Is the Wildrose Caucus about to merge with the PC Caucus?

Wildrose MLA Caucus Alberta Danielle Smith

Are more Wildrose MLAs preparing to cross the floor to the Progressives Conservatives? Independent MLA Joe Anglin has told reporters that Danielle Smith‘s 14 MLA Wildrose Official Opposition Caucus will vote on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 on whether to join the governing PC Caucus.

Rob Anderson Wildrose MLA

Rob Anderson

Mr. Anglin’s comments, claims published on an anonymously blog and tweets from conservative activists fuelled the rumours of the Wildrose Party’s demise on social media last night.

The sources of the rumours are questionable, but the curious silence of official Wildrose Party social media accounts suggests that the merger of the two caucuses could indeed be on the table when Wildrose MLAs meet on Dec. 16.

The loudest rumours point to Wildrose MLAs Rob Anderson and Shayne Saskiw crossing the floor, a claim Mr. Saskiw quickly denied on Twitter.

Shayne Saskiw MLA Wildrose

Shayne Saskiw

More reliable sources say that Mr. Anderson and Mr. Saskiw will make a presentation to their fellow MLAs on Dec. 16 detailing an offer extended by Mr. Prentice to Wildrose MLAs to join the PC Caucus. [Update: The Calgary Sun’s Rick Bell has obtained a copy of the “Reunification Agreement.”]

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes also tweeted his commitment to the Wildrose Party in response to the rumours.

This is not the first time we have heard rumours of a merger. In May 2014, Ms. Smith told reporters that then-PC leadership candidate Jim Prentice had proposed a merger of the two conservative parties. At the time, Premier Dave Hancock denied the claims, but it was clear that Mr. Prentice was reaching out to Wildrose MLAs.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

Since becoming Premier, Mr. Prentice has robbed the Wildrose of its most effective talking points by committing to focus on property rights and reversing many of former premier Alison Redford‘s most unpopular decisions. In some ways, it is now difficult to tell what differentiates the Wildrose Party from Mr. Prentice’s PCs.

Last month, Wildrose MLAs Ian Donovan and Kerry Towle, crossed the floor to the PC Caucus. And only weeks before that, Mr. Anglin left the Wildrose Caucus, claiming that a ‘civil war‘ was being waged within the party.

After losing four by-elections in October 2014 and losing three MLAs since then, the normally loud Wildrosers have toned down, and in some cases struck a more conciliatory tone with the governing PCs.

Kerry Towle

Kerry Towle

Even normally hyper-partisan Justice Minister Jonathan Denis tweeted about working with Mr. Anderson on a Wildrose Caucus amendment to Bill 2: Alberta Accountability Act. If that does not signal a warming of relations between the two caucuses, I’m not sure what else would.

But despite the party’s recent poor showing, a Wildrose Party led by Ms. Smith could still remain competitive going into the next election.

The party has collected an impressive war chest and has nominated candidates in more than a quarter of Alberta’s constituencies. Recent polls show the party sitting at 29% support, only five points behind Mr. Prentice’s PCs.

The question is whether the change in tone signals a new strategy or preparation for a merger with the 43-year governing PC Party? If there is truth to the merger rumours, the departure of more Wildrose MLAs (including Ms. Smith) would be a death blow to that party.

What would a Wildrose-PC Caucus merger mean?
Raj Sherman MLA

Raj Sherman

MLAs crossing the floor is a fairly common occurrence in Alberta and Canadian politics, but I cannot think of any time when an Official Opposition Caucus has voted to merger with a governing caucus.

Unlike the merger of the federal Canadian Alliance and PC Party that created the Conservative Party of Canada in 2003, there is little to no chance another party will form government in the next election (in the context of 2003, a PC-Wildrose merger would be more like Stephen Harper‘s Canadian Alliance joining Paul Martin‘s Liberal Party).

In a scenario where nearly all the Wildrose MLAs crossed the floor to the PC Party, Raj Sherman‘s five MLA Liberal Caucus could regain its role as the Official Opposition. But the Liberals would only hold that title until MLAs Kent Hehr and Darshan Kang resigned to run in the October 2015 federal election. Upon their resignations, Rachel Notley‘s four MLA NDP Caucus could become the Official Opposition.

7 thoughts on “Is the Wildrose Caucus about to merge with the PC Caucus?

  1. Ken Chapman

    Great post Dave. But most of the progressives have been purged like Hancock and Hughes or gulaged like Horner Griffiths and Lukaszuk. This would be as Prentice said he would welcome other CONSERVATIVES to join his party. The Progressives in Alberta have to get serious about returning and preserving representative democratic government to Alberta. Time for a new progressive movement like the Alberta Party

    Reply
  2. jerrymacgp

    The rise of Wildrose in recent years was largely a backlash by extreme right-wing conservatives against the marginally less conservative policies of the Stelmach and Redford eras. Now that Mr Prentice has swung the Tory tea party even further to the right, there is little that divides Wildrosers and PCs from the perspective of policy; only personal animosities and the raw calculus of power remain.

    Reply
  3. soylent green

    WR is a caucus of Judases. Disingenuous to their own causes and their own words. Joining the very thing they have criticized and condemned all along. All crossers deserve the strongest rebuke and admonition possible. It appears Raj Sherman is the only true honest ethical politician left in Alberta. Yes he is. He has been consistent and stuck with his own convictions.

    Reply
  4. Joe

    As usual Ken Chap man is out of touch. The future in Alberta is conservative and if that means losing left wing pinkos like Lukaszuk, this province is all the better for it.

    Reply
  5. AlbertaRusH

    Kiss the ring
    v. to show respect, often used in the imperative tense.

    This phrase originated as a result of the protocols observed during audiences with the catholic pope. At the close of the audience, the subordinate would traditionally show his respect to the leader of the church by kissing the papal ring.

    Reply
  6. sentinel

    If I was conservative, centrist or left wing, its true. I would support Raj, he has been the most stable, ethical, principled and steady leader of any in the legislature. Unfortunately the Liberals have been unfairly smeared for too long. This is all going to change now. Its funny how the WR joined the very thing they were bashing, but Raj left the very thing that the WR were bashing. Bloggers have to be fair and balanced and give credit where it is due, yes you do Dave Berta, be genuine and neutral for once, if you can, I dare you.

    Reply

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