tory rural caucus rules the roost

The first session of the 26th Alberta Legislature began last week with a showing of the deep split within the Rural and Urban MLA’s in the Tory Caucus.

March 1 – MLA’s from all parties acclaimed rural Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Ken Kowalski as the Speaker. But suprise came when the majority Tories dumped incumbent Deputy Speaker and urban Calgary McCall MLA Shiraz Shariff in favour of rural Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Richard Marz.

March 3 – The majority rural Tory Caucus denied the lone Alliance MLA, Paul Hinman, the permission to make a statment in the Assembly (All MLA’s who are not members of the governing party or the Official Opposition require the unanimous concent of the Legislature in order to make statements, which is usually agreed to). The Liberal and ND Caucuses along with some members of the Tory caucus voted in favour of allowing Mr. Hinman to speak, but the loud shouts of “nay” from the majority rural Tory drowned out any “yea” sayers. It seems they are pretty committed to keep him from speaking in the House – to the detrement of the voters of Cardston-Taber-Warner, who elected him.

The strength of the rural Tories was bolstered following last November’s provincial election, when Kevin Taft‘s Alberta Liberals routed the Urban Tories in Edmonton, Lethbridge, and 3 downtown Calgary ridings.

Tory Urban/Rural Split

Pre-2004 Election (73 Tory MLA’s)
Rural MLA’s – 36
Urban MLA’s – 37

Post-2004 Election (62 Tory MLA’s)
Rural MLA’s – 32
Urban MLA’s – 28

It seems like this could just be the begining of a nasty show-down between the ‘city tories’ and ‘country tories’ leading up to the expected leadership race to replace 13-year leader Premier Ralph Klein. Two of the rumoured front-runners in the race include the very urban former Calgary MLA and current Transalta Power Executive Jim Dinning; and the right-wing former ‘Senator-in-waiting’ and current MLA for Foothills-Rocky View Ted Morton (Morton ran on the slogan ‘More Alberta, Less Ottawa).

Final Note – I attended the first Question Period of the new Legislature last Thursday and I’d like to thank Edmonton Rutherford MLA & Liberal Finance Critic Rick Miller for the kind introduction. Thanks Rick!

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