What Alison Redford really needs: a smaller caucus

Members of former premier Ed Stelmach’s caucus discuss their differences in the Legislative Assembly. Is that Ron Liepert top right? Actual Conservative MLAs may not be exactly as illustrated. Below: Premier Alison Redford; Tory defector Rob Anderson, in black.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford needs to be praying hard that she wins fewer seats next year than Ed Stelmach did back in 2008.

Alert readers will recall that Mr. Stelmach, who had been chosen Progressive Conservative leader and premier of Alberta in 2006, saw his party win 72 of the 83 seats in the Alberta Legislature in the 2008 general election.

This was hailed as a historic victory at the time, and it was in a manner of speaking. But many of Mr. Stelmach’s subsequent troubles, it can be argued, flowed directly from the size of his majority.

If Ms. Redford wants to avoid many of those same pitfalls – which stemmed mostly from human nature, not some special political circumstance unique to Alberta – she would do well to hope for a comfortable majority, but not one as comfortable as that achieved by her unfortunate predecessor.

If an Alberta general election indeed takes place in 2012, as we have been promised, somewhere between 50 and 55 seats in the redistributed 87-seat Legislature would be a harbinger of Ms. Redford’s continued success, it seems to this observer.

Right off the hop – without really changing anything in terms of her ability to do whatever she pleases – the entitlement and arrogance associated with a party that can win back-to-back overwhelming majorities over the course of more than 40 years might be ameliorated a little.

That, in turn, would reduce the who-gives-a-hoot attitude of a lot of MLAs and ministers, which arguably led directly to many of the problems experienced by Mr. Stelmach that really did make it seem for a time as if the mighty Tory dynasty was on the ropes.

Indeed, it is said here that it was – it’s just that the party’s well-honed survival reflex was prompted, and the result was a new leader at the helm that presents a very different image. But while a new image may be enough to get the party through the next election, it won’t keep it healthy for long if old bad habits reassert themselves.

Back in Mr. Stelmach’s anti-heyday, while the arrogance of some well-placed Tories began to create serious problems for the premier, another symptom of a dangerously large majority began to assert itself. Let’s call this “Devil’s Workshop Syndrome.” (Let it be noted here that the use of the term DWS is not meant to imply that any members of the Progressive Conservative caucus have actual personal dealings with the Devil, except perhaps inadvertently.)

Regardless, we all know the expression: “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.” With 72 members in his caucus, virtually every one of them harbouring some degree of ambition, there simply weren’t enough cabinet posts and legislative committees to keep them all sufficiently busy.

Pretty soon MLAs were carping publicly about the premier’s lack of success, wearing black to the Legislature to protest the premier’s insufficient enthusiasm for really destructive economic policies (something akin to what Mr. Stelmach himself indulged in back in premier Ralph Klein’s day) or, worst of all, sharing discreet cups of vanilla latte with Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith in Starbucks cafes all over downtown Edmonton. (Rob Anderson, c’mon down!)

Next thing you knew there was talk of open rebellion and 10 more defectors crossing the floor of the legislature the then-Wildrose-Alliance’s benches. (One would have liked to have been a fly on the wall at the caucus meeting where the kybosh got put on that idea!) Not to mention Tory MLAs riding in the Pride Parade whilst sending out inappropriate Tweets about the other participants.

No, what Ms. Redford needs is a significantly smaller caucus as a percentage of total seats in the Legislature.

That would keep her troops focused on their jobs, and on behaving themselves. After all, the possibly of a humiliating defeat in the next election concentrates the political mind wonderfully.

Moreover, having 20 or more MLAs in the Opposition, especially if they come from all the parties that will be running candidates in the next election, will go a long way to allaying the cynicism and distrust that plagues Alberta democracy and could cause big social problems not so far down the road.

Who wants to bet, though, that Ms. Redford and her key advisers don’t see it that way. As we have already seen in the Conservative leadership campaign, they play to win – and they will only be perfectly content if they win it all, or very nearly so.

With most polls putting support for the Conservatives around 50 per cent following the leadership election, that could well happen. It is said here with no joy that, notwithstanding the recent Forum poll, the Conservatives could well again capture more than 70 seats in the Legislature, especially if voter turnout is low as historically has been the case in this province.

Nothing good will come from that – even for the Conservatives.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

8 Comments on "What Alison Redford really needs: a smaller caucus"

  1. Robert McBean says:

    there is no cure for this group. what redford really needs is to sit on the opposition side. however, i think she would lack the courage to take that role.

  2. Carlos Beca says:

    Way to go Robert. I fully agree. Let her get all the seats and see the self destruction of the PC party. I am not sure what the concern is. Have the neo-cons not done enough damage already? Just look around you and the planet for that matter. In the early 1980s when the so called Nanny state model was considered a disaster, the world was in trouble but compared to today they were the 'let the good times roll'. 30 years of this wonderful market fundamentalism, because their leaders cannot make decisions, and we have a mess like never before. A mess that could very well with a bit of bad luck and another invasion by the war industry in the US plunge the whole planet in a situation that could very well become irreversible.

    I do not know about you David but it sounds like at least myself and Robert are fine with this group going to Siberia. :) I am sure we can find work there for their esoteric minds. Hey neocons I am just kidding, please do not take it too serious. At least I do not insult people like you usually do. :) Merry Christmas

  3. Unknown says:

    Danielle Smith had a chance to take that role in the Calgary-Glenmore by-election in 2009–2009!–but apparently lacked the courage.

  4. Curmudgeon-at-Large says:

    Rob and Danielle sharing lattes? Surely selling out to Big Oil must bring in enough for them to each buy a whole latte of their own, even at Starbuck's prices.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Dave 50-59 seats would be good? how about zero? As a fiscal conservative that wants morals, ethics, transparency, democracy and competancy back here, I would rather vote Liberal, WR or even ND, if they if any of them had a chance of forming a minority gov't. Anybody but conservative. Its not so much about policies, or right or left or center. Its the whole establishment of people in the Tory camp. The entire trough is kurrupted and tainted. We can go on and on about policies and poltical talk for hours, but the real thing that needs to happen is a cleaning out of the entrenched political way of doing things. I agree with Brian Mason, next election will be a rebalancing, and there will never be enough of that here, soon enough. If a pig farmer, drunk or this one can be a premier, a bus driver, a doctor or a libertarian are more than qualified. We just need to believe in possibilities outside of hockey. Merry x-mas.

  6. Anonymous says:

    the Wildrose deserves zero seats. Zero. Especially with opportunists like Anderson and his minions.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Anderson doesn't drink lattes. He's mormon.

  8. Carlos Beca says:

    Excuse me Anderson did you mean MORON? Just checking.


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