Here we go again. Alberta, which spawns right-wing parties like it sprouts oil wells, has given birth to another: The Wildrose Alliance Party.
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s three: Social Credit, Reform, and now this.
What is it about Alberta that fosters a live-free-or-die attitude among its citizens? Maybe it should be designated a distinct society, like Quebec or Newfoundland.
If you’ve never heard of Wildrose, don’t feel bad. Until the day before yesterday, it had exactly one seat in the 83-seat Alberta legislature, while the Perpetual Conservatives, who have governed uninterrupted for 38 years, had 70.
Well, pardner, all that changed when two Tory MLAs, fed up with the dank obscurity of the backbench, rode their 15 minutes of fame across the floor of the House, and the Wildrose vaulted over the NDP to become the third largest party in Alberta, even though it won’t be two years old until Jan. 19.
So people are starting to take notice. There’s even a chance Wildrose will increase its elected caucus to four as former Tory Guy Boutilier, cast into the ranks of the independents by a wrathful Premier Ed Stelmach last summer for daring to complain out loud, gleefully ponders casting his lot with Wildrose before the legislature opens next month.
That means Wildrose would automatically enjoy full legislative privileges, unlike the socialists, who have a key to the washroom only because the Speaker has taken pity on them.
You’re also forgiven if you think you’ve seen this movie before. Wildrose rose from the ashes of the Alberta Alliance, which itself rose from the ashes of the Reform Party, and down there somewhere, lurks the ghost of Bible Bill Aberhart, the father of Social Credit.
However, the new face of Social Credit/Reform/Alliance is the infinitely more attractive Danielle Smith, who, while fiscally conservative, is media savvy and a celebrated alum of Calgary Inc.’s 40 Under 40. Unlike the previous generation of Reform/Alliance media beefheads, Smith understands modern media relations, and is not about to be trapped into the macho, homophobic, white supremacist self-destruction common to the clan.
Still, is there room for two parties on the right, even in Alberta, where there’s apparently room for anything? Stephen Harper didn’t think so, and he got to be prime minister by uniting the right, even if the earliest fusion, the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance, came to CCRAP when you added the word “party,” which, of course, everybody did.
But don’t think Ed Stelmach isn’t looking over his shoulder. There’s a new gunslinger in Wildrose Country, and in a delightful 21st-century twist, she’s a woman.