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Monday, July 13, 2009

who is running to be leader of alberta's official opposition?

Judging from the buzz, it looks like Danielle Smith.

The two-person contest (which also includes Mark Dyrholm) to lead the now seatless right-wing Wild Rose Alliance appears to be attracting a larger amount of interest than last year's contest to lead the official opposition Alberta Liberal Party.

The 2008 Liberal contest, which culminated in a December 2008 vote, attracted as contestants Calgary MLAs David Swann and Dave Taylor and former Edmonton MLA Mo Elsalhy. While the Liberal Party earned over 250,000 votes in the March 2008 election, the leadership candidates were only able to attract around 6,500 Albertans to join their party in anticipation of the vote. As far as I am aware, Alberta's only other opposition party in the Legislature, the Alberta NDP, haven't held a contested leadership race since 1996.

I remained somewhat skeptical following Alex Abboud's bold prediction and the recent columns in the Calgary Herald, but some of the latest buzz that I've been hearing has me wondering: could the Wild Rose Alliance under a leader like Danielle Smith could actually pose a serious threat to Ed Stelmach's Progressive Conservative Party?

The dominant PCs have become accustomed to facing a Liberal and NDP opposition that largely self-quarantines its resources in 20 to 25 urban ridings in Edmonton and Calgary, making it easy for the PCs to rack up massive majorities in the remaining 60 or so ridings. Both the leaders of the Liberals and NDP are having a difficult time gaining any traction in public opinion and voter turnout has dropped to a pathetically low ~40% in 2008, which has left the political environment in tinder dry conditions. A Reform Party-esq firestorm ignited by a smart and savvy libertarian like Smith could create a political challenge stronger than anything the PCs have seen since the dethroning Harry Strom's Social Credit Party in 1971.

Kevin Libin's National Post coverage has revealed that a number of prominent Conservative Party of Canada organizers in Calgary have joined Smith's campaign, which could destabilize what in many ways has become a delicate relationship between the governing Federal and Provincial Conservative parties in Alberta.

While the hype around the Wild Rose Alliance leadership contest may end up being little more than summer-time buzz, it will remain quite telling that at least in the short-term it is making some members of the governing PCs a little jumpy.

Related Link:
David Climenhaga: Danielle Smith to lead Wildrose Alliance? Remember where you read it first!

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post, Dave. I'm loving the quality of your blog lately. Keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

Dave,

Your posts are awesome and I did read the link and it also refered to the good people on Mark Dyrholm's team.

It talked how he had "veterans of campaigns for former and current Reform, Canadian Alliance and Conservative MPs Stockwell Day, Rahim Jaffer, Rob Anders, and John Baird".

I think what scares me about the Wildrose Alliance is that candidates like Dyrholm exist at all. I will be taking out a membership to support Danielle Smith because she is pro-choice and is a social liberal.

Please expose Dyrholm for the Reformer that he is. All his less government, lower taxes agenda will do is put more people out on the street. Harper, Morton and Dyrholm would make the real axis of evil.

Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

All that the Wildrose Alliance would do is elect more Liberals (and maybe an ND or two) in Calgary or Edmonton. There are many former Reform and Alliance MLAs in the Alberta PC caucus.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant many former Reform and Alliance members who are now MLAs in the Alberta PC caucus.

Craig Chandler's biggest fan said...

I will be taking out a membership to support Danielle Smith because she is pro-choice and is a social liberal.
Please expose Dyrholm for the Reformer that he is.


Why, hello there, Mr. Craig Chandler (or one of his interchangable drones)! You didn't really think anyone was going to be fooled by this, did you?

Maybe you should stick to spamming unrelated events on Facebook with Dyrholm links. Just a thought...

Tavis said...

The Wildrose Alliance is a different nameplate on the same ideology. As such, they don't threaten the relationship with the Federal Conservatives. Quite the opposite: it strengthens the ideological alignment of Albertan and Harper Administration neo-conservative elements, by providing even more political cover for the so-called free-market end of the political spectrum.

A source of continual consternation, our woefully contemptible media landscape continues to shepherd Albertans into a a choice between a government of the corporations and Chicago School Economics and a sensational new government, even more indentured to the same.

Carole said...

You heard it here first: Wild Rose Alliance to take over Alberta Party at summer AGM. Take over Party and take the name.

dyrholm 101 said...

Mark Dyrholm for Premier!! Danielle Smith is a libertarian and social liberal. She is NOT conservative (other than fiscal, but other than the NDP who likes to brag about raising taxes these days?). Stelmach's PCs have abandoned conservatives and only Mark Dyrholm has the business experience and depth that Danielle Smith does not. Stelmach has devastated the gas sector with his decision with the Royalty Review. www.markdyrholm.ca

Anonymous said...

Actually, prices below $3 at the AECO hub devastated the gas sector. I guess you missed it three months ago when Randy Eresman, CEO of EnCana, gave the new royalty regime (which is price-sensitive) credit for their surprisingly good third quarter results.

As for Danielle Smith, yes, she's a social liberal, except in one respect. She's pro-choice, as long as you have the money to pay for the abortion yourself. If not, it's too bad, so sad. Don't believe me? See Wildrose Alliance, Smith v. Dyrholm in the June 19 Capital Notebook blog on the Edmonton Journal website.

Anonymous said...

It looks like the Chandler campaign is already running off the rails, as Chandler is freaking out at blogger Calgary Rants for saying he liked Smith better!

http://www.calgaryrants.com/2009/07/if-i-was-wildrose-alliance-supporterwho.html#comments

Chandler is such a looser.

Alberta Altruist said...

Great post Dave,
Unfortunately it turned into a Craig Chandler campaign, but this has gone on with many blogs. Since Danielle is running with the fed conservative backing, any chance a few of the true cons in the PC party will hop the fence if she wins? Had to be a few not happy with Stelmach coming up the middle, maybe Morton, Anderson, etc..

Calgaryrants said...

Dave, good post as usual. Be careful in what you say about Dyrohlm and his campaign though, or they will fill your comment box like this forever. I think I will try to run things by Marks team in the future, to ensure that it jives with that they want to hear.

Classic....

Shane

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Anonymous said...

A friend of mine likes to say he can easily see a time when the PCs are the "left wing" party in Alberta, fighting with the Wildrose Alliance, and the Liberals are wiped off the map.

I always thought this was pretty alarmist, but I'm beginning to think other than alarmist, it's right on the mark.

Anonymous said...

If Smith is able to keep the looneys in her party quiet then she will be in a good position to appeal to small c-conservatives turned off by the directionless PC's.

Ed 'Deficit' Stelmach will face a formidable force in Danielle Smith.

GM said...

Anonymous 1048: Will the left be split in 2012 or will the left be united by NDP Leader Rachel Notely?

Anon 10:48 said...

The "left" will most definitely NOT be united by NDP Leader Rachel Notley. The NDP are a complete non-factor in Alberta politics, even compared to the Liberals. And I've seen no reason to be impressed by Rachel Notley.

Left and right are relative directions. With the WAP to the right of the PCs, if they start to look competitive, there's a real chance moderate Liberals will rush to the PCs to stop the Alliance from winning, spelling the end of the ALP for another generation.

AngryGrit said...

If the Liberals are wiped off the map and the new political landscape in Alberta becomes PC vs. WAP, people are going to start pointing fingers.

So I'm going to beat them to the chase.

I'll blame the current party brass of the Alberta Liberal Party. We've been debating what it means to be a Liberal (or even if we should be Liberals) for over a year now. That's wasted time.

I'll blame David Swann's old Chief of Staff and Communications Director, for working for the party while trying to start a new party, weakening the very group that they were willing to take money from. That's disloyalty and the worst kind of casting about.


Your friend is right, Anon 10:38, a future without real opposition to the left of the PCs is not a far off future. But it's far enough off and predictable enough that it could have been easily avoided by even the slightest effort from people on the centre-left.

But the worst part is, when other people start laying blame, I can bet what they'll accuse. A lack of money, and the ignorant Alberta public. And they'll look for quick fixes. They'll blame the name, they'll blame the leader, they'll blame the system.

So I hold my strongest blame for you, Dave, and people like you: for feeling you could exact more change outside of politics than in it, and doing your level best to talk people out of involvement in "hyper-partisan" organizations.

Twitter and community activism are no substitute for hard work and uniting together as a party. Unfortunately, this is more than a life lesson with no long term consequences. This could be the death of the centre-left in Alberta for a generation.

Brian Dell said...

I am a WAP member AND I prefer Ignatieff to Harper. At least the federal Liberals have been historically interested in tax policy. Harper's latest remark about all taxes being equally evil implies there is even no point to putting one's mind to the subject. And that's just the latest "dumbing down" move of the federal Tories. The Stelmach Tories have been even worse than their federal counterparts in terms of uncontrolled spending, populist vote buying, and cynical so-con distractions (e.g. Bill 44 opt-out).

I believe that this means that in theory there should have been a big opening for the provincial Liberals. But I have never given them serious consideration. I believe most of this is due to the fact they do not have the federal party's credibility on economic issues, and that largely means sensitivity to business concerns. Get a big company CEO as Alberta Liberal leader and you would have had a chance. If the federal Liberals could do that (with Paul Martin) why can't the provincial Liberals? You go with an social issues activist (Darfur! Kyoto! Darfur! Kyoto!) and that's who you are going to get as your supporters: activists. These people are a small minority, and you have to share them with the NDP.

I believe Mike Percy, Dean of the U of Alberta School of Business and Fellow of the Institute for Public Economics is a Liberal. This is the sort of guy you need to recruit. The fact that no one has even thought of bothering is why the party is going nowhere.

Brian Dell said...

I might add that I believe this is the biggest reason why WAP has generated some buzz in recent months despite have no MLAs. We've been aggressive about bringing in individuals with business and finance experience and targeting people like Danielle Smith. The party executive has been turned over with people who would be attractive hires in the corporate world brought in. Things are still put to a membership vote in keeping with the grassroots philosophy but before voting we get a lawyer/economist/other expert to give a presentation on the issue first when possible. When a policy plank could have an impact on fund raising the VP fund raising stands up and people listen. It's the fine line between ignoring the grassroots as in the PC party and the disorganized mob rule of the old Reform inspired Alberta Alliance.

Overheard in Ottawa said...

Jason Kenney is going to endorse Danielle Smith.

Anonymous said...

Then he plays double time as he endorsed Calgary-Egmont MLA Jonathan Denis during the nomination and election.

Anonymous said...

Both Denis and Jason are former Liberals so being red must still unite them.

Anonymous said...

Wonder if they knew each other in that capacity