Alberta Opposition Leader Brian Jean now officially ‘embattled’ as Wildrose insurrection appears to spread

Posted on June 10, 2016, 12:38 am
8 mins

PHOTOS: Is Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean contemplating being given the boot by his party’s radicals … or giving it to them? (Wildrose.ca photo.) Below: Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills MLA David Hanson (photo also from Wildrose.ca), Twitter information curator Dave Beninger and renegade MLA Derek Fildebrandt. 

Oh dear. It’s never a good sign when mainstream media starts reflexively referring to a political leader as “embattled.”

As of yesterday, though, by that semi-official journalistic yardstick, Wildrose Opposition Leader Brian Jean was officially in trouble.

CBC Calgary reported that “a Wildrose constituency association is calling for a review of Brian Jean’s party leadership, which comes as the embattled leader deals with turmoil on the personal and political fronts.” (Emphasis added, of course.)

HANSENThis cannot be hopeful news from the perspective of Mr. Jean’s ability to hang onto the leadership of his increasingly fractious and divided 22-member Legislative caucus, which has been suffering serial bozo eruptions since their leader tried to suspend a loose-cannon MLA on May 27 for appearing to endorse a constituent’s homophobic social media slur of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Moreover, Mr. Jean’s ability to control his angry and impatient party base, with its burning hatred for Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government and its imperfect grasp on the workings of constitutional democracy, may be even more tenuous.

Yesterday’s CBC report said the party’s constituency association in the Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills riding northeast of Edmonton passed a resolution Tuesday night demanding a review of Mr. Jean’s leadership take place at the party’s annual general meeting on Oct. 28.

By evening, Twitter political information curator Dave Beninger was reporting that his often reliable Wildrose sources say the rebellion is growing, with a dozen or more constituency associations and their presidents endorsing the review of Mr. Jean’s leadership at the October AGM.

“In some people’s minds, they are not happy with some of the actions that have taken place – as some were not happy with some of the actions in our previous leader,” explained Carl Christensen, the riding association’s president, in yesterday’s CBC report.

BeningerThis statement suggests at least that Mr. Christensen disapproved of Mr. Jean’s short-lived suspension of finance critic Derek Fildebrandt on May 27 for publishing his injudicious social media message, and moreover that he didn’t think former Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith ought to have decamped for the Progressive Conservative caucus with eight of her MLAs back in December 2014.

“There is a lot of Wildrosers that are really upset about this and they’re not mad at Derek,” the president of Mr. Fildebrandt’s Strathmore-Brooks constituency association said, meanwhile, after his defiant MLA’s short-lived expulsion from caucus.

The presidents of at least seven party constituency associations signed a letter on May 30 stating their “unequivocal support” for Mr. Fildebrandt and demanding that Mr. Jean readmit him to the party immediately, which Mr. Jean did the next day. By the sound of it, Mr. Fildebrandt agreed to none of the five conditions Mr. Jean tried to impose on him.

No sooner had the division over what to do about Mr. Fildebrandt apparently settled down than a brouhaha about nine Wildrose MLAs’ oddball interpretation of history hit the newswires, extending the embarrassment into a second week.

The nine – David Hanson, Rick Strankman, Grant Hunter, Dave Schneider, Wes Taylor, Ron Orr, Mark Smith, Don MacIntyre and Drew Barnes – had signed a blog post comparing the NDP Government’s carbon levy to the starvation of six to 10 million people in Ukraine during the rule of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

FildebrandtNDP Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous, a member of Alberta’s large Ukrainian diaspora, objected forcefully, and the Wildrosers eventually made the blog disappear and half-heartedly apologized.

Mr. Hanson, as it happens, is the MLA for Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, where the latest act of rebellion against Mr. Jean’s leadership has been reported.

So while the two controversies have not been publicly linked by the Wildrose Party, it is reasonable to wonder if the nine bloggers are part of the rebellion against Mr. Jean’s leadership that has been percolating within party ranks at least since his attempt to rein in Mr. Fildebrandt.

That Mr. Jean, a former Conservative Member of Parliament from Fort McMurray, deserves some credit for saving the Wildrose Party after Ms. Smith’s effort to merge its caucus with the then-governing Progressive Conservatives in 2014 appears to mean nothing at all to the radicals now loudly calling for Mr. Fildebrandt to take over.

Nor does Mr. Jean’s dignified performance during the Fort McMurray fire – in which he lost his own home, the house he grew up in and several other properties owned by his family – seem to matter a whit to this faction. He may even be in additional hot water with party extremists for co-operating with the NDP Government on the evacuation of Fort Mac on May 3 and the return of residents this week, rather than using the fire for political gain.

As Mr. Beninger observed of Mr. Jean in another Tweet, “the rebel goon crew runs this party now & they don’t want him. Brian is too nice to lead Wildrose.”

Maybe, maybe not. But if he is going to hang onto his leadership, and the chance to some day be premier of Alberta, he is going to have to be tougher than he has been up to now.

The Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills riding resolution also asked for the party constitution to be amended to hold a leadership review every year, which is hardly what a disintegrating party needs.

The Progressive Conservatives, lately the third party in the Legislature, have sat very quietly through all this.

Surely at some point, though, a representative of the PCs, who for nearly 44 years ran this province without challenge, will approach the more moderate members of the Wildrose caucus to discreetly discuss the idea of déjà vu all over again. All it would take is seven or eight for the PCs to become the Opposition in the Legislature.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

10 Comments to: Alberta Opposition Leader Brian Jean now officially ‘embattled’ as Wildrose insurrection appears to spread

  1. Valerie M.

    June 10th, 2016

    “The Progressive Conservatives… have sat very quietly through all this.” They’re probably holding their sides with laughter! Watching this party become unglued is comic relief for the dog days of summer.

    Reply
  2. Alfredo Louro

    June 10th, 2016

    “Surely at some point, though, a representative of the PCs, who for nearly 44 years ran this province without challenge, will approach the more moderate members of the Wildrose caucus to discreetly discuss the idea of déjà vu all over again. All it would take is seven or eight for the PCs to become the Opposition in the Legislature.” Obvious typo: You mean opportunistic, not moderate. There are no moderate members of the Wildrose caucus.

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      June 10th, 2016

      LOL. David wrote “…moderate members of Wildrose…”

      That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all day.

      Reply
  3. Tywin Lannister

    June 10th, 2016

    It will eventually emerge that a few of these yahoos calling for Jean’s head are really closet Conservatives, working to destroy the WR.

    Reply
    • Linda Marshall

      June 11th, 2016

      Nah, I think the WR are perfectly capable of destroying themselves. This looks very much like what has been happening across the border, where nobody is ever right wing enough to satisfy the extremists. Eventually there is nobody left but crazies.

      Reply
      • Expat Albertan

        June 11th, 2016

        I agree. This seems to be a characteristic problem with right-wing parties these days; they are full of reactionaries who don’t know how to do anything but react (to things they do not like). It’s hard to move a political movement forward with this type of mindset because the cognitive default, from both a policy and political perspective, is to always try and pull things backward.

        Reply
  4. Sam Gunsch

    June 10th, 2016

    Climenhaga writes about Jean: ‘ he is going to have to be tougher than he has been up to now.’

    That’s probably a mildly conservative take on the knives out situation Jean faces…
    if there’s any truth to the WRP machinations…that may or may not be happening around pushing Jean out, described in the post at the link:

    Wilting Roses http://albertapoliticalinsiders.kobly.com/

    FWIW… I noticed the post because Danielle Smith tweeted a link to that post which I guess is an indicator that the Wilting Rose post has some substance.

    ================
    Danielle Smith ‏@ABDanielleSmith 4h4 hours ago Calgary, Alberta

    Oh my. And now you know the rest of the story. #wrp RT @GirlyNicky1: There’s always a back story. http://albertapoliticalinsiders.kobly.com/2016/06/wilting-roses.html … #ableg

    Reply
  5. Val Jobson

    June 10th, 2016

    I wonder if some WRiPpers are angry that Jean worked with Notley at times during the Fort McMurray evacuation, instead of treating her as his deadly enemy on every possible occasion. They seem to be quite eager to see Alberta fail while the government is an NDP one.

    Will we end up with Derek the Wripper or Drew the Wripper next?

    Reply
  6. jerrymacgp

    June 12th, 2016

    I think one of the issues here, is that as a party leader, Mr Jean seems hamstrung by Wildrose Party rules that deny him the tools traditionally used by political party leaders to keep their caucus members in line. Maybe that’s the way the Wildrosers want it, but that means they will never be in a position to govern; their rabid base, some of whom are actually in caucus, refuses to stay on message, while media pundits and the voters seem to think Mr Jean should be able to exercise some control and call him weak when he can’t. Yes he is weak, because the ‘Rosers seem to want their leader, whoever it happens to be, to be weak, as a matter of principle.

    Danielle Smith was weakened when her attempts to shift the party off of their Neanderthal so-con positions was rebuffed by the
    delegates at an AGM; this was a critical precursor event to the floor-crossing fiasco.

    Reply

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