PHOTOS: Wildrose Opposition Leader Brian Jean with the kind of cow a guy doesn’t have to get up at 4 in the morning to milk. (Photo grabbed from Wildrose.ca.) Below: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Wildrose Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt, Alberta Chambers of Commerce President Ken Kobly and former Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith (Dave Cournoyer photo).
Inquiring minds want to know: what’s up with that Wildrose Party leadership review?
What the heck? Didn’t Brian Jean just save the party’s bacon, sort of, in the May 5 general election?
What’s more, the party’s constitution doesn’t require a leadership review and vote – not just yet, anyway.
It does require the membership to be asked if they want a leadership vote once in every three AGMs. The last one was in October 2013, when then-leader Danielle Smith received an endorsement of better than 90 per cent in Red Deer, so the Wildrosers could certainly have waited until next year to entertain the idea of a review. And since Mr. Jean was chosen just last spring, not long before the election, you would have thought they would have wanted to. So why now?
At AlbertaPolitics.ca, being definite outsiders when it comes to Wildrose affairs, all we have are theories. These fall into three broad categories:
- Dissension in the ranks
- Dissension in caucus
- Negotiating a merger with the Tories
Certainly picking hills to die on like fighting for the right to sleep in till noon before coming to work, not to mention calling New Democrats liars for keeping their promises, can’t be impressing too many people, even within Wildrose ranks!
So at a time and in circumstances when a strong performance by the opposition could have had business groups piling onto the Wildrose bandwagon, instead we have the NDP’s Oct. 27 budget getting pretty decent reviews from folks in many surprising places. This gives the government of Premier Rachel Notley momentum that could count for a lot later.
Example: “This budget signals we have a government willing to listen and capable of taking a measured approach to managing the province’s finances,” said a news release from … wait for it … the Alberta Chambers of Commerce! “This is what Albertans and business needs right now,” President Ken Kobly concluded in the release.
As for the Wildrose Caucus, I can’t imagine it’s in a very happy place this week, especially after the dumbness about not wanting to start work at 9 a.m. becoming the party’s No. 1 battle. Remember, most of the caucus’s 22 members represent ridings populated by the kind of people who still get up at 4 a.m. to milk the cows, even if they don’t do the milking by hand any more.
Now, think about this: Derek Fildebrandt, Mr. Jean’s pick as finance critic, arguably the second most important position in the opposition shadow cabinet, is known to be ambitious. He’s also the one responsible for complaining that by keeping its promises the NDP was misleading voters, and then picking a fight with the Globe and Mail when its reporter didn’t report the story the way he thought she should.
So there’s probably an argument as well for getting the review out of the way while Mr. Fildebrandt, a potential alternative leader, is still hopping around the room because of the self-inflicted wounds to both of his feet.
Of course, both parties still dismiss the idea for public and member consumption, especially when it comes to members of either group who might still be inclined to make donations to one party or the other.
But what do you want to bet discreet meetings of bagmen and party officials are taking place behind closed doors? I wouldn’t be surprised if conservative godfather Preston Manning is burning up the phone lines trying to do something to fix the Opposition’s lame performance. This would be especially true nowadays with some business leaders reporting back that – ahem! – they’re not really all that unhappy with the NDP.
Giving Mr. Jean a mandate now could be perceived (discreetly) as a mandate to make a merger while the Wildrose Party might still come out on top. A year from now, the number of seats in the Legislature notwithstanding, the dynamics could be quite different, with the advantage to the PCs.
So pay attention on Friday the 13th. The numbers should tell the tale. There’s not much chance, it’s said here, Mr. Jean can muster the level of support Ms. Smith did in 2013. But if he comes close, he has a future. Not close enough – 70 per cent? 60 per cent? – maybe not so much.
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.