Sunday, March 29, 2009

Does Calgary West Harken to Harper's Downfall?

March 30 UPDATE: Just spoke with Randy Dawson and contrary to prior information, he confirms that he is not involved in any way or with any candidate in the Federal Conservative Calgary West nomination process. He says he only gets involved in his own constituency and that is not Calgary West. I have revised this blog post to reflect that reality.

The recent results of the Conservative Party AGM in Calgary West are very interesting. With 27 of 30 new board members supporting challenger Donna Kennedy Glans, this means incumbent MP Rob Anders is in serious trouble in Calgary West.

That is fascinating example of constituency politics but the implications go much deeper, right into Harper’s hope for continuing party leadership and potential to stay as Prime Minister. But more on that in a minute.

In an attempt to protect incumbents the Harper Party recently imposed new rules that required a 2/3 vote of constituency members to call for a nomination contest. That means most ridings will preserve the status quo for the protected incumbents – and representative democracy continues to erode. But not so in Calgary West! The new board election resulted in the ousting Ander’s loyalists and that pretty much guarantees that the incumbent Anders will face a nomination race.

So presuming a nomination battle in Calgary West, what might happen? Looks at first glance like a race between Anders and Donna Kennedy Glans.

Anders is the choice of the rabid old-guard Reformers and has tried to frame Glans as a Liberal in his phony fending off of her challenge. So with all this positioning of the players, let’s play political scenario!

Anders is a formidable campaigner and the new rules favour the incumbent. Glans’ takeover of the Calgary West constituency board shows she too is a formidable campaigner. More to the point she has proven that she can attract new people to the party who will also show up to vote for a change.

The other dynamic at play is the disenchantment of the Reform base with Harper’s abandoning of their political principles for his own purposes, namely personal political power. Harper’s Liberal-like pandering to Quebec with money and federal largess was the very stuff that started the Reform Party in the first place – and it did not work in the last election. Now the Harper stimulus policy is again way too Liberal-like for the hard-core Reformer/Alliance conservatives. They, after all, are the ones who actually brought Harper to the dance in the first place.

This has plenty of implications for Harper’s survival as the conservative leader but what does it have to do with Ander’s candidacy! Potentially plenty! I don’t know if the rabid Reform base stayed home from the Calgary West AGM or if they were complacent. Perhaps they just did not see Glans coming, along with 600 other party folk, who were mostly intent on electing a new board. Both ways, they obviously did not show up in sufficient numbers to support Anders. The end result is that the Anders Reformers have lost control of the Calgary West constituency. Now what!

Will the rabid Reformers decide to stay home on the inevitable vote for a Calgary West nomination meeting? And will the nomination itself throw Anders under the bus as a way to send an early warning sign to Stephen Harper? Or will they “catch on” to the consequences of passivity and return to kill a nomination vote and thereby ensure that Anders survives as a symbol they still support the Harper leadership? I’m seeing the former reaction as more likely from old Reformers who have become more disenchanted with Harper’s leadership.

So where will the Calgary west battle lines be drawn? Will it be between the Reform/Alliance Anders types versus the Progressive Conservatives? Could it be between Anders’ Reformers and the Kennedy Glans Progressive Conservatives as it seems at present? What if another candidate enters the nomination process from Progressive Conbservative or the Reform side of the Federal Conservative Party? What if the Reformers stay home and the battle is between two Progressive Conservative candidates? What will that say about Harper’s presumptive Alberta stronghold and his political stranglehold in Calgary?

Remember in the last provincial election, Morton Reformers and Dinning Progressive Conservatives saw both of them rejected and Stelmach win the PC Party leadership. Calgary then saw Stelmach win a decisive election victory, much to their amazement. What’s more there were five Liberals elected in Calgary – and only three from Redmonton - in the last provincial election. The Calgary political climate seems to be changing, maybe not as dramatically as the planet's climate is changing but who knows.

I think the Calgary West Conservative Party AGM results have to be seen as some serious writing on the wall for Harper and his leadership. It is going to be a bell weather constituency for Harper’s future, even before the election, and especially if it chooses to have a nomination meeting in the near future.

Harper has ignored his base and they know it and they are not amused. He has also taken Alberta for granted for much too long. His best times are behind him and his style of leadership and his penchant for political tactics over good governing are “talents” that are no longer valued by the voters. His bullying and misleading instead of leading has worn thin. It is becoming more and more obvious that Harper is not what Canada needs, especially as we face enormous and mounting economic, environmental and social challenges all over the county.

It will take some time for Harper to exit, but by the time the next election rolls around, I think Canadians will just want to butter Harper because he is toast - and stale toast at that.