Alex Abboud and Trish Audette have already written about this, but an anonymous source reported in this week’s subscription-only issue* of Alberta Scan has suggested that 10 Progressive Conservative MLAs could cross the floor to the Wildrose Alliance if potential game changer Danielle Smith is selected in the October 17 leadership vote.
How likely is this?
With 70 MLAs in the 83 seat legislature, the PCs have a broad-range of political diversity in their caucus ranging from liberals/Red Tories to hard-core angry social conservatives, with a large group of simple pro-government pragmatists filling the gap in between. While Ed Stelmach‘s tenure as Premier began three years ago with a number of funding increases and semi-progressive moves (like the creation of the now almost existent lobbyist registry), a number of recent events seem to suggest that the right-wingers in the PC caucus have been taking advantage of the current leadership vacuum to drive their own agenda.
A number of right-wing champions appear to have solidly integrated themselves into the PCs institutional machinery: Ted Morton is widely seen as a competent Minister of Sustainable Resource Development, and following Kyle Fawcett‘s very public apology to Premier Stelmach, it appears that the Stelmach loyalist’s appointment to an important government committee was cancelled in favour of Bill 44 advocate Airdrie-Chestermere MLA Rob Anderson. Right-wing Calgary-Egmont MLA Jonathan Denis has just been appointed as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Energy, and Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Broyce Jacobs is now the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Agriculture.
Many of these MLAs are driving the agenda behind legislation like Bill 44 and pushing Stelmach’s public shift to the right following Alberta’s record budget deficit and Paul Hinman‘s victory in the Calgary-Glenmore by-election. It’s hard to disagree that there is disgruntlement with Stelmach’s leadership inside the PC caucus, it is difficult to understand why the more right-wing conservatives would leave the governing caucus to occupy the opposition benches.
This said, any PC MLA crossing the floor to the Wildrose Alliance could change the political landscape in the Alberta Legislature, especially if they are a cabinet minister. If only a hand full of PC MLAs joined a Danielle Smith-led Wildrose Alliance, they could easily replace the two-MLA NDP caucus as the third party. With only 9 MLAs, the Liberal Official Opposition could become the third-place party if the rumoured 10 PC MLAs joined what would become an 11 MLA official opposition.
*Anyone can read Alberta Scan and many other publications for free at the Legislative Assembly Library.