What Civil War? After Joe Anglin quits, Wildrose MLAs rally behind Danielle Smith

Wildrose MLA Caucus Alberta Danielle Smith

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith surrounded by her caucus on March 19, 2014.

In a move designed to quash any further internal party dissent, Wildrose MLAs rallied around their leader yesterday by unanimously requesting their party’s executive committee cancel a leadership review that Danielle Smith requested last week.

Joe Anglin MLA Wildrose Rocky Mountain House Rimbey Sundre

Joe Anglin

The sign of caucus unity came shortly after Sundre-Rocky Mountain House-Rimbey MLA Joe Anglin announced he was leaving the Official Opposition Caucus to sit as an Independent MLA.

Ms. Smith requested the review in response to the Wildrose Party’s poor showing in four by-elections held on October 27. Although the by-elections were held in traditionally safe Progressive Conservative voting constituencies, they were seen by many political watchers as a mid-term review for the 43-year governing PC Party, now led by Jim Prentice.

Will the sign of caucus support for Ms. Smith’s leadership put an end to the Wildrose “civil war” between pragmatic and ideological conservatives that Mr. Anglin referred to in a Facebook post yesterday?

Jim Prentice Premier Alberta

Jim Prentice

From the outside, it is difficult to tell whether an actual “civil war” is being waged. Mr. Anglin has always been more comfortable as a political lone-wolf and his departure was not unexpected. And despite the party’s sometimes uneasy coalition of libertarian and social conservatives, it is reasonable to believe Ms. Smith would still receive a strong endorsement from party members in a leadership review (she received 90% approval in a 2013 review).

But the entrance of Mr. Prentice onto the political stage may have slightly shifted the ground in Alberta’s conservative movement. As the by-election results suggest, there are many conservative voters comfortable with a PC Party led by Mr. Prentice and, at the very least, they willing to give him a chance.

Mr. Prentice does pose a serious challenge for the Wildrose Party, which made former Premier Alison Redford into political lightening rod. And while the sting of Ms. Redford’s legacy did not resonate in the by-elections, the recent announcement of an R.C.M.P investigation into her alleged misdeeds may reignite Albertans anger.

It is difficult to imagine who would replace the Wildrose Party’s high-profile leader. Although MLAs Kerry Towle, Bruce McAllister, Shayne Saskiw, Heather Forsyth and Rob Anderson have some provincial profile, none are as recognizable as their current leader. I would guess that most Albertans would struggle to name a Wildrose MLA other than Ms. Smith.

Whether a “civil war” is actually underway, it is clear that the Ms. Smith’s Wildrose Party is facing an identity crisis in a post-Redford political environment.

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Meanwhile, NDP leader Rachel Notley and Liberal leader Raj Sherman have ruled out any talk of a merger by Alberta’s centre/centre-left political parties. Talk of a potential merger arose following significant vote-splitting in the Oct. 27 by-elections.

9 thoughts on “What Civil War? After Joe Anglin quits, Wildrose MLAs rally behind Danielle Smith

  1. Marie

    Danielle was the best thing that ever could’ve happened to the WRP and I think she would’ve had the support from all of her MLA’s and the members at the AGM, regardless of Rob Anderson’s motion yesterday.

    I don’t think the consequences of Anderson’s motion were thought out well ahead of time. But taking this decision away from the membership is a big mistake – especially for a party that wants everyone to believe they are “member driven.”

    If the Executive Committee is smart, they will move forward with the leadership review at the WRP AGM.

    Reply
  2. Marie

    I strongly believe Danielle would’ve had the support of all her MLA’s and virtually all WRP party members at the leadership review, regardless of Rob Anderson’s motion yesterday.

    I don’t think Anderson’s motion was well thought out ahead of time. It is a BIG mistake to take this decision (leadership review) away from the party members – especially because the WRP brags about being a “member driven” party.

    If the Executive Committee is smart, they will move forward with the leadership review at the AGM. (Otherwise, the WRP may very well have a civil war on its hands.)

    Reply
  3. Gordon Tumbach

    Only a “leader” like Danielle Smith who claims to be “grassroots” would call off a leadership review. She’s a megalomaniac and a terrible leader. Dave, you cite a major problem with the Wildrose: it’s been too much about her, and now that she’s failed, she needs to go or the Wildrose will be behind the NDP next election.

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  4. Bob Barnetson

    While an ND/Liberal merger seems unlikely, some cooperation on a riding by riding basis might well benefit both parties by concentrating the progressive vote. Alternately, retirements, defections and losses may change the progressive landscape enough that some sort of post-election merger is possible. One can only hope something happens because the status quo is not working.

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  5. Marie

    Although she wasn’t required to, I didn’t have a problem with Danielle calling for a leadership review to reconfirm her mandate from the WRP members. What I have a problem with is Caucus deciding the review should be canceled. This whole idea only feeds into the perception the party is run in a top-down manner. This will be further exacerbated by the Executive accepting the canceled leadership review now. The WRP needs to quit being so reactive. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle……..

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  6. Marie

    Even funner that she went out and requested a leadership review publicly only to be told it violated the WRP constitution. I go back to…..quit being so reactive!!! Sigh.

    Reply
  7. Alvin Finkel

    As Bob Barnetson suggests, the status quo is not working for progressives. It appears that Rachel and Raj will militantly work to insure that it continues not to do so. The political debate in Alberta will continue to be defined by the contest of the PCs and Wildrose as to which party can best serve the interests of their oil industry sponsors and which party can best fool voters that no increases in taxes on anyone or anything is compatible with the provision of public services in the province.

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  8. a fair question

    Mr.Finkel, Albertans are the most disengaged people on earth, so much to take for granted. They dont read or think and media is biased to a fault, yes it is, ND’s got 20:1 more play on the news than the Liberals, in Edmonton. Oil prices are high and corporate donors keep $upporting this dysfunctional kurupt party.

    Please use your fancy political science degree and tell me how twisting the ears of a few ‘militant’ small progressive parties with low numbers will rebalance politics, when the true problems run way way deeper? Please analatically engineer a solution.

    Reply
  9. Watson Smith

    @a fair question; polls over the past few years have on occasion shown that when the Lib’s and NDP’s support is combined it can reach 30% (just a summation not counting for the effects of a united party which might be ambiguous). 30% support leads to a lot of seats, since some would obviously be higher. They might not win, but they would be a real competitor to the “middle ground” PCs.

    On the other hand, with 3 “progressive” parties any vote for the left is split up completely resulting in less and less seats as voters realize the futility of voting left and fatigue from never voting in a winner. If there were one left wing party with a damn good leader they could make major inroads while the PCs and WRA split the right. At the very least they could force some PC policy to swing back to the left; as it is the PCs are swinging right to marginalize their only real competition.

    Reply

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