Tag Archives: Leadership Review

Wildrose leader Brian Jean

Wildrose demands transparency from NDP and PCs but holds its annual meeting in secret

Alberta’s conservative Wildrose Party is holding its annual general meeting this weekend in Calgary and, according to one media source, the event will be closed to the media with the exception of leader Brian Jean‘s speech ahead of the leadership review vote on the evening of Nov 13, 2015.

It feels like an eternity in Alberta politics since the Wildrose Party’s last annual meeting in Nov. 2014, which saw then-leader Danielle Smith clash with the party’s social conservative base over support for sexual minority rights. Wildrose members at the open door meeting voted down a definitive statement on equal rights for all Albertans, destroying the party’s attempt to appear more mainstream on social issues.

Now, the Wildrose Party led by Mr. Jean will spend its first annual meeting after its spectacular return from the dead debating policy and politics behind closed doors.

Wildrose members will debate motions ranging from equalization paymentspublic sector pensions, ending mandatory membership in students’ unions, increasing access to firearms, abolishing the Canadian Senate, and allowing private enterprise to receive government grants to compete against public essential services.

Members will also debate a series of motions aimed at banning MLAs from crossing the floor to another party, an issue that nearly destroyed the party when 13 of its MLAs crossed the floor to join the Progressive Conservatives in the final months of 2014.

This type of anti-floor crossing policy could prove difficult to enforce, as it is against the spirit of the Westminster parliamentary system and idea of responsible government. Wildrose members should also note that none of the floor-crossers were re-elected in this year’s general election, providing some evidence that elements of our system of democracy worked without unneeded tinkering.

The closed door meeting could help hide controversial comments or embarrassing eruptions that regularily happen when political party members line up to speak at the microphone.

Rumours have circulated for months about a group of party members who still harbour bad feelings from the party’s March 28, 2015 leadership race and could create trouble for Mr. Jean at this annual meeting. The leadership vote, which Mr. Jean won with 54 percent to Drew Barnes’ 40 percent, was held days before the provincial election was called.

An internal investigation was launched amid allegations of illegal robocalls and the party imposed a $15,000 fine against Mr. Barnes’ campaign. The message in the robocalls allegedly attacked Mr. Jean for his $10,000 donation to Jim Prentice‘s PC leadership campaign only months before he entered the Wildrose Party leadership race.

Mr. Jean is now carefully manufacturing his pitch to convince members of the former governing PC Party to join his party’s ranks. Later in November, the Wildrose Party is hosting a “conversation” fundraiser in Calgary where Mr. Jean will make his pitch to conservatives to unite behind his party against the NDP. Any embarrassing or divisive fights at this meeting could derails those attempts.

Wildrose MLAs have eclipsed the tiny PC opposition in media attention while relentlessly hammering almost every decision made by Rachel Notley‘s NDP since they won the May 2015 election. But recently Wildrose MLAs have found themselves tied up in an embarrassing missteps including fighting a new 9:00 a.m. start time for the Legislature and a very public dispute with a Globe & Mail reporter.

Partisan debates about policy can be divisive and messy, but it is hypocritical for Wildrose Party MLAs to lambast the NDP for failing to be transparent and the PCs for being secretive and entitled while holding their own policy meetings behind closed doors.

If Mr. Jean’s Wildrose Party truly wants to prove it is ready to govern and represent mainstream Alberta, they should demonstrate it by giving Albertans a view into how their grassroots members really believe our province should be governed.

Prentice victory lap to leave Redford legacy in the dust at Banff PC AGM

Redford earned 77% approval at 2013 PC AGM

Alison Redford David Dorward

Premier Alison Redford and PC MLAs celebrate her 77% vote of approval from PC Party convention delegates in November 2013.

Premier Jim Prentice is warming up for a victory lap as Progressive Conservatives loyalists gather at the posh Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel for the party’s annual general meeting on November 14 and 15, 2014. Mr. Prentice will join the convention basking in the glow of an impressive first two months as Premier and four recent by-election wins as party leader.

What a difference one year has made in Alberta politics. It was only twelve months ago that PC Party loyalists gathered at their 2013 annual meeting in Calgary to reward former leader Alison Redford with a 77% seal of approval.

“There’s always going to be people that have different perspectives,” Ms. Redford told CBC News after the vote. “It’s something that we celebrate in our party and we’re going to make sure that we keep working with everyone across the province.”

Less than five months later under a hurricane of controversy, Ms. Redford resigned as Premier of Alberta and leader of the PC Party.

Adults now back in charge

Premier Jim Prentice Alberta PC leadership race

Jim Prentice celebrates his victory in the PC Party leadership contest on September 6, 2014.

And after two years of what has felt like an endless stream of scandals, it finally feels like the adults might be in charge again at the Legislative Assembly.

But Ms. Redford’s absence does not mean the PC Party is free of problems.

The party saw record low participation in its September 2014 leadership contest. Only 23,386 votes were cast in the one ballot race, down from a record high of 144,289 votes cast in 2006. There were also numerous irregularities in the voting process, accusations that some members were unable to vote and that one PC MLA was given improper access to voting PIN numbers.

Future prospects for the PC Party may look better with Ms. Redford gone, but the party remains connected to a long list of broken promises made during the 2012 election.

Impressed with Mr. Prentice’s calm and commanding swagger, the party faithful seem satisfied with sweeping away the memory of their embarrassing leadership contest and the catastrophe was triggered it.

To the opposition Wildrose Party’s dismay, the by-election results suggest that many Alberta voters are willing to give Mr. Prentice a chance. The new Premier’s quick and efficient de-Redfordization strategy appears to have convinced many Albertans to, at least conditionally, once again warm up to Alberta’s natural governing party.

Mr. Prentice’s real challenge is a long-term one. Ms. Redford’s unpopular legacy left the new Premier with many easy initial wins to begin his tenure. But eventually Mr. Prentice will be forced to make tough choices, some of which may be unpopular. How he fairs when making these decisions, and responding to his critics, might be a more telling indicators of his political longevity as Premier.

What about Term-Limits for PC MLAs?

In a leadership contest devoid of much substance, an odd promise made by Mr. Prentice on August 21, 2014 did stick out.

In the middle of the leadership campaign, the front-runner’s team built up expectations around an important announcement.It was expected to be big. But when Mr. Prentice stepped up to the podium, he was met with confused stares when he proudly announced his second piece of legislation as Premier would be to impose legislated term-limits for MLAs.

When it quickly became clear that a term-limit laws was probably unconstitutional and would likely to be struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada, Mr. Prentice, a lawyer, scrambled to change his tune. He soon downplayed his initial promise, claiming that MLA term-limits would be an internal PC Party policy, rather than law.

It is yet to be seen whether Mr. Prentice will move forward with his term-limit agenda at this weekend’s convention in Banff.

How quickly fortunes change

PC Party loyalists who attended last year’s annual general meeting and leadership review may remember this slick promotional video promoting the visionary leadership of Ms. Redford. This artifact serves as an important reminder of how quickly political fortunes can turn for the worse.

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.

Joe Anglin fires opening shot in Wildrose Civil War

Danielle Smith Joe Anglin Wildrose MLA Election Alberta 2012

Happier times: Wildrose leader Danielle Smith with Joe Angiln during the 2012 Alberta Election.

Citing a “civil war” within the Wildrose Party, MLA Joe Anglin has decided to leave the Official Opposition caucus to sit as an Independent MLA.

Mr. Anglin said in a Facebook message posted this morning that he did so in advance of today’s caucus meeting, where leader Danielle Smith was expected to introduce a motion to expel him from the Official Opposition caucus.

The first-term MLA for Sundre-Rocky Mountain House-Rimbey claimed foul-play when losing his nomination bid to represent the Wildrose in the next election. A divisive split in the local constituency association has drawn the ire of senior party officials.

His departure represents the first time the Wildrose has lost an MLA to a defection and now leaves the Official Opposition with 16 MLAs.

A political wildcard, Mr. Anglin admitted in his Facebook post he had “been a round peg in a square hole in the Wildrose Party.” And despite the more recent troubles, rumours of his departure have been circulating in political circles for at least one year.

The former leader of the Alberta Green Party and outspoken critic of electrical transmission line development in rural Alberta was an odd fit for the Wildrose Party.

Mr. Anglin’s advocacy came to province-wide attention in 2007 when it was revealed the now defunct Energy and Utilities Board hired a private detective to spy on central Alberta landowners who were organizing in opposition to transmission line construction through their property.

Fanning the flames of enraged farmers and landowners, Mr. Anglin, along with lawyer Keith Wilson, helped lay the ground for the Wildrose surge in central and southern Alberta in the 2012 election.

The question now is whether Progressive Conservative Premier Jim Prentice‘s peace-offerings towards property-rights activists like Mr. Anglin could convince him to join the government caucus, or at the very least support related legislation expected to be introduced in November.

While the party’s loss in four recent by-elections put the spotlight on Ms. Smith and her call for a leadership review at the party’s November convention, Mr. Anglin’s departure casts a light on a split in the party and caucus.

It has been caught up in a civil war between ideologues and pragmatists, with staff, volunteers, and even MLAs being placed into and forced out of positions with alarming frequency,” Mr. Anglin wrote in his Facebook post.

While most Wildrose Party activists I have spoken with support Ms. Smith’s leadership, there is a group who remain disappointed with the party’s lack of focus and inability to hold significant ground against the PCs in the polls.

The clear beneficiary of this public dispute is Mr. Prentice, who, after nearly two months in office, has left the Wildrose Party scrambling to respond to a post-Alison Redford reality.

Since Peter Lougheed catapulted from official opposition leader to Premier in 1971, leadership positions in Alberta’s opposition benches have become a political graveyard for many well-intentioned and ambitious politicians.

If Ms. Smith is able to rally her MLAs and party activists in unity at the party’s convention and secure a strong leadership vote, the party could remain competitive going into the next election.

If Mr. Anglin’s departure deepens the splits in the party, and other MLAs join him or cross the floor to the PCs, Ms. Smith may be destined to join the list of many other Official Opposition leaders who failed to defeat Alberta’s 43-year governing PC Party.