that I am not making any of this up.)

Which brings us to the present and what the PCs could consider doing now that the May 5 election has ended so badly for them – if for considerably less salacious reasons than those that spelled the doom of the UFA government in 1935.

Clearly, the time is right to restructure the party as a chain of urban fuel stations – just the thing for a new century of transportation, complete with alternate fuels and electrical charging points.

Since the price of oil is bound to bounce back sooner than Mr. Prentice tried to persuade us to believe, this could even make current PC members – say, those Albertans who still hold Alberta PC Party cards – fabulously wealthy, or at least in line for a small rebate cheque once or twice a year if they buy enough gas with their PC credit card.

They could even adopt a slogan like “Choose Alberta’s Future (Fuel)” and reintroduce personalized pump-jockey service employing some of the many former PC MLAs, chiefs of staff, sympathetic deputy ministers and the like who are now looking for work in the private sector.

Personally, I look forward to gassing up – or recharging – my personal transportation device with green fuel under the Blue PC oval while I grumble about how the decades-old NDP Dynasty led by revered Premier Rachel Notley’s less successful successors still hasn’t imposed a carbon tax.

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  1. Entertaining idea…

    On a more serious note, what now becomes of the tax increases brought in by the PCs shortly before the writ was dropped, like the “sin taxes” on booze & smokes, or the higher motor fuel tax? These tax increases, part of the Prentice Government’s budget that died on the order paper at dissolution, never passed the Legislature to become law. Does everyone who filled up their vehicle, bought a case of beer or a bottle of wine, or a pack of coffin nails, now get to go back and ask for a refund? What of the health levy, which Rachel Notley labelled the “waiting room tax”, and was supposed to kick in July 1st, and which employers were no doubt tweaking their payroll software to implement? Do they now turn all that work around?

    For years, the PC governments have treated the Legislature like a rubber stamp, as though it were all just useless formalities that got in the way. Most recently, and egregiously, we saw Mr Prentice ordering around a Legislature committee like his own personal staff. But those forms and formalities have a purpose. Much of the entire evolution of parliamentary democracy was rooted in the efforts of Parliament to wrest control of the public purse from the Sovereign. Parliaments through the centuries struggled, often by force of arms, to stop the Crown from collecting revenues and spending public funds without Parliamentary approval; indeed this was one of the issues that cost Charles I his head. So legislative oversight over public funds is not just a formality, it’s at the heart of our democracy.

    I hope we now see a new relationship between Government and the Legislature in this province. Ms Notley’s speech on election night set an early positive tone on this point, when she said “the Legislature belongs to you” (meaning all of us, the population of Alberta). I just hope they follow through.

    1. Jerry, spokeswoman Cheryl Oates has confirmed that the health care levy will not be implemented and neither will the extra user fees. However, the 4 cents a litre gas tax hike will stay as will the smokes and booze mark-ups and the traffic fines.

      A corporate tax hike must surely also be inevitable, although there is no chance that move will net anything like the $800M the NDP claims it will. The green eyeshades in the Finance ministry will no doubt tell her that but she’ll have to proceed anyway for political reasons. The province is bringing in more corporate tax revenue now with the rate at 10% than it did when the rate was 15.5%.

  2. I’m glad the NDP won. I’m glad the PCs lost.

    However, this is no the time to gloat. Besides, it’s kind of unseemly. I don’t have any sympathy for the PCs. My attitude is we shouldn’t waste time on losers. There is simply too much cleaning up to do.

    We have golf courses to sell, board members to kick out, and we need to stop all this shredding that’s going on at a furious pace. It’s also time to cancel all these multi-million dollar sweetheart deals with Alberta’s one-percenters who’ve had 44 years of non stop orgies at the public trough.

    We also have cuts to health care and post-secondary institutions to reverse, and a provincial sales tax to establish.

  3. Just a question David, where the hell are those 3 Taxpayers Association guys when you need them. All that money for severance allowances? Geez I thought that those 3 guys would be right on it! I also thought that that Fraser Institute guy would chomping at the free market bit and condemning those sweetheart deals! I wonder if those 4 guys voted NDP?

  4. Organizational renewal? Forget about that.

    First on the list will be a last minute thorough cleaning of the trunk of Prentice’s 55 T-bird. To remove all trace of blood from the area after being used in a mafia-style execution. Blood? Really? I’m going out on a limb here and suggest the blood belongs to the person or persons responsible for talking Jim into calling an early election. IMHO.

  5. If the new NDP MLAs have the same vindictive and smug attitudes as expressed here, it will be a huge case of over reach and another large government correction in 4 years. Luckily I think Rachel Knotley knows that suddenly 40% of Albertans are not true dyed-in-the-orange dippers, but that they lent her their vote, just as they lent Redford the same vote 3 short years ago.

    BTW the “pathetically reduced to the third party” PCs still received a larger share of the popular vote than the Wildrose, and together they far surpassed the NDP vote count. If the NDP is to have legs and stay a contender on the long term Alberta political scene, better things than the above must come out of their leadership.

    The PCs deserved to lose this election, that is undeniably true. However, it is a pretty bold assumption to count out a party with such a massive and entrenched political machine so very quickly. And then as the inevitable merger feelers are extended between the PCs and the Wildrose, this should send a cold shiver down the spines of the recently triumphant orange wave. One election does not a new dynasty make.

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