Wednesday, 01 June 2016 16:48

NDP sitting back and letting the in-fighting continue

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Somewhere, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has to be smiling, at least a little bit.


While her friend Premier Kathleen Wynne sat in the visitors’ gallery of the Alberta Legislature last week as a guest of Notley’s and was subject to criticism about Ontario’s environmental policies amongst other things, it had to be embarrassing for the Alberta premier to have Alberta brought to the national spotlight in a negative way.
In a way, there must have been a small part which at least felt some political relief.
All of a sudden the criticism about the Alberta government’s carbon tax, the poor handling of Bill 6, controversial environmental policies, the cries for help for all of the thousands of unemployed Albertans whose petroleum-based jobs vanished, a large provincial deficit, the ending of coal-based electricity which could wipe out a community such as Hanna: those things aren’t being talked about.
With all the negativity the Notley government has generated — some of it quite harsh such as the anti-Bill 6 rallies — there are those who vow never to vote NDP. However, the decision on who to throw one’s support behind is currently a little murky.
Strathmore-Brooks MLA and now former opposition finance critic Derek Fildebrandt’s suspension and now relatively quick reinstatement — with a set of conditions including losing the critic’s portfolio — just re-iterates the problem NDP detractors have: For whom does one vote?
Many thought the PCs after more than four decades of ruling Alberta were dead.
The Wildrose seemed to be the answer. They gained momentum as they were extremely sharp in not only keeping the former PC government accountable, but the current Notley one as well.
Every NDP misstep was pointed out, analyzed to the point where the thoughts of a one-term Notley government seemed to be a certainty.
The idea of just waiting for the three years to be over, much like having to sit through a bad movie in its entirety, was a popular thought, at least in rural Alberta.
Now, no one is talking about the NDP’s trouble with popularity.
The media is talking about what Wildrose supporters are saying about their belief that this has been a mishandling of Fildebrandt.
Political observers are analyzing what they say is inner turmoil within the Wildrose.
At least a reported seven Wildrose constituency associations were angry that Fildebrandt was suspended in the first place and wanted him re-instated immediately.
The thought was the young MLA was thrown under the bus by leader Brian Jean who is being criticized by political pundits for his handling of his MLAs in the legislature during Wynne’s visit in the first place.
While Fildebrandt’s subsequent gaffe on social media was a major political faux pas, maybe Jean went too far with the suspension.
Fildebrandt has been loyal to Jean since Jean took the role as leader of the party.
Jean was just in Brooks a few weeks ago as part of a Brooks community fundraiser — Brooks being within Fildebrandt’s constituency — for his community of Fort McMurray.  Brooks volunteers (see last week’s Prairie Post), which is suffering its own economic hardship, raised more than $100,000 in combined cash and goods for Fort McMurray relief.
Both Jean and Fildebrandt were photographed together as two old friends.
Maybe not saying so publicly, but privately, one can’t imagine that’s the feeling anymore as Fildebrandt, no matter what one outside the situation feels about his conduct, would likely feel slighted about his demotion.
This is not good optics for those looking for a stable alternative to the NDP.
All of this raises questions regarding Jean’s leadership abilities and opinions about how he is able to handle his MLAs and what his MLAs/party supporters think of him.
Those sitting on the fence trying to figure out who to vote for, watch as the opposition party fights within itself.
Disarray and disenchantment scares away those not fully supportive of Wildrose policies. They may turn their attentions away from what the opposition is saying and may give Notley a little more of a chance to see what she is about.
Remember, Notley needs the support of mostly the urban voters in Alberta.
If she can maintain the traditional support of the union-heavy voters in Edmonton, (notice no major layoffs with provincial workers), and maintain the NDP’s new-found success in Calgary, Notley has a shot of two terms as government.
While the idea of Notley in government again seems ludicrous in rural Alberta, consider this: Albertans who dislike Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may be surprised to learn he is extremely popular across the country by a wide margin.
According to the Abacus poll published in the Prairie Post last week, in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the Liberals would only get 34 per cent of voters’ support while in Alberta it was a paltry 25 per cent.
However in the rest of the country, it’s 46 per cent which is more than enough to win another majority.
Partially it's due to the charisma of Trudeau, but it’s also due to the fact voters don’t really have a lot of confidence in the other parties right now.
The NDP and Conservatives are looking for new leaders as voters don’t really trust what is going with either opposition party because they each seem to be in a state of turmoil. 
The same can be said in Alberta. While the Wildrose is currently trying to minimize the negative optics with pleas for “nothing to see here, move along”, Notley is surely smiling, begging to differ. 
Suddenly, harsh critics scoffing at Notley’s chances of serving two terms at least now have to stop and really think about who will be the next possible premier.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor