The Wildrose Party is running a permanent negative campaign against the long-governing Progressive Conservative Party. Not taking time to break after their defeat in the May 2012 election, Danielle Smith and her 16 Wildrose MLAs are pushing hard to make Alison Redford’s Tories look corrupt and un-conservative.
Taking a more aggressive approach than their predecessors in the official opposition benches, the Wildrose have stunned the Tories into a stammer. Relentlessly berating the Tories for taking new approaches towards capital financing, the Wildrose Party are doing their best to cast the Tories as Conservatives in Name Only (CINOs). Gary Bikman, the Wildrose MLA from the deep rural south Cardston-Taber-Warner constituency, has started referring to the Tories as the “Progressive Party” on his Facebook Page.
The opposition is limited in the tactics available to them, so Wildrose MLAs use the “open-mic” available in Question Period to launch unrelenting attacks against Tory cabinet ministers. Taking a cue from the federal Conservatives in Ottawa, preambles to questions asked by Wildrose MLAs are now typically little more than negative partisan attacks. Considering the strong connections between the Wildrose Party and the Ottawa Conservatives, it is not surprising that they would adopt a similar strategy.
Here is a sample of a typical question asked by a Wildrose MLA during Question Period:
Mr. Speaker, this government has mismanaged our ___________ for years: illegal donations from ___________, outrageous expenses on ___________. Albertans are saying that they’ve had enough of the abuse from this government and enough of living in the most oppressive, intimidating environment that anyone could find themselves in. Will the Minister of ___________ finally recognize that years of systemic waste, abuse, intimidation, and disrespect on the part of this government have led to this crisis situation and immediately change his course of action and start addressing the obvious concerns of Albertans?
Short translation: “Mr. Speaker, can the Minister tell me why he is so awful at his job?”
Anyone who has watched Question Period will know that it always includes a certain level of partisan rhetoric, but the level the level of partisan rhetoric has dramatically increased since the Wildrose MLAs formed official opposition this year. For example, earlier this week Two Hills-St. Paul-Lac La Biche Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw was called out for insinuating that the Premier’s sister, Lynn Redford, was a criminal (our justice system still operates under the presumption of innocence in this country).
It is a cynical approach towards politics. Not winning by offering better ideas or stronger leadership but by dragging your opponents deeper into the mud.
Speaker Gene Zwozdesky and Vermilion-Lloydminster Tory MLA Richard Starke have pleaded for decorum in the Assembly. But with the opposition MLAs unlikely to change their tactics, not all members of the Tory cabinet are willing to be great contributors to a reasoned debate.
Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk, who has been charged as the Question Period attack dog, strikes back at the Wildrose MLAs with ease. The Deputy Premier recently accused Ms. Smith of throwing her party’s candidates and Albertans under a bus. As any veteran opposition politician can attest, the Tories have not been in power for forty-one uninterrupted years by “being nice.”
Albertans tired of the rhetoric from this year’s elections should settle in and accept the reality that the negative campaign did not end on April 23, 2012. This campaign will continue until at least the next election.