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did danielle smith’s wildrose peak too early?

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Wildrose Alliance MLAs Paul Hinman, Heather Forsyth, and Rob Anderson. January 2010.
Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Wildrose MLAs Paul Hinman, Heather Forsyth, and Rob Anderson in January 2010.

With the departure of Premier Ed Stelmach soon upon us, and the Tories choosing a new leader this fall, has the wave that carried the Wildrose high in the polls in 2010 crested in 2011?

In 2010, the Wildrose benefited greatly from a number of high-profile Tory defections. Convinced they were riding the next wave after a narrow by-election victory in a Tory stronghold saw Paul Hinman return to the Assembly, floor-crossing Tory MLAs Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth joined Danielle Smith‘s party in January 2010. The next month, the Wildrose were riding higher than the Tories in public opinion polls. Soon after they were joined by former PC organizer Hal Walker and banished former Tory cabinet minister Guy Boutilier. Rumours of more Tory defections were spreading like wildfire.

The high tide that was 2010 for the Wildrose led to a much more reality-based and sober 2011. Without the weather vane that was the unpopular Premier Stelmach, Ms. Smith’s Wildrose will be facing a new Progressive Conservative leader in the next general election.

Following a policy convention that reaffirmed the party’s commitment to a number of fringe conservative pet issues, a number of Tory-cum-Wildrose supporters returned to the PC Party. Dean Leask, Wildrose’s former vice-president of policy has returned to the Tory ranks, describing his now former party as “an antigrassroots movement.”

Mr. Leask is now supporting former Finance Minister Ted Morton‘s bid for the PC leadership. A number of other Wildrosers are said to have returned to the Tories to support Rick Orman‘s leadership bid.

Is the Wildrose an “anti-grassroots movement?” This is difficult to confirm, but evidence suggests that the party has handled internal disputes with a heavy-hand. Conflicts with the central party over the candidate nomination process led to the resignations of members of the board of directors in the Medicine Hat and Little Bow constituencies. Some disgruntled Wildrose supporters have put the blame on professional political operatives like Vitor Marciano, while others have complained to this blogger than MLA Mr. Anderson is “micro-managing” party affairs.

While much of the Wildrose’s future depends on who becomes the next leader of the PC Party, the high hopes of competing tête-à-tête with the PCs in the next general election may be dashed. The Wildrose have begun trending below the Tories in more reputable polls and are substantially behind the governing party in fundraising (though they are far ahead of the opposition NDP, Alberta Party, and Liberals).

The forecast of forming government anytime soon may be less optimistic, but Ms. Smith’s cadre of disgruntled conservatives appear to have positioned themselves as a permanent fixture on Alberta’s political scene, with the growing possibility that they may form the Official Opposition after the next election.

Even the once starry-eyed optimist, Ms. Smith appears to be shifting into the mode of managing the expectations of her party faithful. Instead of reaffirming previous comments that Albertans were ready to elect her party to government, she settled on a more modest comment at the Calgary Stampede this weekend, telling the Canadian Press that “after the next election there will be a large contingent of Wildrosers.”

18 replies on “did danielle smith’s wildrose peak too early?”

The Wildrose jumped the shark during the federal election, when supporters worked side-by-side with PCers on Conservative campaigns. No substantial philosophical differences.

The one difference is that any of the PC leadership candidates would be better than Smith. She is anything but conservative and fully unfit for elected office of any kind.

As you must know by now, a week is an eternity in the political world so it’s difficult to suggest that something has “peaked too early” when an election could be easily more than a year away. Maybe if this was happening a month before an election but a lot can still happen.

The fringe element has always been the Achilles Heel of the organization (as it can be with most political groups). Any organization has to balance direction from the membership with limiting the extremes that can cause the mainstream to become uncomfortable. The WRA has some growing pains ahead of it but to suggest that it’s peaked too early is a little premature.

Elections matter. Sure there is a lot of tooing and frowing from the political class, but the average voter does not care about the internal baseball. Everytime I turn around more and more young people I meet who are not operatives want to vote Wildrose the next go around. The continual scandals that plague the government will continue.

As was briefly mentioned in the post, it is very difficult to say whether or not the party has peaked or plateaued while the PC leadership race is ongoing. The polls after October will give a better indication. Also, while the PC’s have raised more money than the Wildrose, the Wildrose raised almost $60 000 more in contributions under $375 in 2010 which could be taken as stronger sign of potential electoral support.

If the Wildrose Alliance does not enjoy substantial success in the next general election, I think it is likely they will quickly disappear. The Tory hard right, which they represent, will remain, of course, but it will quickly be absorbed back into the main party and attempt to engineer a coup from the inside, the “outside strategy” having been revealed as a failure.

LOL The Wildrose Alliance has been through 2 general elections, 3 by-elections and a Senate election since 2002

If failure makes parties disappear than your NDP and Liberal, Albert Party, Communist and even the gosh darn Social Credit would have dissipated a long time ago, yet they all still hang around.

We are as grassroots as you can get, yet we cannot get ANYONE from the Wildrose Party to return our calls for a meeting to discuss their healthcare platform.

They’ve exhausted their political purpose: for the oil corporations to get an even sweeter royalty deal and to make the Tories look “moderate” by comparison. They’ve now been relegated by the media to the back burner so they can’t pose a real threat in the next election. They’re kaput.

Populism always peaks. Backing landowners’ rights and oil companies was just going to lead to headaches anyways. The one group will always alienate the other. This is not to say that the two sides cannot work together, as they often do, but the hard supporters of either will not cooperate for long.

Most likely scenario: Gary Mar as PC leader….the WR wave will continue to grow.

I’d be very surprised if Morton is able to pull it off. His base has left to the Wildrose, including me.

Orman’s policy is a copy and paste from the Wildrose and I’d much prefer Danielle over Orman.

Dave,have seen your blog over the past years. Re Leask – Smith. Danielle Smith is a hard worker and campaginer – the Wildrose is representing the people, urban and rural and is opposed to many of the Bills the PC party enacted in these past three years. Leask was a PRES of the HighWood PC Constituency – and then a member and Campaign manager for HR MLA Groevenveld. Supposedly Leaslk left the PC party and moved across to the WR Highwood Constituency- where he wasn’t readily welcomed. Later returned as Campaign Manager for Danielle Smith, two a month duration and then quit. Leask is NOW the President of the Highwood PC constituency- and shares that post. I wonder why? Is he planning, himself, to run against Danielle.

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