All across Alberta it was “Super Saturday” yesterday and throughout the province members of the eternally ruling Progressive Conservative Party were being nominated to run in the looming general election!
What won’t be all over the news is former cabinet heavy Lloyd Snelgrove’s huffy departure from the Tory caucus or his private tête-à-tête in Calgary with Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith, which might have made a nice little Super Saturday spoiler if Mr. Snelgrove’s resignation hadn’t already been conveniently leaked Friday afternoon during the traditional happy hour for governments that want to dispose of inconvenient news stories.
So a well-timed story that might have overshadowed happy talk about all the confident new PC candidates being elected across the province went pfffffft instead.
Now that we’ve all recovered from the shock of Friday afternoon’s revelation that former premier Ed Stelmach’s right-hand man has up and quit to sit as an Independent, not to mention that he was having a private palaver with Danielle Smith, leader of the party challenging the government from the far right, we have also had a little time to think about how this information made it into the public domain.
And, lo, it appears to have surfaced in the form of a Tweet from … wait for it … Conservative Premier Alison Redford’s chief of Staff, Stephen Carter!
Well, think about it. What better way to torpedo whatever it was that Mr. Snelgrove was cooking up, or at least get out there well ahead of it, than by Tweeting his big announcement yourself, resulting in coverage like this, before he could spin it into something really embarrassing? All the better to do so on the Friday afternoon before a much bigger news story was about to break.
By the time the Super Saturday coverage is wrapped up in the wee hours of this morning, no media manager is going to be interested in paying a reporter overtime to follow up on Mr. Snelgrove’s motivations, let alone his powwow with Ms. Smith. And anything Mr. Snelgrove says after today from his lonely perch as an Independent in the Legislature will be significantly diminished, thanks to clever Mr. Carter’s pinprick attack.
As for Super Saturday itself, at the end of which all but half a dozen or so of Alberta’s 87 ridings will have PC candidates, the government was upbeat about the large number of candidates fighting for nominations and Mr. Carter Tweeted determinedly. Still, even before it was over it was pretty hard for anyone who’s not a diehard Tory to get all that excited about it.
After all, lot of us find ourselves thinking the same thing we think every time the Alberta PC Party under its leader of the day starts getting ready for the automatic renewal of its mandate by calling up its ground troops: Who the heck are these people, anyway?
Who they are – at least the lucky ones above who won PC nominations yesterday that entitle them in most cases to automatically become their provincial electoral districts’ representative in the Legislature, along with the generous salary, pension and tax-free benefits that accompany it – is the next generation of loyal PC Party functionaries in their communities.
Their names may not mean much to you, but they’ve been town councillors, school trustees, reeves and dutiful volunteers in places like Airdrie and Westlock, Okotoks and Medicine Hat, Grande Prairie and Fort Mac. Some of them are pretty sharp cookies, some of them aren’t. But collectively they’re why the Tory party in Alberta has such bench strength.
For all our American-style political rhetoric (“Super Saturday,” a derivative of Super Tuesday, being an excellent example), politically speaking Alberta at the start of the 21st Century still operates a lot like the Soviet Union at the end of the last one. It’s a one-party state in which every institution is tightly knotted to the ruling party.
Basically, it’s hard to get a job as dogcatcher in a lot of places around here without Conservative connections. So, outside the big cities, there’s usually only one place that the genuinely politically ambitious end up.
Every now and then, the winds of change seem to blow, but hitherto they’ve always disappointingly petered out before they amounted to much. There aren’t many signs of perestroika here just yet, I’m sorry to report.
Political change in Alberta is like Lucy Maud Montgomery’s wonderful description of springtime in these northern climes: “The beautiful, capricious, reluctant Canadian spring.”
Like the Canadian spring, it’ll come one of these days. Just don’t get your hopes up that it will be in 2012.
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.