Graham Thomson: Wildrose threatens to burn its house down

The only thing surprising about Rachel Notley receiving an approval rate of 97.8 per cent at the NDP convention on the weekend is that 2.2 per cent of delegates voted against her.

I mean, how could any New Democrat vote against Notley who virtually single-handedly won the 2015 provincial election to install Canada’s first NDP government?

You have to stretch your imagination to figure out why there was even one naysayer in the crowd.

 Are they members of the right-wing “Kudatah” fulfilling their promise to stage a Trojan horse overthrow of Notley?

Are the 2.2 per cent simply confused members who accidentally voted “yes” for a leadership race thinking they were voting “yes” for Notley’s leadership?

Or, are they the cranky uber-lefty types who think Notley should shut down the oilsands, rip up the pipelines and collectivize the farms?

I personally like the Kudatah theory because I’d hate to think one of the most ridiculous and entertaining political “movements” in Canada history has fizzled out.

I’d find it just plain sad to think the NDP has members who couldn’t cast a simple ballot without screwing it up.

The cranky theory probably makes the most sense because, let’s face it, all political parties have their angry fringe members who are never happy. And their numbers are usually in inverse proportion to their party’s hold on power. If their party is in government, the angry membership is small. If their party is struggling, the fringe tends to increase.

Notley can rest easy.

Not so the leader of Canada’s official Opposition. You have to feel sympathy for Wildrose Leader Brian Jean who has to, politically speaking, herd cats.

Unlike Notley, who is arguably more important than the NDP movement, Brian Jean is less important than the Wildrose. Jean became party leader just days before the beginning of the 2015 election. The party went on to finish second because the Wildrose was a movement that, among other things, was angry at the betrayal of party MLAs who had crossed to the Progressive Conservative government in 2014.

Jean is smart, personable and experienced. But he was not the party’s saviour. The party saved itself.

Even though he received a relatively healthy 78 per cent approval vote at his party’s convention last fall, Jean has had trouble controlling members of his caucus and party this year. Some grumblers have raised the idea of holding another leadership vote this fall. And next year, and the year after that.

Having annual leadership reviews would place Jean in an untenable position. He would constantly be faced with the knives coming out at the next convention. And everybody, especially the media, would be comparing his latest approval rating to the one before. Woe betide Jean should his approval rating drop below 78 per cent this fall if the Wildrose members were to agree to the self-immolation of annual leadership reviews.

But this is a party that sees leadership reviews as a form of accountability, along the lines of recall legislation for MLAs. The problem is these initiatives might sound reasonable in theory until they’re brought into practice and your party leader is the first one to face a revolt by voters. In 1936, then-Premier Bill Aberhart passed a recall law, but then scrambled to kill it in 1937 after voters in his home riding of Okotoks-High River targeted him for recall.

The Wildrose, though, still wants recall legislation, even if it’s unpopular or deeply flawed. Sometimes the party just can’t help itself.

Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith has recently written about a few members of the party deliberately sabotaging her campaigning during four byelections in September of 2014. She said socially conservative Wildrosers wanted to teach her a “lesson” for marching in a Pride parade.

The party lost all four byelections. That sparked an internal party crisis that led to the floor crossings.

Sometimes the Wildrose can’t help itself. And sometimes the party deliberately sets itself on fire.

Yes, spare some sympathy for Brian Jean.

Twitter: Graham_Journal

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categorised in: