The world of Alberta politics is much different than almost anywhere else.
We have witnessed a political dynasty the likes of which have rarely, if ever, been witnessed in any other democratic jurisdiction on the planet.
But just mere months ago, it appeared the Progressive Conservative Party’s over-four-decade grip on power was coming to an end as the hard-charging Danielle Smith and her Wildrose counterparts were set to put Alison Redford’s gang out to pasture.
What has followed can only be summed up as an unbelievable string of events, which began with the Progressive Conservative Party’s selection of Jim Prentice as its premier. After two Wildrose MLAs crossed the floor, and Smith’s leadership came into question, it culminated with a political union on Wednesday as Smith and eight other Wildrose MLAs joined the Good Ship PC.
Hailed as a unification of conservatives, Smith claimed victory on behalf of her Wildrose supporters, as the former leader maintained the PC swing to the right and adoption of a few Wildrose policies signalled the end of the battle for her. Citing a need to be “at the table, not outside the door,” Smith contended the time was right to fold the Wildrose tent, and encouraged the remaining five MLAs to join the winning team.
This political about-face for one of the strongest Opposition forces ever in Alberta has left many stunned and disillusioned. With only five remaining MLAs, assuming it stays that way, the Wildrose has effectively been reduced to rubble.
For Prentice, it is nothing short of a coup, and virtually assures his party’s reign as Alberta’s political kingpins will continue unabated for years to come.
The Liberals, with five MLAs, the NDP with four, and the Alberta Party now face the task of winning over an electorate which could be even more disinterested in politics than ever before, which would suit the PCs just fine.
Simply put, the disintegration of the Wildrose, which rose quickly from the political fringe to become a serious challenger, does not bode well for the future of politics in this province. The PC government has often operated as if it were in a vacuum with little threat of its loyal subjects ever turning their backs on the party, often due to a lack of credible options.
Now, the very political force which held the government’s feet to the fire, exposed its shortcomings and helped bring about some real change at the top of the political system has been neutered. More importantly, those who worked so diligently to build the Wildrose party into a political force are now left twisting in the wind, wondering where it all fell apart.
It could take years for another political party to emerge as a serious threat to the PCs, and in the meantime, the natural ruling party for successive generations of Albertans will enjoy virtually carte blanche power.
In fact, at this point in time, there is not even an Official opposition in Edmonton, with the Wildrose and Liberals each with five seats.
Life may go on for the Wildrose, with a selection of a new leader and a crop of new candidates in the next election. With the party’s credibility damaged, however, it will be a tough sell job for those few remaining.
Alberta politics has always been an enigma not only in North America, but the entire democratized world, and the events of this week further cement our reputation as a political jurisdiction unlike any other.