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“Dysfunction” drives two across the floor

Alberta’s Wildrose Alliance seems farther ahead than ever with the defection of two Tory MLAs


 

It wasn’t merely that the Wildrose Alliance, Alberta’s increasingly popular upstart conservative party, tripled in size today, thanks to the defections of two Progressive Conservative MLAs. It was that those floor-crossings were accompanied by a blistering denunciation of the inner workings of the Ed Stelmach government, delivered by a young, articulate former rising star within the Tory caucus.

Rob Anderson, the MLA for Airdrie-Chestermere, who left the Tories today along with fellow Calgarian Heather Forsyth, delivered the attack as part of a press conference this morning in Calgary, where the Wildrose Alliance still finds most of its support.

First elected in 2008, Anderson called the Stelmach Tories “dysfunctional” and described an atmosphere within the Tory caucus of vindictiveness, intimidation and cronyism.

“Most Albertans will be disappointed to know that politics in our province has evolved into a process that is almost completely undemocratic,” he said, referring to a written statement. “Not only are there rarely free votes in the legislature, there are very few free votes in caucus. Virtually all legislation is created and developed by various unelected government appointees, with direction from the premier and a small cadre of ministers whose distinguishing attribute is unconditional allegiance to their leader.”

The defections are further evidence the Wildrose Alliance, which under the leadership of Danielle Smith recently surpassed the governing Tories in the polls, is more than just an Alberta novelty act. The pair of former Tories join deputy leader Paul Hinman in the legislature, catapulting the party ahead of the NDP, which has two seats, and virtually assuring it official party status.

Anderson most recently made news when, late last year, he joined a band of young conservative Tories to form the so-called Fiscal Four, a group dedicated to keeping the government on the fiscal straight and narrow.

Stelmach and his team were, Anderson went on to say, unimpressed with the initiative. “The premier and his inner circle consider it a serious offence if elected MLAs speak up publicly for their constituents,” he said. “Even behind closed doors, MLAs who contradict the chief of staff, the premier or a prominent minister are often derided, shouted down and threatened with having their political careers limited in some fashion”

Anderson called the response from the premier’s office to the Fiscal Four the last straw in his decision to cross the floor. He reserved special criticism for the premier’s chief of staff, Ron Glen. “Final government decisions are highly influenced by the premier’s chief of staff,” he said. “This unelected government appointee is now paid more than the premier, nearly $400,000 a year, and has effectively been given the power to override the views of the elected caucus.”

Forsyth, who ran into trouble with the Stelmach Tories during the 2008 election for suggesting that the premier’s lack of popularity in Calgary might hinder her from winning her seat, called the decision to leave the party “a difficult and at times heart-wrenching process.”

A Tory MLA since former premier Ralph Klein first took government in 1993, Forsyth recalled the Tories under Klein as “fun” and effective, and lamented the agenda of the old regime.

Both Forsyth and Anderson cited the Stelmach government’s controversial modification to energy royalty and its managing of the recession as policy disagreements that drove them from the fold.

Forsyth said she expects half of her riding association executive to follow her to her new party. Anderson was less specific, but said he made his decision after consulting with members of his executive. He also expressed hope his decision would be embraced by his constituents. “I believe that defending poor public policy that has been developed by a small band of out-of-touch government appointees and insiders would be a poor investment of my life and of taxpayers’ money,” he said.

But Janice Harrington, VP communications for Anderson’s riding association and present at the press conference, said she and others were not consulted and expressed disappointment over Anderson’s move.

Speaking to reporters, Anderson agreed he had not spoken to Harrington during his deliberations but added: “She’s a good person but she’s a pipeline to the premier’s office.”


 

“Dysfunction” drives two across the floor

  1. “Most Albertans will be disappointed to know that politics in our province has evolved into a process that is almost completely undemocratic,” he said, referring to a written statement. “Not only are there rarely free votes in the legislature, there are very few free votes in caucus. Virtually all legislation is created and developed by various unelected government appointees, with direction from the premier and a small cadre of ministers whose distinguishing attribute is unconditional allegiance to their leader.”

    Substitute "Canadians" for "Albertans," "The House of Commons" for "Legislature" and "PM" for "Premier" and it's just as true. Fascinating!

  2. The startling reality is that until the money runs out, Albertans almost completely ignore politics. The Tories have incompetently blow hundreds of billions (yes, hundreds of billions, that's not a typo) since 1972 with near nothing gained from it other than the enrichment of their friends and supporters. Their profligate incompetence will one day be looked upon as an example of the worst governance in Canadian history.

    And anyone expecting that to change under Tory lite, aka the Wildrose Alliance, is kidding themselves.

    The world continues largely to be about shepherds, sheep and wolves. The former and the latter know how things really work. One works to manipulate the sheep in ways that are beneficial and positive to the sheep. The latter works in ways that, while sometimes tangentially benefiting the sheep, exist to the benefit the wolves.

    It really is that simple. Don't want to be a sheep? 1) Be born or socialized to have enough social understanding and intelligence to understand the inner workings of politics and economics 2) Pick a side.

    • Ah, the Wildrose Alliance is hardly 'Tory lite'. More like 'Tory 40-proof'. The Tories, however, are 'Conservative lite'.

  3. It is obvious that everything in this article is well founded from my experience. It appears Steady Eddy tried to emulate Ralph in surrounding himself with good people but instead with Duckett and Glen and other overpaid croneys who don't have a clue … we now have 'Special Ed' as a premier. Fortunately there seems to be a core of people in the civil service who can see past their noses and probably in his last act of decisiveness is pushing through Bill 50 despite NIMBY's in Edmonton and opportunists like Enmax in Southern Alberta.

    Outside that, I really don't see a manager running this province right now. We have a club of wannabees, many non-elected, with narrow agendas and twisted perspectives.

  4. Rob Anderson is indeed an articulate young MLA, as video of the press conference today (viewable at calgaryherald.com) will show. He quite nicely articulates in this comments the root problems of any party that is kept in power for too long: entitlement and abuse of power.

    It happened to the federal Liberals after a dozen years with a majority, and it has now happened with the Alberta PCs after nearly four decades of uninterrupted power.

    Albertans are remarkably faithful to the governments they elect, but once they lose that faith in their leaders, history will show that they tend to change their government in a wholesale fashion, and never look back.

    I fully expect the PCs to go the way of the Liberals, the United Farmers and the SocCreds after Albertans rise up in the next election to elect the only truly small 'c' fiscal-social conservatives that now resides on the block: namely, The Wildrose Alliance Party.

    These two MLAs have stood on their principles in making this move, and they have placed themselves at the vanguard of what likely is going to be yet another historic seismic shift in Alberta politics come the next election. They are obviously keen observers of history. Expect to see more of these defections as other PC MLAs realize that those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.

    • Who knows? Maybe the entire PC caucus will defect to Wildrose and Albertans will have a brand new government without even needing an election.

  5. What on earth would make you think Anderson was a rising star? He ran as a Conservative merely to get elected. He was not a party supporter before the nomination and it was rampant gossip that this was his motive all along.

  6. I don't follow Albertan politics closely but it seems like Cons are dying death of thousand cuts.

    Does Rob Anderson truly believe he would be better fit in more right wing party or is it more opportunistic, trying for significant role in new party that has outside chance at winning next election? I have no problem with people changing parties for ideological reasons but I don't like crass opportunism so much.

    And Anderson might have said too much at his press conference this morning and in his press release – Smith and her brain trust might wonder how reliable Anderson is if he is willing to talk about his ex-party/colleagues like that.

  7. Craigola, it can't be allowed!

    Albertans are opposed to their representatives forming governments without winning a new election first!

    LOL

  8. My bet is on a bloodless coup by the end of the year, then they'll call an election once the dust settles.

  9. Might be tough for yet another Alliance Party out of Alberta,
    the province is back on the way up,
    Oil prices are up,
    Adjacent Saskatchewan (source of cheap labour) is back to slumping

    A year ago, or right now, an election might pull something off.
    As Alberta resumes their enviable economic position (Save for BC which is predicted to do better) will be tough to blame the Conservatives provincially … federally with suspended parliament and ballooning deficit and no signs of ending?? Now that's a different story!

  10. this shark (glen) getting 400 grand a year!! stelmachs top whistlblower! who gives these incompetents the right to a paycheck like that?? our;the ab. taxpayers money!! theres gotta be someone to come clean on this commuistic and anti democratic give a ways!! someone shoul go to jail for this. get filty rich;ab.tory party ;quick before the next election;cuz yur cabul of money sucking former cronies of klein;will be shortly thrown under the bus

  11. Alberta politics is all about which party will give the best deal to the oil companies , and therefore get their support.

    Big Oil has become accustomed to Tar Sands oil royalties of less than $1.00 per barrel , and have hired the Wild Rosers to provide them.

    Alberta , look to Norway for guidance.

  12. As an Albertan, I'm not entirely delighted with Mr. Stelmach's seeming disconnect so far with what's happening at any given moment. He seems to make the worst possible move time after time by chopping services that a week later prove to be in the most dire need. I miss Ralph Klein, who really 'got it,' and acted accordingly and above cleverly to put his finger in the necessary leaks; or Ralph had really superior people with foresight around him. Right now, my hope is that Stelmach is eventually replaced, and I'm a card carrying Conservative.

    However, in my opinion this Danielle Smith of this Wild Rose Party is so not qualified to even think of running this province
    that I'm not heartened by ANY of the options. I'm worried that she'll become premier simply out of a knee jerk backlash. It's up to the current Gov't. to get their act together in a big way, because this would not be a good occurance.

  13. No, Alberta politics ISN'T all about which party will give the best deal to the oil companies. Rolls. Eyes.
    Do you live here?

    • Mary , if that's true then why does Alberta have the lowest oil royalties in the whole world ?? How come Norway has amassed a $375 Billion reserve fund with roughly the same oil output ?? How come Alberta went broke about two weeks after the economic downturn ?? Don't roll your eyes …open them .. you are being robbed.

      • I'm aware of these facts far more than a non resident would be. I simply counter that our politics is NOT all about which party will give the best deal to the oil companies. We have many other industries, and most Albertan voters aren't involved in the oil industry and are removed regarding those oil facts and figures. Our votes encompass the whole spectrum of factors that influence other provinces, not the least which is budgetary common sense, health care, infrastructure, education and taxation… but I won't complete the long list. Oil is simply one of them. Personally, I'm with you on the Norway thing all the way.

  14. Ah yesssss Mary….
    That would be the same king ralphy that was in secret meetings with Enron (as per several Edmonton reporters and articles) and insisted that Alberta needed to privatize electric power sales?
    A conservative is a conservative no matter what they call their party, conservative policy is clearly antisocial and designed to pander to the alleged elite.
    Small wonder the conservatives only stronghold in Canada is Alberta.

  15. This is a sad story. Hope they will do something about it soon.

  16. This isn't something new. It happened to the federal Liberals after a dozen years with a majority, and it has now happened with the Alberta PCs after nearly four decades of uninterrupted power.

    Albertans are remarkably faithful to the governments they elect, but once they lose that faith in their leaders, history will show that they tend to change their government in a wholesale fashion, and never look back.

    I fully expect the PCs to go the way of the Liberals, the United Farmers and the SocCreds after Albertans rise up in the next election to elect the only truly small 'c' fiscal-social conservatives that now resides on the block: namely, The Wildrose Alliance Party.

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