It’s been an exciting couple of days in Alberta politics as something exciting has actually happened and the humdrum boring days of King Ralph’s fiefdom have been at least temporarily interrupted. In the wake of cabinet minister and leadership candidate Lyle Oberg’s purge from the Alberta PC caucus, here are some thoughts of mine:
1. Why would Lyle Oberg still want to be Alberta PC leader after this? As far as I know, he’s still a member of the Alberta PC Party (I would assume that the caucus doesn’t have the authority to revoke his membership and that this would be up to the party executive), so technically, he could probably still run. But why in the world would he still want to be the leader of a caucus that just voted to expel him from their ranks? I know I wouldn’t.
2. If Oberg drops out, where do his supporters go? Back last fall, I attended the leadership announcement event Oberg held in Edmonton at the Zuppa Cafe (I even got a nice thank you card from him and his campaign manager afterwards). Also attending the event were former Tory MLA’s Lorne Taylor (Cypress-Medicine Hat 1993-2004), Jon Havelock (Calgary Shaw 1993-2001), and Brent Rathegeber (Edmonton Calder 2001-04), and former Liberal MLA Peter Sekulic (Edmonton Manning 1993-1997). Both Havelock and Sekulic are managing partners in Strategic Resources Inc., an Edmonton-based consulting firm with a fancy website.
I would suspect that Taylor would levitate to a more right-wing candidate like Ted Morton, but I’m really not sure about the others.
3. What do Oberg supporters do at the Alberta PC AGM on March 31-April 2nd? Well, if they were planning on supporting Klein in the leadership review vote in the first place, you can probably bet they’ve had a change of heart in the past 48 hours.
4. Oberg can re-apply to join the Alberta PC caucus in six months. Other than asking why he would want to do that after they sacked him, I think Anonymotron said it best: “What is this, a roadside suspension for impaired driving? If he’s disloyal now, what makes them think six months in the penalty box will change anything?”
5. The rumours floating that Oberg may join MLA and fourth party leader Paul Hinman in the Alberta Alliance are very interesting. My first reaction is, why not? Oberg’s new seat in the Alberta Legislature is probably going to be behind Hinman anyway, why not form a caucus?
On the other hand, I’m not convinced that Oberg would agree to play Deputy to Hinman’s Sheriff. Something about a very large political ego would suggest to me that he would resign as an MLA before playing second fiddle in a two person caucus.
6. I really think Oberg’s biggest mistake was apologizing for his comments in the first place. Had he not apologized, he still would have been sacked from caucus, but he would have looked strong for not backing down. Now, he looks weak for backing down AND getting sacked. He missed a golden opportunity to look like a real life “anti-establishment” candidate. Now he just looks like a doofus.
7. As Duncan points out, how will Oberg react to his new office? As well, I’m sure the pay cut and lack of Ministerial staff (or any legislative staff for that matter) will make him wish he hadn’t shot his mouth off last week in Brooks.
8. I would love to know what the vote numbers for and against were in the Tory caucus for his expulsion. Was there an urban-rural split? A social conservative-moderate conservative vote split? Was it a landslide? Did Oberg have ANY support in the PC caucus?
9. It should be interesting to see how his constituents in Strathmore-Brooks will react to this news.
11. This could change everything for Dave Hancock‘s leadership bid. Over the past week, I was beginning to be convinced that Advanced Education Minister Dave Hancock would drop out of the race in the face of Klein’s June 1st deadline, but I now think he may stick around the racetrack. Though I don’t think he stands much of a chance at winning the leadership, I think he could probably top the list of “best Tory Premiers Alberta never had.”
12. This week delivered Obergtastic good news for Ed Stelmach. Stelmach, who resigned this week as Intergovernmental and International Affairs Minister, will have quite a bit more room to manouver in rural Alberta with the sinking of the S.S. Oberg. Keep an eye on Stelmach.
And keep an eye on Assembly Speaker Ken Kowalski – the godfather of rural Tory politics. Kowalski is keeping a very low public partisan profile these days, which leads me to think he’s up to something. All rumours point to him supporting Stelmach, which could have huge effects in a suddenly Obergless leadership race.
13. Yesterday, Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason said: “I think it’s the initiation of a reign of terror in the Progressive Conservative Party. I think Josef Stalin would never dirty his hands either. He’d leave it to the party members to do it. That doesn’t make it right.“
I think if Klein were Stalin, Mason wouldn’t be around anymore. Out of all the things Mason could have said, I think he picked one of the most ridiculous options.