In the past few months we have all witnessed the macabre twist of fate dealt to the PC Party in Alberta. To me, it seemed like we lived in a Putinesque state where a cavalier disregard for the electorate loomed daily. A leader, one that the regular Albertan didn’t know, but was told we should follow emerged with a platform that seemed out of place for the Party followers as much as it did for regular Albertans. Bizarre and undemocratic antics prevailed and I wondered if anyone else found them odd and unacceptable.
After the resignation of Alison Redford, Albertan PC’s looked forward to a new leadership election and a fresh start after the debacles of Redford’s reign. It was known that she was not a team player, so her rapid rise to the top spot of the Party was questioned by many…though I do remember how many non-PC individuals showed up at the polls just chomping at the bit to elect her….but that in itself is another story.
Cult of personality
So, the search for a new Party leader began last spring. Three individuals announced their candidacy; Thomas Lukaszuk, Ric McIvor and the third, Jim Prentice, a former federal Minister but a man not known as an Alberta politician.
When the leadership candidates announced their intentions I was stunned at the cult-like support Prentice got. 50 out of 59 MLAs threw their support behind a guy none of us knew. I would ask MLAs at events why they were supporting Prentice and they all told me the same thing “He’s the best man for the job”. When I asked why – all I got was “because he is.”
This stunned me. It seemed everyone drank the Kool-Aid except me and I didn’t understand how and why he became the Party icon. One Party insider told me all they wanted to do was distance themselves from Redford and that anyone who served under her was a target. How naïve a statement is that? And how many former MLA’s now regret falling prey to that propaganda?
We watched the spate of forced retirements from the Party. Two come to mind like Fred Horne and Doug Horner. Good or bad, the thing that sprang to mind most of all is this. If I were a constituent of either of those constituencies I would be upset that I was left without representation and that my elected candidate had been pushed or kicked out the door by none other than my own Party.
Where was the Party thinking about constituents? If the Party or Prentice forced anyone out of office, they needed to realize that they were also snubbing every Albertan who ever voted for either of those members.
A Leadership Race: Tainted & Dirty
During the leadership race, things got down and dirty. Instead of a Party looking jointly to elect the best leader, it became an annihilation of one person against another. This race just seemed uglier than others I remember. For example, Manmeet Bhullar, MLA for Calgary Greenway was caught leaking Thomas Lukaszuk’s cell phone bill from two years ago. Evidence from text messages confirmed that Bhullar was behind the leak and he had shopped it around to members of the opposition and the press. Post leadership race it also prompted a police investigation, but somehow that seemed to get all quiet when the former police chief of Calgary became the PC candidate for Calgary Cross.
This process was flawed from the start. I cringed when media outlets reported that only 23,000 people voted in this race. How about…..anywhere from 50,000 to 120,000 Albertans were possibly denied the right to vote? In 2011, 78,000 Party members voted in the first ballot, 144,000 in the second. And based on the amount of calls we were taking in the live polling station on the final day of the vote, I would say thousands were denied the right to vote.
The Party executive didn’t seem at all concerned and deflected all questions about the process. Instead they told us “you have no idea how many times someone tried to hack our website”. As if that deflection answered the ethical question of why the Party was doing nothing about it.
Bottom line was they didn’t care.
Cheating during the vote?
And you may remember my reporting on Edmonton MLA Sohail Quadri’s collecting pin numbers during the leadership vote. The story can be found here
Instead of being chastised for it, he was appointed as Legislative Secretary to the Premier. In other words, rewarded for his actions and also kept under the Premier’s wing in order to avoid any more public cock ups.
Non-elected members to cabinet
Another forced retirement was Dave Hancock ,who served as Acting Premier in the transition months between Redford’s leaving and the leadership race. He served Alberta and Albertans with grace and certainly didn’t deserve this final snub to his political career. Rumour has it that he was told “resign or we will relegate you to the back benches.” What an insulting message to a long serving member of the caucus. But of course it was because his constituency Edmonton Whitemud was a wealthy riding and was needed by someone else.
That someone else was former Mayor Stephen Mandel. Rumours of another backroom deal where Mandel received a cabinet post without running for office in exchange for not running against Prentice. And how Gordon Dirks was appointed as Education Minister is anybody’s guess.
The Wildrose waltz across the floor
Another shocker was the floor crossing of Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and eight other Wildrose members on December 17, 2014. Seriously, what was she thinking? We’ve all debated this one but it does make one wonder what might have been the outcome with Wildrose had the crossing not happened. All we can chronicle it that it was a brilliant move to decimate the opposition.
The plane, the plane…
I remember one of the first election ads where Prentice noted that he sold of the government planes. I didn’t care that the government had a plane, I cared about how it was used. Now out of curiosity, I want to know the cost of any and all chartered flights the Premier took as well as the costs of all commercial flights for him and his entourage.
And how many other election proclamations did he back pedal on?
The Tribe has spoken
Hallelujah Albertans for getting out and voting. I can’t tell you how addicted I was poring over the election results riding by riding as I worked in Toronto last week. I was happy to see some people go and disappointed that some good & hard working politicians like Thomas Lukaszuk & Laurie Blakeman are gone. Jim Prentice was a one rodeo cowboy and as life got a little bit dusty he rode off into the sunset. One thing is certain, he will be chronicled in history as the man who decimated the PC Party in Alberta…from riches to rags.
Flavour of the month – Orange Crush
Does Rachel Notley want to fail? I don’t think so. Any and all decisions are going to have to be made prudently and with some thought. Regardless of her political or personal philosophies, the economy and our stability is going to be her greatest challenge to keep Albertans happy. A huge task is going to be the steep learning curve of her new caucus. Plus, the reigning in and training of all of those new MLA’s who didn’t expect to be elected. I still get a visual of the Facebook page of newly elected Deborah Drever giving the finger to the Canadian flag. Whoops.
Orange Crush[i] is mostly made up of carbonated water and high fructose corn syrup. They’re going to need a lot of energy & Notley has a lot of work to do not to let that water go flat.
CARBONATED WATER, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CITRIC ACID, SODIUM BENZOATE (PRESERVATIVE), ACACIA GUM, NATURAL FLAVORS, ESTER GUM, YELLOW 6, SALT, BROMINATED SOYBEAN OIL, RED 40.