PHOTOS: Don’t look for a happy occasion like this any time in the near future of the Alberta Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties (grabbed from FashionEra.com). Below: Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean, Progressive Conservative Party President Katherine O’Neill and PC Party founder Peter Lougheed.
The Wildrose Conservative Party?
Sounds like the Wildrose Party’s strategic brain trust has finally reached the unhappy conclusion their great project to engineer a hostile reverse takeover of the defeated Progressive Conservative Party has come a cropper.
Well, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, so if the Wildrosers can’t get the word “Conservative” into their party’s name by hook, maybe they can do it the other way – by main force!
Leastways, it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise that since Brian Jean took over as Wildrose leader, the party has quietly registered the names Alberta Conservative Party Association and Conservative Party of Alberta Association with the province’s registrar of societies, a factoid revealed by one of Postmedia’s online Calgary publications yesterday.
Either they reckoned that with Conservative heavy hitters like Preston Manning and former prime minister Stephen Harper supporting their unite-the-Alberta-right effort it was inevitable they were going to get to use a new name with an old brand, or now that it’s obvious the project is a flop they’re just going to have to rebrand themselves.
The weekend before last, a surprisingly large throng of Progressive Conservatives gathered in convention in Red Deer – the city midway between Calgary and Edmonton that is nowadays a favourite venue for political gabfests of all persuasions – and decided they would have nothing much to with the Wildrosers.
Leastways, they elected as president Katherine O’Neill, a sharp former Globe and Mail journalist who was clearly not interested in uniting the two conservative parties on Wildrose terms. Since then, PC party insiders seem to have kicked off a bit of a charm offensive to ensure the right people know there’s a great future for their party – and, if they can attract 1,000 people to a convention at which a few months ago they’d expected 300, maybe they’re entitled to dream.
As has been said here more than once, the latest version of the Wildrose reverse-hostile-takeover scheme depended on catching the Tories when they were still reeling from their unexpected loss in May 2015 to the Alberta NDP led by Premier Rachel Notley.
With the PCs finally acting like they’re coming to terms with what happened last May, chances they’ll give up and allow a party associated with much more extreme social conservative and market fundamentalist policies to take over their brand and goodwill are shrinking rapidly.
This, I suspect, is what’s behind Mr. Jean’s suggestions in a “telephone town hall” for supporters Tuesday night that the unite-the-right dream, the Wildrose version anyway, is deader than the proverbial mackerel. “We will find the brand, or keep the brand, that we like,” Mr. Jean subsequently told Postmedia’s reporter.
As has also been speculated on many times over the years in this space, the plan to duplicate Mr. Manning’s and Mr. Harper’s hostile reverse takeover of the old Progressive Conservative Party of Canada has been part of the Wildrose strategy since it was created as the Wildrose Alliance in an energy industry test-tube in 2008 to punish Tory premier Ed Stelmach for daring to think about collecting higher resource royalties for the people of Alberta.
That way, the extreme market fundamentalist and social conservative positions the Wildrose Party was created to promote would subsume the big-tent moderation that was a tradition in the PCs dating back to the days of Peter Lougheed, elected first PC premier in 1971, while retaining a brand that could woo gullible centre-right voters.
Had it worked, the entire political discourse of Alberta would have been pushed much farther to the right, just as happened in Ottawa under Mr. Harper.
The election of the NDP last year created a short-lived opportunity – now seemingly passed – to consummate this unlikely shotgun marriage.
It will now be much harder for the Wildrosers to do this, even if they can get permission from Elections Alberta to use an inherently confusing party name apparently designed to blur their very real differences with the PCs.
This may account for why the revelation the ’Rosers are flirting with the idea of officially calling themselves “Conservatives” found its way into the virtual pages of the Calgary Herald. Might as well run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes!
Meantime, presumably, the various unite-the-right efforts that have sprung up on the fringes of the conservative movement in Alberta will continue to try to raise funds so they can act as “super PACS” and evade the limits on corporate and union election spending made law by the NDP majority in its first months in power.
Moreover, as they have been doing since Tuesday’s AlbertaPolitics.ca post, media will no doubt cheerfully try to promote the idea the Alberta Liberals, with a little help from former union leader Dan MacLennan, can somehow steal enough votes from the NDP to ensure there’s a horserace worth bloviating about come 2019.
Welcome to the new Alberta, where politics are actually interesting!
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.