The Political Paradox that is Alberta
The political paradox for Alberta is that, while we have had majority governments since 1971 we have had unstable governance since about 2004. In that election year Ralph Klein kept a majority government but was loosing popular support. He gave up 12 seats that election, mostly in the Edmonton region.
The End of King Ralph
The Progressive Conservative 2004 election message to citizens on the doorsteps was this would be Ralph's last election and he would be retiring. After the election Ralph mussed about staying on as party leader. The PC rank and file membership sent him a strong message in the end of March 2006 leadership review vote at the AGM. Klein went from a typical 90% public and party approval rating to essentially a vote of non-confidence where he eked out a slim majority in the leadership review vote. Ralph was pushed out by the party members and a leadership campaign began.
One Person One Vote & Open PC Party Memberships
By October 2006 eight candidates were in the running, including (irony alert) Lyle Oberg. This Minister had been fired from Cabinet and suspended from the PC Caucus on March 22, before the dump Ralph party vote but ran for the leadership anyway. Long-shot Ed Stelmach lead on preferential vote system by less that 500 votes but was the overwhelming second choice and beat the establishment candidate Jim Dinning by more than 12,000 votes in the end.
The three front runners, in perceived order of power, were Jim Dinning. Ted Morton and Ed Stelmach. Dinning had support of 38 caucus member and three federal Conservatives. Stelmach had 13 caucus member's on the first ballot and 6 more on the second. Ted Morton, really a federal Reform Party and Canadian Alliance party member had one caucus member support him but the strong Reform Party grassroots machine to sell memberships.
Since May 27, 2011 the day Ed Stelmach resigned, and March 18, 2017, when Rachel Notley was elected, Alberta has had 6 Premiers. All had majority governments but they hardly evidenced anything approximating certainty and stability in governance.
When Redford won the contest she, like Stelmach, came from behind and up the middle to win. The contest was seen to be between an urban establishment candidate, Gary Mar, a rural establishment candidate, Doug Horner and, yet again, Ted Morton. Mar held an impressive 41% of the first ballot vote. Redford was a surprisingly in second place at 18.74% and Horner was a disappointing third with 14.55%. Ted Morton was never really in this contest but garnered 11.73% for 4th place and was eliminated.
Redford was over 13,000 votes behind on the first ballot but won by a mere 1600 votes with overwhelming second ballot support. She had only 1 caucus member supporting here on the first ballot and 5 more joined her for the second go round. whereas Gary Mar had 27 caucus member supporting him and 7 more came over on the second ballot. Mar had been out of politics from 2007 representing the province in Washington D.C. The rural establishment candidate Doug Horner had 14 caucus members behind him.
With such low caucus support and the influence of outsider "instant Tories" who bought PC memberships only to vote in the leadership, Redford had no clout as leader. Her disappointing style and narcissistic style and overt sense of entitlement destroyed her leadership and she resigned on March 19, 2014 and gave up her seat in August 2014.
Prentice & the Final Acts of the PC Passion Play
Dave Hancock was the unanimous caucus choice for interim leader until Jim Prentice won on September 6 2014 with the first ballot total of almost 18,000 votes while his combined opposition only garnered 5400 between them. Prentice called an earl;y election for May 5, 2015, ignoring the PC's much vaunted fixed election law. He lost badly to Rachel Notley and the NDP and resigned his seat even before this own riding results were counted.
Kenney Comes to Alberta and the UCP is Born
For some inexplicable reason, Harper's political acolyte, Jason Kenney passed on he federal Conservative party leadership and moved in on the provincial Progressive Conservative Party leadership. He was out to Unite the Right by purging the progressives from the PC party, taking it over as a conservative rump then consolidating with the Wildrose Party into a new "true" conservative party that he would lead to defeat the socialist NDP. And he did with the political death of the PCAA, the Wildrose and the birth of the United Conservative Party.
On March 18, 2017 Kenney won the PCAA leadership on the first ballot with 1,113 supporters and 75.5% of the 1,476 total votes cast. The other two candidates ran to keep the PCAA and rebuild it but to no avail.
In late July 2017 the PCAA and Wildrose membership held votes on forming the United Conservative Party. IN both cases the decision was profound.
There was a turnout of 25,000 Wildrose members, representing 57% of total members They overwhelming accepted the UCP option at 95.4%. No one knows where the other 43% of Wildrose members stood on this because there was no comments from them at all.
The Progressive Conservative party had over 27,000 members participate and voted 95% in favour of the new united party. That was a 55% turnout, again little if anything was heard from the 45% of PCAA members who stayed away from the unity vote.
A mere seven months later, on October 28, 2017, Kenney again won the UCP leadership on the first ballot with 61% leaving Brian Jean, the Wildrose candidate at 31.5, with the token progressive Doug Schweitzer at a mere 7.3% support. Since then Messrs. Jean and Schweitzer have hardly been seen or heard of as Kenney purges the Brian Jean supporters from party operations, as he did with progressives in the PCAA. He consolidates his power and turns the UCP into the KenneyCons.
Leadership Volatility Not Over Yet.
Every political Party in Alberta has a turnover in leadership. Notley became NDP leader in October 2014 and lead them to majority government in May on 2015.
The Alberta Liberals elected David Khan as leader on June 5, 2017. The Alberta Greens chose Romy Tittel as leader on November 4, 2017.
Greg Clark became Alberta Party leader in 2013 and was the longest serving party leader until he recently resigned. He now leaves Notley as the longest serving provincial party leader at 3 years and 3 months at the time of writing. The next rookie leader will be the Alberta Party who will take office on Feb 28th.
What Do We Do Now?
This brief history Alberta's political leadership shows how we got to where we are today. It illustrates just how volatile our political culture is and how the partisan fortunes and forces are shifting. Notwithstanding perpetual majority governments political volatility is likely to continue into and through the next election.
Will it result in a minority government or will Albertans sustain the support for the NDP majority? Are the unscientific political polls right and is the province about to shift to the ultra-right to a UCP majority? Next post I will lay out some scenarios and speculate on what I think will happen...or at least could happen...and why.
. You might want to subscribe to this blog to get notice of new posts. I will be doing a series of posts on Alberta politics beyond the horse race analysis. However I will do some analysis on the skills and policy positions of the three Alberta Party Candidates and share my views on what they bring to Alberta politics and the fortunes of the Alberta Party itself.
I will delve more into what the Alberta Aspiration should be and what we need to change so we can adapt and reach our potential. I will explore the dangers of tired old-thinking mindset of those who say we should return to the antediluvian Alberta Advantage. I will look at the risks associated with the adversarial ideological left versus right bipolar politics we have today. I will try to offer ideas and options and reasons for moderate progressive citizens to rethink their reasons and responsibilities for political participation. Stay tuned and come along for the ride.