The right-wing Wildrose Alliance may have the most engaging and interesting political leader Alberta has seen for a spell, but Renew Alberta definitely has the best name.
Ah, but that’s just it. Zzzzzzzzz no more, Renew Alberta is not Renew Alberta anymore, it’s … wait for it … the Alberta Party.
Whatever else we will learn about the new, amalgamated Alberta Party in the days ahead – and that could be almost anything by the sound of it – it has a name that’s hard to forget, and that’s half the battle in this era of instant marketing. Just ask Brad Wall, premier of Saskatchewan and leader of the so-called Saskatchewan Party. (In the case of Saskatchewan, of course, that party would still be called the Conservatives had it not been for a case of Devine intervention, as it were. But, je digress.)
Renew Alberta seemed to be an attempt by a group of disgruntled Red Tories and fed-up rightward-leaning Liberals to create a centre-right alternative to the bumbling Conservatives of Premier Ed Stelmach and the uncomfortably far-right Wildrose Alliance. Former Conservative and influential blogger Ken Chapman has been a leading light in this approach to Alberta politics, which sponsored a much-publicized conference in Red Deer last November called Reboot Alberta.
It was no secret from the start of the Reboot/Renew process that Renew Alberta wanted to call itself the Alberta Party.
The problem was that excellent name was owned by someone else – someone with not much chance of getting elected no matter what they called themselves.
The Alberta Party seems to have sprung from the same muddy spring as the Wildrose Alliance, the Alberta Alliance, the version of the Social Credit party that was revived in the early 1990s, the Western Canada Concept, the Heritage Party of Alberta, the Representative Party of Alberta, the Confederation of Regions and other fragments of the fruitcake right. However, unlike the others, it also comes with a touch of Green in the form of leader Edwin Erickson, a former deputy leader of the now defunct Alberta Green Party.
Nevertheless, notwithstanding the party’s murky beginnings, it had that great name, so the Red Tories of Reboot Alberta and the current leaders of the Alberta Party sat down together, broke bread and what emerged was, in the words of an email sent to Renew Alberta supporters yesterday morning, a merged political party that, unlike Renew, was already a registered party.
Well, they do say politics is the art of the possible! Still, one would have liked to have been a fly on the wall at those particular negotiations!
Says the Renew email: “The Alberta Party and Renew Alberta were both heading toward the same destination: a government that is fiscally, socially and democratically responsible; a viable, moderate political option that our province has been lacking for far too long. Once we realized that we had similar ideas on how to build a new party, it became obvious we would be stronger if we worked together.”
For his part, Mr. Chapman claims “the membership and motivation behind the Alberta Party has become much more centrist in its outlook and political philosophy.”
Whatever the core philosophy and leaders of the new merged Alberta Party turn out to be, it seems most likely it will be dominated by Red Tory/Blue Liberal supporters from the Reboot/Renew Camp.
If that is the case, we can expect it to adopt the classic electoral strategy of the Liberal Party of Canada – campaign to the left, govern to the right.
In addition, if the Rebooters, dominate, we can also expect many of the current Alberta Party’s core followers to quickly grow disillusioned with the new structure and hive off on their own with an even fringier fringe party. This, after all, is the great tradition of the Alberta far-right. Maybe they can call it the Wild Rose True Blue But Also Green Major Douglas Social Credit Western Canada Heritage Representative Confederation of Regions Concept Party of Alberta (WRTBBAGMDFSCWCHRCRCPA, I think).
This leaves the interesting question of who will lead the renewed Alberta Party. Presumably it won’t be Mr. Erickson, leader of the un-rebooted Alberta Party, Version 1.0. After all, he is a little-known figure seemingly unlikely to have much appeal to the province’s increasingly urban and diverse electorate.
A betting man would put money on Chima Nkemdirim, co-chair of Renew Alberta, a well-spoken young Calgary lawyer who has acted hitherto as Renew’s principal spokesperson.
Mr. Nkemdirim may turn out to be as engaging a presence as Danielle Smith of the Wildrose Alliance. Or maybe not, that remains to be seen. But he is certainly more likely to appeal to the 21st Century Alberta electorate than the likes of Mr. Erickson, or for that matter Premier Ed Stelmach!
Like the emergence of the Wildrose Alliance, rebirth of the new Alberta Party (NAP?) has interesting implications for all the parties with seats in the Legislature.
Will some Liberal MLAs, as has been suggested, break ranks to give this new party a Legislative caucus, just as far-right Tories have bolted for the Wildrose Alliance? Will further fragmentation of the right help or hurt the New Democratic Party? Will the emergence of this new party take votes from the Liberals, the Wildrose Alliance or the Conservatives? Or all three? Or none of the above? What will its impact, if any, be on prospects of the governing Conservatives? Without a party of their own, where will Alberta’s many Greens decide to place their votes?
This is a time of great ferment in Alberta politics. The creation of a fourth right wing party – fifth if you count, oh never mind… – moves Alberta beyond the sublime and much closer to the ridiculous!