Now that Alberta’s Opposition United Conservative Party has been around for a year – it’s first anniversary was on Sunday – we note that the right-wing party has seen the resignation of no fewer than six of its MLAs for various reasons in its first year of operation.
In fairness, it must be conceded that only three of these resignations were due to serious scandals.
The year started with the rolling turmoil of Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt’s various shenanigans, which included over the course of the year, illegal hunting, hit-and-run, iffy expense claims, and the misuse of his housing allowance. As a result, Mr. Fildebrandt now sits as an Independent.
Notwithstanding his latest political venture as interim leader of the Freedom Conservative Party, the former Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation spokesthingy can take some solace in the fact he is not the biggest embarrassment to the UCP.
That dubious distinction belongs to the former MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, Don MacIntyre, once merely the party’s Angry Santa impersonator, who resigned after being charged with a serious criminal offence. That matter remains before the courts.
Then came the recent resignation of Calgary-Greenway MLA Prab Gill, accused of ballot stuffing, an activity some wags describe as emblematic of the UCP’s strong commitment to democracy.
Alberta’s next general election is expected next year, slightly before the UCP will celebrate its second year in existence. Given the party’s track record of a scandal every three or four months, and a resignation every second month, it seems possible its roster will be pruned again before election day.
As a result, here at AlbertaPolitics.ca we felt it was incumbent upon us to offer a sober analysis of which UCP MLAs are most likely to follow the footsteps of Mr. Fildebrandt et. al.
For help, we turned to famed Las Vegas odds-maker Jimmy “The Geek” Porcospino,* who set this year’s resignation odds for each member of the UCP Caucus. Here they are, with Jimmy’s observations:
Jason Kenney, party leader and MLA for Calgary-Lougheed, Vegas odds, 1,000 to 1 – kind of creepy, but large and in charge, therefore highly unlikely to have to resign.
Leela Aheer, deputy party leader and MLA for Chestermere-Rocky View, 500-1 – bright, loyal and personable, she is also very unlikely to have to resign, although not nearly as unlikely as Mr. Kenney.
Tany Yao, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, 500-1 – no Conservative MLA has ever gotten in trouble for being indolent.
Wayne Drysdale, Grande Prairie-Wapiti, 100-1 – one of the party’s few holdovers from its Progressive Conservative days, he’s managed to survive unscathed despite serving in the turbulent Redford years and in cabinet under Jim Prentice. There seem to be no skeletons in his closet. There was talk of him joining the Alberta Party, but it went away, and anyway, he plans to go away too after the next election.
Angela Pitt, Airdrie, 100-1 – controversial in UCP circles, possibly because she’s a woman, but she just won a tough nomination fight. Google searches of “Angela Pitt Scandal” bring up nothing but stories about the marriage of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Mark Smith, Drayton Valley-Devon, 100-1 – his private members’ bill to help caregivers protect people with mental health disorders was passed with unanimous support of the Legislature. He seems to be everywhere in his riding at once – so he probably doesn’t have time in his schedule to get into trouble.
Prasad Panda, Calgary-Foothills, 100-1 – was loyal to Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and seems loyal to Mr. Kenney, doesn’t appear to be dangerously ambitious, and he’s an engineer, always a good thing in Calgary.
Drew Barnes, Cypress-Medicine Hat, 50-1 – the Barnes Brand is crazy climate-change denialism … therefore, he’s pretty safe in southeastern Alberta.
David Hanson, Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, 50-1 – doesn’t seem to have tweeted in more than a year. Barely exists on Facebook. If nothing else, he’s less likely than most to have a social media mishap.
Scott Cyr, Bonnyville-Cold Lake, 50-1 – seems smart, acts normal, not running again.
Pat Stier, Livingstone-Macleod, 50-1 – rhymes with Cyr, and likewise is not seeking re-election.
Ric McIver, Calgary-Hays, 20-1 – other than giving up the last letter of his first name for reasons unknown, the only whiff of wingnuttery about Ric is that he used to hang around with Artur Pawlowski, the Calgary street pastor who believes gays have been deceived by Satan. Still, he’s a former interim PC leader, always a risk factor when Mr. Kenney’s nearby.
Laila Goodridge, Fort McMurray-Conklin, 20-1 – this new MLA hasn’t received much scrutiny so far, so if there’s anyone who might surprise us, it could be her. That said, since the UCP can’t afford to lose any of its few female MLAs – especially when it’s waging a vendetta against former Conservative Sandra Jansen, the NDP’s infrastructure minister – she’d probably weather most any scandal!
Rick Strankman, Drumheller-Stettler, 20-1 – not the sharpest knife in the UCP drawer, but he was promoted to hero by Stephen Harper after being jailed for illegally running barley across the border. A climate change denier, but since when was that a problem in Dinosaur Country, where nothing’s gone wrong for Conservatives since the Mesozoic Era?
Wes Taylor, Battle River-Wainwright, 20-1 – the lame sign guy, but that would be a point in his favour with Mr. Kenney, late of the CTF. Has a heart condition, plans to retire and won’t run again.
Devin Dreeshen, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, 10-1 – this brand new, 30-year-old, Trump-supporting MLA has already shown an aptitude for being out-of-step with Albertans. But while his MAGA hat may not endear him to many, he’s probably picked up a few things about political survival from his father, two-term MP Earl Dreeshen.
Wayne Anderson, Highwood, 10-1 – in the contentious Highwood nomination battle, Mr. Anderson made some enemies, so if there’s any dirt on him Conservatives know about, someone’s bound to leak it. Some of his constituents also didn’t like it when he failed to embrace their hysterical rural crime cause.
Glenn van Dijken, Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock, 10-1 – this MLA is very quiet. Too quiet? It’s always the quiet ones you have to look out for, isn’t it?
Mike Ellis, Calgary-West, 10-1 – bright, a former Calgary cop, so knows how to stay in line … it’s that paramilitary discipline. Still, the Calgary Police Service has been a hotbed of mistakes these past few years.
Grant Hunter, Cardston-Taber-Warner, 5-1 – reputed to be difficult to work with, and has a track record for saying inappropriate things at inopportune moments. So this MLA has potential to foot-in-mouth his way to an early exit. Still, he has the stamp of approval from his church, the one with a lot of clout down Cardston way, which amounts to a political get-out-of-jail card.
Todd Loewen, Grande Prairie-Smoky 5-1 – looks like Leonard Cohen with a Beatles haircut. This is unnerving. He also accused NDP MLA Rod Loyola of getting political funding from South America and heckles Loyola in the Legislature about his Hispanic origins. You’d think this would be a no-no.
Dave Schneider, Little Bow, 5-1 – he may be known for offensive opinions and not be much loved at the County of Vulcan, his former electoral berth, but he’s already agreed not to run. A Schneider resignation now would thus be one of the least-damaging things that could happen to the UCP.
Ron Orr, Lacombe-Ponoka, 5-1 – this MLA’s opinions about marijuana are well documented. So, this fall, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to say stupid things and get in trouble for them.
Richard Gotfried, Calgary-Fish Creek, 5-1 – another victim of political foot-in-mouth syndrome, who famously compared the NDP’s election to the Russian Revolution. On the other hand, there aren’t a lot of former PCs left in caucus, and he’s one.
Nathan Cooper, Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, 3-1 – has the reputation for being the brightest person in the UCP Caucus, plus, he sat in the leader’s chair, if only on an interim basis. As noted, former leaders need to watch their backs in Conservative circles. Especially smart ones.
Jason Nixon, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, 2-1 – loyal constituency man to his riding’s Wildrose MLA one day, beneficiary of a coup against Joe Anglin the next. Did Mr. Kenney notice? He’s already been in the spotlight for firing a woman who complained of sexual harassment. Plus, having prominent family members may help a candidate put together seed funds for a campaign, but having a close relative running for office may complicate things. Brother Jeremy Nixon is seeking the UCP nomination in Calgary-Klein.
* Jimmy is a fictional character, invented by the author. Think of this as a parable, you know, like the one about the mustard seed.