There’s a rumour circulating that as many as 10 members of Premier Ed Stelmach’s Conservative caucus may be about to defect to the Wildrose Alliance.
Of course, there may not be any truth to the claim, but it’s getting serious consideration from the media because it’s the sort of thing that sounds believable.
So many people have lost faith in Stelmach’s ability to lead this province, especially in light of the faltering economy of late, that suggestions that some Tories are about to jump ship sound credible.
After all, Wildrose is on the way up. Isn’t it?
Outgoing Wildrose Leader Paul Hinman’s upset victory in the recent byelection in Calgary-Glenmore has many Albertans thinking the Conservatives just might face some significant opposition from the right in the next provincial election.
And if Wildrose could suddenly get 10 more MLAs, then it really would be a political juggernaut.
The potential for Liberals and New Democrats succeeding in Alberta seems rather limited (many Albertans simply won’t vote for higher taxes). But as former premier Ralph Klein once noted, a genuine threat to the Tories could come from the right.
Wildrose is getting a lot of media attention these days because of its ongoing leadership race.
Danielle Smith and Mark Dyrholm, the two candidates left in the contest, both appear to be talented.
And a growing number of people seem to be disenchanted with the government’s handling of health care and other issues of particular concern to seniors. Nurses and doctors, especially, are starting to publicly express dissatisfaction with the way health care is being handled in this province.
So is it likely that 10 members of the Conservative caucus will cross the floor to sit with Hinman in the legislature?
No, it isn’t, but stranger things have happened in politics. If it does happen, this could be the beginning of a political earthquake in Alberta.
The Conservatives have become so arrogant and deaf to voters’ concerns that there probably is an opportunity for a party from the right to gain some ground.
Now, don’t expect the Wildrose Alliance to wrestle power from the Conservatives in a single election, but it could happen over the course of several provincial votes.
The rumour that some Tories may be willing to jump ship if Smith wins the leadership of Wildrose apparently comes from Paul McLoughlin, a veteran observer of the Alberta legislature, who publishes a subscription-based newsletter, Alberta Scan. He describes his sources as credible.
Albertans will have to wait until Oct. 17, the date of the Wildrose Alliance leadership convention, to see if Smith wins and some Conservative MLAs jump ship.
Hopefully that comes to pass.
Alberta doesn’t necessarily need a government further to the right on the political continuum, but we do need a stronger opposition — left, right or from the centre. The Liberals and NDP have tried to hold the Tories’ feet to the fire, but really haven’t succeeded.
Perhaps the Wildrose Alliance can.
Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.