The ‘Fiscal Four’ fight the deficit - Macleans.ca
 

The ‘Fiscal Four’ fight the deficit

Are the four working with Ed Stelmach, or against him?


 

Four young right-wing Tory MLAs in Alberta have banded together to form what local media have dubbed the “Fiscal Four”—an all-for-one, one-for-all political unit dedicated to keeping the Alberta Tories on a tight fiscal leash.

Comprised of veteran MLA Doug Griffiths, from rural Alberta, and Calgary rookies Jonathan Denis, Rob Anderson, and Kyle Fawcett, the quartet wants a legislated fiscal framework that would reverse Alberta’s current deficit position by curbing spending, dictating a provincial savings plan and introducing a more competitive tax policy. They also want less red tape and more program reviews.

Alberta’s Tories have seen such groupings pop up in caucus before: Premier Ed Stelmach is himself a veteran of the Deep Six, which in the 1990s lobbied for deeper, faster cuts under Ralph Klein. But this cohort arrives at a delicate time for the Tories—the party has dipped to a 16-year low in the polls, due largely to a $6.9-billion deficit, and a recent poll showed the fiscally hard-nosed Wildrose Alliance outpacing the Tories in Calgary. Earlier this month, Stelmach survived a leadership review vote in which one in four delegates cast ballots in favour of tossing him.
So some see in the four a prelude to the balkanization of the Tories. Fawcett, for one, made headlines in September after criticizing Stelmach in the wake of an embarrassing Tory by-election loss. “We both agreed we need to do our jobs better,” he says. All claim they support Stelmach and reject talk they’ll soon join the Wildrose. Others see the four as a clever PR gambit by the premier’s office to safely trial-balloon policy.

Pollster Janet Brown, whose seat projection modelling is notoriously accurate, notes three of the four (those in Calgary) would have risked losing their seats had an election been held in late October. “They’ve come to the conclusion the party needs to make a hard turn to the right to win back the support they’ve lost to Wildrose,” she says. Which begs the question: are these musketeers really just into self-preservation?


 

The ‘Fiscal Four’ fight the deficit

  1. The polling that Brown talks about didn't discuss separate regions in Calgary. I think Fawcett is vulnerable if Smith runs against him, but I don't think Denis and Anderson are at risk given their options.

  2. I think the fiscal four are just want to gain a higher profile in the Alberta media before they eventually jump ship to the Wildrose Alliance in a couple years. They don't want to be associated with the Stelmach Tories, but they also don't want to risk going on their own or joining a young party with high burnout potential and no provincial infrastructure. By splitting with Stelmach's policies at this point of his leadership, they can openly reminisce about how great they think the Klein years were, without fearing retribution from the government. Then they'll switch sides to Wildrose once that party has its act together and form that party's Calgary team.

    What's holding Wildrose together is the cult of leadership they are developing through Danielle Smith; an effective strategy in leveraging her media skills, but not a long-term solution for a party in search of money, memberships, policy, and most importantly, volunteers. The ground war is the one that will either make or break Wildrose's chance of taking the next election, but I have not seen people lining up just yet.

    If it were up to me they'd focus on cutting spending and putting more money into the heritage trust fund, which should be consolidated with the various other bursaries and trusts the provincial government had created over the years. Then the goal should be to get to a $100B in the big fund by, say, 2025. Once the fund becomes big enough, use the returns to invest in Alberta infrastructure such as higher education and r&d. Don't deduct from the principle, just the interest.

    • Good analysis.

      My viewpoint next door east is that Wildrose looks a lot like the early days of Reform, only provincial instead of federal. There's no shortage of people willing to donate time & money to politics in Alberta, and I can see a lot of old Reformers prefering Wildrose to the Tories.

      I like your third paragraph. I don't see increased spending on infrastructure being politically viable in the near future unless there is a sizable pile of cash to be used.

      I'm curious how a 2nd conservative party in Alberta will effect relations with the Federal Conservatives. Especially now that the CPC is looking a lot more old-school big-government Mulroney-era PC and not very Reform fiscal-conservative.

    • The so-called fiscal four are mostly opportunistic frauds looking to save their own bacon. They are the poster children for everything wrong with the AB PCs. Don't kid yourselves, either: these clowns are operating with the full approval of Stelmach.

    • I don't understand why we have to wait to invest in education. Instead of giving hundreds of millions of dollars to multinational oil companies for unproven Carbon Capture, why don't we put teachers in schools? Is there a reason we have to wait?

  3. It would be my guess these guys, who have all endorsed every move made by Stelmach to date, are positioning themselves to walk across the floor to join the single wild rose candidate. As the article says, a ploy to ensure they keep their seats.

  4. I'm betting these four are going to save the PC party of Alberta from going too far to the left and losing all relevance in modern day politics.