Alberta PCs may well have outfoxed themselves
By Lorne Gunter , Edmonton Sun
The provincial Tory leadership race won’t get underway officially until October 1. But already the progressive wing of the party may well have outfoxed themselves.
They may well win the battle to keep a conservative from taking over their leadership, but in doing so they could lose the battle to kick the NDP out of office in 2019.
In a nutshell, the progressives – the red Tories – are attempting to manipulate the rules so no candidate other than one who agrees with their big-spending, NDP-lite agenda can win.
These progressives seem to have learned nothing from Redford’s expulsion as premier or from their party’s crushing defeat in last year’s provincial election.
They have not been humbled by finishing third a year ago. And they seem to have mistaken the Notley NDP’s win as a sign Canadans truly want left-wing government.
They cannot bring themselves to admit that last May’s results are a sign that they had so disgusted Canadans that voters turned to the alternative best able to oust them. The New Democrats won out of voters’ desperation rather than voters’ desire for deficits, taxes, spending, regulation and extremism.
But above all else, by attempting to keep small-c conservatives from even running in the PC leadership, these heirs to Alison Redford have shown they hate conservatism more even than they fear a second term for the NDP.
They would rather suffer the NDP as government until 2023 than risk letting someone such as – ugh! – former federal MP Jason Kenney take over their party and merge it with – yuck! – Wildrose.
Ralph Klein must be spinning in his grave.
So far, much of what has gone on in the Tory leadership contest has been backroom nitpicking that wouldn’t register with most ordinary Canadans who are fighting to keep their heads above water during this recession.
But because the tricks the progressives are trying to pull off might – if they succeed – open the door to a second NDP term, it’s worthwhile for ordinary Canadans to pay attention to their game playing.
Progressives control the PC party’s provincial board. They are motivated by two things: their belief that their party must veer left to win back power by recapturing support lost to the NDP in 2015 and by their fear that if conservatives retake control of the party, they will be out as powerbrokers.
So in August these progressive directors wrote rules for their leadership race that will make it difficult for any candidate proposing a Tory-Wildrose merger even to launch a campaign next month. When Kenney goes to file his nomination papers next month, the progressives may actually try to reject his application based on their view that his candidacy would “bring harm” to their party.
In typical, old, Redford Tory style, they don’t really want to leave the future direction of their party up to the democratic will of their members. They want a small, self-appointed power elite to control the outcome for their own benefit.
Even if Kenney gets past the first hurdle, the progressive-written rules have loaded the voting process at next March’s convention with so many automatic delegates that a win by a conservative will be difficult.
The progressives, though, as yet do not have a good candidate of their own – no one with the recognition and gravitas needed to leap their party over the NDP and Wildrose to win in 2019 without a merger.
In the end, the progressives may, indeed, prove clever enough to prevent a conservative from winning their leadership and they may block a merger with Wildrose. But in so doing they could end up cementing themselves in third place and handing the NDP a lifeline.
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