PHOTOS: Sandra Jansen and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley at today’s news conference (CBC Photo). Below: Conservative leadership front-runner Jason Kenney.

Ten days ago ago she was a credible candidate for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party. This afternoon, Sandra Jansen became a member of the New Democratic Party Caucus in the provincial Legislature.

It remains to be seen how much this decision – I would say, this “courageous decision” – by the MLA for Calgary-North West will change the political calculus in Alberta. Ms. Jansen certainly must know she will suffer plenty of abuse from the conservative online rage machine’s operatives for her decision to join what she described today as a moderate and pragmatic government.

“I don’t believe that there has been anything moderate or pragmatic being offered or even discussed by the people intent on taking over the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta,” she said during an afternoon news conference with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley in Edmonton.

This was pretty obviously a shot at the social conservatives, backroom boys and federal Conservatives associated with the front-running campaign of former Harper Government cabinet minister Jason Kenney to lead the PCs – and immediately thereafter lead them into a merger with the Wildrose Opposition.

After the news conference, Ms. Jansen told media that “extremists are taking over” the party and assailed the dog-whistle messaging of some candidates – meaning Mr. Kenney.

The morning after the U.S. presidential election, Ms. Jansen dropped out of the Tory leadership race saying she had been intimidated and harassed during the PC Party’s policy convention the weekend before in Red Deer. The same day, the only other woman in the race, former Calgary MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans also gave up, saying dryly “there is limited opportunity for centrist voices to be heard” in today’s Alberta PC Party.

Capital-C Conservatives, of course, will be more polite than their online auxiliaries, but will argue Ms. Jansen’s floor crossing means nothing, that she was already too progressive for most conservative voters’ tastes. In their now-eight-member PC caucus, at least, this is probably true.

For its part, the Notley Government surely hopes Ms. Jansen can help them recover ground in Calgary, which with rural areas likely gone to the Wildrose Party will be essential to any NDP reelection plan.

Albertans have not been historically sympathetic to floor-crossers, although in this case it is hard not to wonder if the remnants of the PCs in caucus had not only rejected the social progressives in their ranks, but the women too. Regardless of what you think of that, it’s a Boys’ Club now, and this may have an impact on the attitudes of many voters.

What’s left of the PCs since the electoral debacle that struck them on May 5, 2015, and the Wildrose Opposition party too, is certainly a pale reflection of the big tent Alberta’s conservatives occupied once upon a time. “To see that legacy being kicked to the curb by extremists who are taking over the PC party has been heartbreaking to me,” Ms. Jansen told the news conference.

It seems fair to say that in Alberta today, the post-dynastic PCs – and, indeed, the entire conservative movement – are intentionally shrinking their camp to something approaching a pup tent. The pattern we saw with the federal Conservative Party’s purge of Red Tories during the Stephen Harper era seems to be being repeated now among Alberta PCs – with Mr. Harper, as previously noted in this space, playing a leading role.

Ms. Jansen’s move gives the NDP 55 seats in the Legislature. She will no doubt sit in the backbenches for a spell, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the former broadcaster given a cabinet post in the New Year.

Stephen Carter, the well-known political operative who was playing a key role in Ms. Jansen’s PC Leadership campaign, is thought to have acted as a go-between in her talks with the NDP.

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  1. Finally some good news! This is great for all Albertans. I commend Sandra Jansen for doing the right thing.

    Last week I wrote:
    I echo that sentiment. There’s a saying, ” You lie with dogs then you get fleas.”

    Perhaps now they will appreciate the kinds of knuckle draggers PCs and Wildrosers are. Next time pick a more progressive party to join.

    Still, it’s kind of sad these two women have chosen to give up trying to civilize the right wing, and basically hand it to a Harperite like Kenney. I guess the job of keeping him and his RWNJs in check will fall to the NDP supporters.

    I am so glad she chose to run with a civilized party and delouse in the process. This is one floor crossing we can all support.

    1. Hmmmm… The very same day the NDP welcomed newly Conservative Manitoba into the New West Partnership Trade Agreement – yet another neo-liberal corporate rights deal, this one a domestic one, that no social democratic government should be part of. They really are just starting to sound like another small-c conservative government, granted one with a few principles. Sandra Jansen should feel right at home.

      1. The irony is pretty thick: another NDP government supporting corporate rights at the expense of citizens.

        I believe Climenhaga may be correct to say the NDP has lost rural Alberta. If so, it is because the Alberta NDP is following the same suicidal path as the Romanow NDP in Saskatchewan, the Nova Scotia NDP and the Manitoba NDP by ignoring their base. In rural Alberta it is Harper policy as usual and it is being represented by an NDP Ag Minister who cannot walk and chew gum at the same time.

  2. Gene Zwozdesky was originally elected as a Liberal, then crossed the floor to the PCs. I still feel bitter about it, since I made a point of showing Liberal Zwozdesky support by seeking out a lawn sign.

  3. How will this play out with the NDP constituency caucus in Calgary-North West?

    The Dippers, with Karen Mills, came within 3% of taking the seat there last year.

  4. Given the treatment Ms. Jansen endured after announcing her leadership bid, she made the right decision joining a party that reflects her political views more closely. The blame for her crossing the floor lays squarely with the conservatives who did not deal with her complaints thereby sending a clear message that women are not to be supported. There is no longer anything ‘progressive’ in the PC party, and one can only hope that Albertans will reject the regressive conservatives at the next election.

  5. Kudos to Ms. Jansen.

    Kenney’s “vision” for Alberta is pretty disturbing. The lengths to which he and his backers will go to impose their narrow and bigoted views on the rest of Alberta also very disturbing. Whatever works, eh, no matter how underhanded and deceitful. Winning isn’t just the main thing, eh, guys? It’s the only thing.

    Do I detect the backroom machinations of “The Wiz” Flanagan?

  6. Floor-crossing has a long and honourable history in Westminster-style parliaments & legislatures, with one of its most noted practitioners having been the Mother of Parliaments’ most famous alumnus, Sir Winston Churchill (who did it not once, but twice). What Ms Jansen clearly understood, is that she is not leaving the PC Party, but the PC Party is leaving her in their dust as they are dragged to the right by the Kenney insurgency.

  7. I certainly agree that the NDP has no support in rural Alberta and that Calgary will be the battleground in the next election. I am not surprised Stephen Carter had a hand in this, after all he played a big part in Alison Redford’s electoral success. The question is will Albertan’s be fooled again with the playing of the fear card, the fear of intolerance,the fear of the right wing agenda. We fell for that arguement once and got Alison Redford, we won’t be fooled again!

    1. There is no need to be fooled again, or to be swayed by any kind of fear that would lead to electing another Redford-like premier.

      We have a great premiere in Rachel Notley. All we have to do is continue to vote her in as our premier next election.

      There; problem solved.

      1. Yes, I think Calgary will be a major battleground in the next election, in part because of its size and because of its reluctance to embrace some of the more right wing and social conservative ideas. However, I don’t think that rural Alberta will only support one party. There is bit more diversity in rural Alberta than may be immediately obvious to some.

        If the right wing doesn’t want to be accused of intolerance, then they need to stand up against it, not excuse it or ignore it. If the right wing doesn’t want to be accused of having a hidden agenda then they need to let us know how they plan to balance the budget and let us know how many schools and hospitals they will close to do so or how many teachers and nurses they will lay off. How do they plan to reduce carbon emissions? It is easy to criticize, but so far they haven’t put forth much in the way of alternative plans.

    1. Mr Carter has now worked to serve the interests of all three of Wildrose, PCs, and NDP in recent years. I’m at a loss as to why his counsel is so indispensable.

      I knew Carter’s company had defaulted on almost $600,000 in court-ordered judgments before he went to work for Danielle Smith. That didn’t stop him from being picked up by Alison Redford, and here he is prising an MLA out of the PC caucus.

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