Alberta Politics

Setting the stage for Wildrose 2.0: Moderates need not apply

“We must also ensure that a new, united party will be built on a solid foundation of conservative principles and policy. The left-liberal clique that managed to slowly highjack the PC Party must never again be allowed to seize control of Alberta’s conservative movement.”

Derek Fildebrandt Alberta Taxpayers
Derek Fildebrandt

This call for ideological purity came from Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt in an opinion-editorial published by Postmedia earlier this week. Fildebrandt, who sounds as if he is preparing his own leadership bid, has been a vocal supporter of Jason Kenney’s bid to “unite” the Progressive Conservative Party and the Wildrose Party to form a new consertvative party before the next election.

Fildebrandt’s manifesto reads like a call to create a rebranded Wildrose Party without the moderates, centrists and liberals who once found a home in the old PC Party. Driving this ideological agenda, Fildebrandt would undoubtably be a prominent leader in the new Conservative Party, one that a province-builder like Peter Lougheed might not even recognize.

Sandra Jansen
Sandra Jansen

Kenney’s hostile takeover of the PC Party appears unstoppable at this time. Along with support from former prime minister Stephen Harper, the Manning Centre, and Wildrose Party members, he appears to have secured a majority in the leadership delegate count.

Kenney’s supporters have succeeded in driving out a number of high profile political moderates from the party.

Former cabinet minister Sandra Jansen quit the leadership race after being harassed and threatened with violence. She later joined the NDP and is expected to be appointed to cabinet sometime this year.

Former MLA Stephen Khan told Postmedia columnist Paula Simons last week that he quit the PC leadership race last week after an ugly race where he was the target of racist and Islamaphobic emails from new party members supporting Kenney.

Stephen Khan
Stephen Khan

When author David Climenhaga, well-known for his progressive views, asked him about his political future, Khan replied “I have as much interest in joining the Wildrose 2.0 Party as you do.

Party president Katherine O’Neill has done an admirable and thankless job trying to lead the PCs through the turbulent period. Under siege from conservative hard-liners and Kenney supporters, O’Neill represents urban, centrist and moderate views that could lead to a PC Party revival. Too bad she is not a candidate for the leadership.

One year and eight months after losing the election, the big blue tent that led the PC Party to 44 years of electoral success has collapsed but not folded. The party was ripe for Kenney’s hostile takeover but any plans to dissolve the party will have to address  vendor contracts, party constitutional issues, local and provincial board approvals, legalities around fundraising and bank accounts, and fairly strict legal parameters. Despite his campaign to “unite” the two political parties, it is legally impossible to merge political parties in Alberta.

Ed Stelmach
Ed Stelmach

All this is occurring at the same time as Rachel Notley’s NDP government looks more moderate and centrist by the day. And with pipeline approvals and some projections of a recovering economy, the NDP might be the sensible option on Albertans’ ballots in 2019. But attacks on the NDP, and on Notley personally, will be harsh.

Last week marked six years since Ed Stelmach announced he would step down as Premier of Alberta. Faced with a revolt by right-wing cabinet ministers and the rise of an insurgent Wildrose Party, Stelmach surprised the province at a Jan. 2011 press conference, where he issued a stern warning about the direction and tone of politics in our province, which is shockingly relevant to today:

“There is a profound danger that the next election campaign will focus on personality and US style negative, attack politics that is directed at me personally.

The danger is that it could allow for an extreme right party to disguise itself as a moderate party by focussing on personality – on me personally.

This type of U.S. style wedge politics is coming into Canada, and it comes at our peril.”

Stelmach was a few years early, but he was right.

11 replies on “Setting the stage for Wildrose 2.0: Moderates need not apply”

The fact that ardent left-wingers like this blog’s author are against a united conservative party shows how scared the left is of the likes of Kenney, and his likelihood to win and bring us back to the days of prosperity of principled conservative leaders like Ralph Klein.

Right-wing ideologue Derek Fildebrandt is no better than the left-wing ideologues he rails about in the NDP. He’s just as risky. He’s just as ideological. His ilk don’t want those centrists getting in the way of severe funding cuts to hospitals and schools. Mark my word if Kenney and Fildebrandt get into power they will lead the most severe attack on public sector workers who are most women that Alberta has ever seen. In the economic downtown that they like to blame the NDP for it will only make the situation worse. Their risky ideology is dangerous and cannot be trusted.

It is not a good sign that THREE of the candidates for the PC leadership have now dropped out (of only six candidates total, I think) with various degrees of of frustration and anger about what is happening in their party/former party. These were all elected as PC MLA’s in the past, so their connection to the party and experience can not be easily dismissed. In addition, lets not forget the concerns expressed by the PC executive and other officials about this leadership race .

If Kenney wins the PC leadership he will inherit a shell of a party. I suspect most of the moderates that have not already left by then will also flee. After this, I can’t see it would be very attractive for the Wild Rose Party to merge with a party that will have to forfeit its money, which has lost many experienced volunteers and members. The only benefit of a merger to the Wild Rose is that it might reduce the competition for right wing votes and it might allow them to finally be able to use the name Conservative.

This is just a replay of the Reform takeover of the PC party at the federal level. Not much of a drop in overall support at the voter level, though many red Tories left. Frankly, there is a very large number of PC supporters who will vote for anyone who is not NDP/Liberal. The PCs didn’t suffer from the purge that followed the Betkowski/Klein leadership race, and the “New Conservatives” won’t suffer now either, sadly.

The Metro writings did not show much of any support for Wildrose the 2015 election. If the Rebrand of the United right is not speaking to those constituents within Calgary and Edmonton, the Takeover by whomever is going to have tough sledding if the policies a closer to Wildrose that they are PC

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