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Tuesday, 31 March 2015 14:50

Wild(rose) time in ‘conservative’ Alberta politics makes for some great viewing

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If you are someone who thinks politics is boring, you failed to watch the drama last week, especially on March 21-22. It truly had a lot of dramatic elements to it. It’s like passing by a bad accident scene — you just can’t take your eyes off it.


For many, provincial politics is something people shrug their shoulders at as disillusionment runs rampant.
Even the staunchest of PC supporters have to admit Premier Jim Prentice isn’t the most popular guy in the province right now no matter how one wants to explain the logic behind the budget last week or the results of this weekend’s constituency nomination votes.
While a small feeling of uneasiness no matter what political stripes, one may have found it to be a wee bit satisfying for those voters who were disgusted by the floor crossing of nine former Wildrose Party members. Former leader Danielle Smith was ousted from the provincial Progressive Conservative party nomination race in her constituency of Highwood March 21.
In a “picture is worth a thousand words” shot, a Canadian Press photographer skillfully took a photo of ousted Smith after she failed to win the PC nomination for Highwood constituency to Okotoks town councillor Carrie Fischer.
In the foreground, Smith is standing with a grim look on her face in the bottom left part of the photo. In the background, Fischer is planting a smooch on her husband.
It was so symbolic on so many levels.
Smith told Global Television’s Vassy Kapelos and former Southwest TVNews reporter to “p---- off” following a seemingly innocent text exchange shortly following the released results.
Watching her frustration knowing all her efforts to save her own political hide went for naught, Smith learned she was all part of the new world order in Alberta politics — the new world according to Prentice: those who aren’t part or share his vision of the future — you aren’t needed — PUNT!
In a vote with more than 900 ballots cast (no totals were released), Prentice did little to save her unlike fellow floor crosser Bruce McAllister.
On the surface, it looks like Prentice wanted to save McAllister by unexpectedly eliminating McAllister’s opponent Jamie Lall in Chestermere-Rockyview constituency. Lall, who sold more party memberships than McAllister, was disallowed to run by the constituency association committee. No reason was given as of Monday morning, but needless to say if Prentice wanted to, there is a probably a way he could find to do it.
Now conveniently Prentice can hide Smith in some comfy patronage appointment behind the scenes and will have still benefitted from destroying the opposition in the process too.
Although it adds to the drama, Rod Fox in Lacombe and Gary Bikman in Cardston-Taber-Warner were also former Wildrosers who lost out in their PC nominations. Prentice is still in control. Even As the World Turns, a legitimate soap opera, doesn’t have this much over-the-top plots and sub-plots.
If the PC drama wasn’t theatrical enough, the current Wildrose leadership vote was also plum full of emotion. Brian Jean was in a battle with Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes for the leadership position. Jean’s camp accused Barnes of being in an outside-the-rules robocall campaign. Postmedia reported Barnes was fined $5,000 for making robocalls and $10,000 for them being outside the designated phone times.
Barnes is now thinking about his political future following the heated campaign.
All of this made for excellent theatre, so many storylines for journalists and pundits and a great smokescreen and delicious distraction from the wildly-panned budget tabled last week.
The budget has been criticized as one pandering to Prentice’s friends in the corporate world and an attack on the middle class.There is no turning off the tap of major spending and it makes ordinary people pay higher taxes.
While it’s been a wild ride the last week and a half, things are only going to get more interesting as there is almost certainly going to be an election call. After all, the writer, director and producer of all this theatre is Prentice, steering every storyline imaginable. While there were certain acts in his play that had a few rewrites and a little more drama than expected, he still knows exactly what stage direction the play is going. Whether the audience will attend to watch remains to be seen and where the true drama could show up.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at rdahlman@ prairiepost.com.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor