Ever since the dust settled from the 2015 provincial election and the Progressive Conservative dynasty of 40 plus years was defeated by an unlikely NDP champion, Albertans have been asking, “So, how did that happen?”
Some pundits have pored over the numbers from the election and opined that if there was only one right wing or conservative party in Alberta, that party would have won the election and in essence Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP was the latest beneficiary of so-called “vote-splitting.” For example, Party A garners 6 out of 10 votes and Party NDP garners 4 out of 10; Party A wins. However, let’s suggest the leader of Party A, let’s call him Ed Stelmach for argument’s sake, annoys the oil and gas industry and said industry then sets out to bankroll their own party, which shall be called C. Then in a future election supporters engage in a civil war and Party A and C each get 3 out of 10 votes, while Party B still trucks along at 4 out of 10. Four beats 3 and 3, so Party B wins.
Please note, though, vote-splitting isn’t the only explanation for the collapse of the PCs in the last provincial election. A young lady named Alison Redford and certain members of her crew played a significant role too, along with Jim Prentice’s “Don’t worry, we couldn’t possibly lose” election campaign.
Vote splitting went on federally for years until the old Tory Party and the western Reform Party set aside their differences and united. Then they started winning elections.
Stories circulated last week that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was closely watching “unite the right” efforts; Harper’s name is going to do more than harm than good. Regardless of the man’s value as a legislator, and his value as a legislator is high, his public persona was and is so vilified, particularly in eastern Canada, Harper, if he wants to help conservative governments get re-elected, should stay as far away from politics of any level as possible.
So how do you “unite the right” in Alberta? Many conservative voters likely agree the Wildrose and PC parties should unite to challenge another NDP government in the next election.
In this space last week guest columnist Danny Hozack didn’t so much discuss “uniting the right” as he did “tear up your PC membership cards and join the Wildrose Party.” That’s not as appealing idea as it sounds though; the Wildrose, like Harper, has an image problem and whether it’s based in reality is another issue. Wildrose leader Brian Jean is doing a solid job, as are his MLAs, but politics is a popularity contest and images are critically important and the party desperately needs to get its head out of the sand on this. The Wildrose image problem revolves around an impression that the party is full of misogynistic, intolerant wackos. Some Albertans don’t want to be seen as supporting a party like that. Likely, readers will remember former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and several party MLAs jumping ship prior to the last provincial election and most pundits feel the party image had at least something to do with that mutiny.
It’s amusing to note the PCs, according to Troy Wason, the executive director of the party, last week scoffed at the idea of “unite the right.” Wason told the National Post it won’t work because there’s no legal way to do it. According to Wason both parties would have to dissolve and form a new party.
Judging by the way Wildrosers like Hozack and PCs like Wason are talking, any effort to “unite the right” hasn’t even started yet.