PHOTOS: Progressive Conservative interim Leader Ric McIver and Wildrose Leader Brian Jean in a rare recent moment of amity at, but of course, the Manning Centre’s Ottawa beanfest for right wingers in February 2016. This snapshot, the only one of its kind I’ve ever seen, was published by Postmedia. Below: Wildrose spokesperson Jason Nixon, perennial “united alternative” advocate Preston Manning and former NDP leader and current cabinet minister Brian Mason.
Devotees of the idea Alberta’s right must unite gathered in Red Deer Saturday and came up with a plan to form a third conservative party.
A third right-wing party? … The fourth if you count the rebranded Alberta Party? Even more if you credit the ambitions of the rather unsavoury #Kudatah clowns venting their passionate intensity in the darker corners of the Internet?
Well, perhaps Preston Manning did. The old master strategist of uniting the right is involved in this, and he may have seen something that the rest of us missed. Or maybe Alberta’s conservative movement really has disappeared down the rabbit hole in the face of the onslaught by Premier Rachel Notley and her New Democratic Party, which overwhelmed them a year ago this week.
It’s certainly hard to imagine how creating yet another right wing Alberta political party – which will be styled centre right, have no doubt, just like all the others – is going to help conservatives restore God to His heaven and make all right with the world again come the next general election, circa 2019.
Plus, it’s hard to imagine what they’re going to call this rough beast slouching toward Edmonton to be born when its hour comes round at last. After all, all the good names have been taken!
But despite these seemingly sensible arguments against the plan, the 400 or so folks who showed up in Red Deer for the inaugural meeting of the group with which Mr. Manning is associated – called Alberta Can’t Wait – voted at to form yet another Alberta conservative party as an essential step toward uniting the right.
There’s definitely something wrong with this picture, especially at a moment when – or so it seems to this observer – the NDP government is really starting to find its feet and introduce policies that have the potential to be very popular with large numbers of Albertans, notwithstanding the right’s perpetual hysteria about debt and deficits.
I can’t say I bothered to drive down to the Central Alberta city, located midway between Edmonton and Calgary, for this particular clambake, so we’re going to rely on the Calgary Herald’s account of the event.
According to the Herald, participants voted to support the principle of a new party – rather than just try to unite the two principal right wing parties they have now, the Opposition Wildrose Party and the formerly governing Progressive Conservatives.
Apparently for the time being, the Herald’s reporter explained, there will be an “unincorporated association aimed at bringing together voters” that will eventually turn into a “united alternative” – a nostalgic tip o’ the top hat to Mr. Manning’s salad days uniting the federal right, which started nearly 30 years ago and ultimately brought Stephen Harper to the PMO.
The result, according to an organizer quoted by the Herald, “is a message to Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and interim PC Leader Ric McIver” – neither of whom, significantly, bothered to attend or appear much inclined to listen.
The Herald also said the Red Deer meeting was organized by “a number of veterans of both parties,” although by my count, the list of 55 “Ambassadors” named on the group’s website, which includes Mr. Manning, runs much more heavily to Tories than Wildrosers.
Wildrose MLA Jason Nixon – who represents the riding of Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre – got to do the honours for the Opposition party, officially dismissing the Red Deer meeting as “folly,” which sounds about right to me from the Wildrose perspective.
Mr. Jean must see efforts like this as a distraction from getting to power the only party he’s ever likely to lead. The PCs under Mr. McIver are looking for a new leader, and they’re likely to choose someone inclined to position the party closer to the centre than the Wildrose will ever be or than Mr. McIver himself would take it. Example: former newscaster Sandra Jansen, definitely a Red Tory, who is reported to be contemplating a leadership bid.
So maybe, given that without any prompting those twain are likely never to meet, Mr. Manning’s minions are right to take a slightly longer view.
Still, as former NDP leader Brian Mason, now the government’s minister of transportation and infrastructure, famously cracked wise: “I like Conservative parties. I like them so much, I want there to be two of them. Or three!”
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.