The defection of two Wildrose MLAs to the Progressive Conservatives has been viewed by many as the end of the Wildrose Party and its legacy as an effective opposition to a 43-year one-party reign in this province.
Sadly, it has also been celebrated as a victory for this province. A victory it is not, unless Albertans prefer to enjoy an environment where the ruling party is never examined or tested for its business methods and policy direction.
The Wildrose Party was the first party to turn up the heat on the PCs and they had a generous arsenal of reasons to question PC policy.
Truth is I have been a card-carrying member of both parties, although I am not currently a member of either of them. My temporary memberships in the PC Party were largely determined by my personal connections with local PC candidates over the years, as far back as 1982, in the case of former MLA Jim McPherson.
My membership in the Wildrose was based upon the party leadership campaign of Danielle Smith. I wanted Smith to become the voice and face of a new direction in Alberta politics. She was the perfect choice for me because she was well-informed, articulate and had the ability to lead a conservative movement based upon fiscal responsibility rather than social issues.
The problem Smith faced was how to lead a small, relatively unknown alternative conservative party into a position to challenge a juggernaut like the PCs. She needed to launch a campaign to unseat a party that has been in power since a time when I was too young to vote for them and, in 1971, I would have gladly voted for the young Turks in Alberta’s rising PC party had I been old enough.
The problem with 43 years of one-government rule is the fundamental lack of change in how they do business and the way they do business. The situation becomes a king-maker for party loyalists and eventually the issues of entitlement and corruption become firmly entrenched in policy.
The 2012 election was the first time since the early 1990s when Alberta voters considered a change of government. The endless revelations of PC misdeeds and misconduct surfaced on an almost daily basis as the Wildrose unearthed incident after incident about the PC way of doing business after four decades in power.
Unfortunately, the Wildrose Party was the political fall guy when it came time to vote because they had a few candidates who made the news for all of the wrong reasons and crippled the overall momentum of the Wildrose on the eve of the vote.
Smith did not oust these two candidates and paid a big price with voters. She forgot Alberta voters look for any reason not to vote for an alternative to PC and will forgive a massive litany of reasons to oust the current regime.
The recent byelections, and other issues, initiated the defection of two Wildrose MLAs to the PCs and a few people seemed to be overjoyed with their decisions. I would not be among them, because their defections reek of political opportunism.
They were elected as Wildrose MLAs and their actions betray every voter who chose them over the PC candidate in their constituency.
For the record, I do not believe any politician should change horses during their term in office. It is unethical and lacks principle.
All of these events bring me to the current situation for Alberta politics. I believe the Wildrose made a big mistake during their last meeting when they chose to focus on an amendment to a human rights clause. They have to stay out of the social issues and focus on the fiscal issues to prevent further decline in their popularity.
The best example of a successful new party alternative can found next door in Saskatchewan, where the Saskatchewan Party enjoys enormous popularity in a province formerly famous for socialism (NDP) and corruption (PC) in its political history.
The Saskatchewan Party was a badly-needed political alternative and makes a great blueprint for a change in this province.
The question arises: will Danielle Smith be able to steer her party in the same direction?
I suggest she have a talk with Brad Wall.
Jim Sutherland is a local freelance columnist.