Disappointed Wildrosers sit outside as Redford Tories abandon Klein-era financing.

Danielle Smith Rob Anderson Heather Forsyth Wildrose
Wildrose leader Danielle Smith (centre) with MLAs Heather Forsyth and Rob Anderson in 2010.

Alberta’s opposition parties are traditionally notorious for being unforgiving towards leaders who fail to meet or beat electoral expectations.

Take for example former Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore, who after leading his Liberal Party to its best showing in more than 70 years, was driven out by MLAs and members who were disappointed to be sitting in the opposition benches. Now in 2012, will Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith‘s leadership end with a similar fate? Not likely anytime soon.

As I said on election night, despite her party’s strong showing and newly acquired official opposition status, one of Ms. Smith’s biggest challenges will be to deal with many of her party’s supporters and MLAs who will be disappointed they did not form government. With 17 MLAs and a strong record of fundraising, I expect that Ms. Smith’s party and the powers that finance it will allow her to have a second chance, rather than destabilizing the delicate coalition of fiscal hawks and social conservatives they helped her build.

Last week, an anonymous online video emerged that made waves in the ranks of the Wildrose Party. Borrowing music from Michael Bay‘s Transformers 3: Dark Side of the Moon, the anonymous creators of the online video clumsily detailed the threat that certain individuals posed to the “grassroots” of the Wildrose Party and suggested the chance of a potential coup d’etat against leader Ms. Smith (the video is now removed from the Dailymotion site).

Like blogger David Climenhaga, I hesitate to read too much into the twisted innuendo of internal party politics that this online video delved into. And I would not be surprised if, at their upcoming AGM, Ms. Smith begins taking a more hard-line approach to party discipline, similar to the approach taken by Stephen Harper when he became leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

For the first time in decades, conservative supporters of the Wildrose Party are sitting outside to the ruling coalition of which they had previously been a pillar constituency. As Premier Alison Redford builds a new moderate political coalition, she will not have to dwell on the every-want of the “Socred Retreads,” as she called them in her speech to last weekend’s PC AGM.

Despite Wildrose MLAs relentlessly criticizing Premier Redford in the media, it must be frustrating for many Wildrose Party supporters to now watch their former party, the long-governing Progressive Conservatives, turn away from the anti-debt orthodoxy that defined former Premier Ralph Klein‘s era in Alberta politics. Without the hype of personality politics behind it, the short-sighted policies of Premier Klein’s govermnent look and feel like they are from a by-gone era. Gone are the days when even a hint of long-term investment was sacrificed in favour of short-term balanced budgets or at-any-cost debt reduction.

Premier Redford, like Premier Ed Stelmach before her, is talking about taking an adult approach to long-term financing of capital projects and maintenance of public infrastructure. With the bulk of the hard-line fiscal conservative hawks sitting in the opposition benches, Premier Redford and Finance Minister Doug Horner are afforded more fiscal flexibility.

Instead of waiting for “cash-in-pocket” to build and maintain important public infrastructure, the Tories are pushing forward with capital financing. Their newly discovered fiscal flexibility could give the Tories an opportunity to fix the problems created by their predecessors.

This of course does not mean they will not face opposition within their own caucus when charting this new fiscal course or creating a new narrative for their party. Like Premier Stelmach before them, neither Ms. Redford or Minister Horner had the support of the majority of their fellow MLAs during last year’s leadership selection.

13 thoughts on “Disappointed Wildrosers sit outside as Redford Tories abandon Klein-era financing.”

  1. “Premier Redford [is] talking about taking an adult approach to long-term financing of capital projects and maintenance of public infrastructure.”

    Well said. I had a discussion on Twitter with Roger Kingkade about this very issue; I couldn’t seem to portray to him that short-term debt can have a long-term good, as debt right now can very easily be cheaper than the inflation that is sure to come over the next few years.

    I’m glad Premier Redford is willing to do what she believes is best for the province, rather than the very common tendency to do what is expected of the party. Very mature of her.

  2. Thank you for this, Dave. However, on another note, in typical recent PC fashion, Premier Redford’s government is pushing ahead with Bill 2.  This Bill takes away all of the rights that landowners have today when an oil and gas company wants to put a well site, pipeline, or other project on our land. The government has said that it wants to make the approval process easier for energy companies.  Rather than doing a proper renovation on the process, the government has decided to simply remove the landowners from the process.

    In the coming years there will be thousands of new wells and new pipelines.  Most of these will be on private land……someone’s farm, ranch, home quarter, their recreational property. Bill 2 will completely take owners’ rights out of the approval process. This is the future we Albertan landowners face. Who do we turn to?

  3. Connie,

    I’m curious where in Bill 2 everything you said above is laid out. I took a quick look through it, and cannot see anything that covers what you wrote. Obviously I would be concerned by such a law, so I want to find out more about it.

    Thanks,
    Geoff

  4. Connie, I’ve had drilling on my land, I negotiated a fair deal and have had 7 years of lease payments for a barely intrusive installation that has provided my family with a little more to get the kids through University, I see no problems with drilling if there is fair compensation. I do however have a hard time with certain Lease land holders getting the whole package of money for installations on lease land, yes they deserve damages and some surface disturbance, but getting the whole monetary compensation is bull when schools and hospitals need that govt. money. Currently, last I heard, there is 8.5 months on average to permit to drill a conventional well here in Alberta, while Sask is 36 days, the govt. wants to streamline this which they should, fear mongering by the clowns will do nothing to help the business of Alberta, and that, is what we send people to Edmonton for, not sand box politics.

  5. Geoff and Bartinsky,

    Landowners will be most affected by Bill 2 in that they will be unable to say no to any energy project that adversely affects them. Once the government decides a project is necessary, there is now no right to appeal.

    Bill 2 prevents any legitimate concerns from being voiced unless they are raised by landowners directly affected (and even then with no right to appeal to an independent body). That means only the landowner directly affected can even raise concerns. It prevents any group of interests from banding together. In affect the right to assembly is restricted. A town next to a project cannot band together… a watershed group cannot band together… environmental groups cannot band together. This is a basic democratic right… the right to assembly.

    Don’t get us county folks wrong. We recognise that streamlining energy regulatory processes is a good idea. It’s important for the future of our economy. Overly complex regulatory approval processes need streamlining but that streamlining shouldn’t be at at the expense of landowners, communities, or the environment. Also, the term “the public interest” that appeared in the Energy Conservation Act has been stripped from the language of Bill 2. That means before now, any project had to prove it was in the public interest. With Bill 2, proof of the project being in the public interest becomes unnecessary.

    Streamlining processes is important. Throwing out the right of landowners to appeal or for other affected groups to take action should not be part of the bargain.

  6. I think there are a few more interesting political stories in Alberta to explore. Its a pity that Alberta journalists simply don’t have the courage to write them.

  7. I agree with you on that Alberta is now paying for the cuts that Ralph Klein made in the 1990s. The province was completely unprepared for the boom. But I think another problem is that spending went out of control after the debt was erased.

    I’m on the anti-debt bandwagon for the very simple reason. Alberta is on the largest oil reserve in the Western Hemisphere. This suggest to me that the resources aren’t well managed by the province.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>