Earlier today, Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman emailed out a press release announcing big changes to his staff.
Key among these were the additions of Jeff Melland, a former spokesthingy for the British Columbia Liberal caucus, and Ryan Pineo, a former Legislative Assistant with the same West Coast Liberals.
Mr. Melland will be moving to Edmonton and taking up his duties on Feb. 1, said Dr. Sherman’s release. Mr. Pineo, by the sound of the statement, has already started work as Dr. Sherman’s executive assistant. Dr. Sherman, according to his news release, is “very excited about my new team.” (Emphasis added; explanation to follow.)
Makes sense, you say? Liberals helping Liberals, right?
Nothing is that simple. Given the permutations and transmogrifications among the various parties of the right in Western Canada – not to mention their occasional name changes, both formal and informal – it’s very hard to keep track of what’s going on without a program and a GPS unit.
This is where it starts to get complicated. I’ll try to explain.
First of all, we need to remember that Dr. Sherman is a former Progressive Conservative, who was fired by former Conservative premier Ed Stelmach for criticizing his former conservative party when he was still a member of it. Last September, Dr. Sherman was elected as the leader of the Alberta Liberals, who were still Liberals in the normal Canadian sense of that word, when the party threw its leadership vote wide open to non-Liberals as well as members of the party.
That situation seems to have left the current eight-member Alberta Liberal caucus divided into two groups: Seven traditional Liberals, and Dr. Sherman, who with some of his unelected candidates is known as “The Sherman Team.” Of the seven Liberal Liberals, three have announced they don’t intend to run again in the next Alberta election.
Until a few days a go, the Liberal caucus had nine members, but Bridget Pastoor, an MLA from Lethbridge, crossed the floor to join the Conservatives. So now she’s a traditional Liberal who has become a Conservative, under a Conservative Party led by Premier Alison Redford, who some Albertans accuse of being too liberal. But let’s not worry about that right now.
The B.C. Liberals, by the way, really are Conservatives, and have been for years.
That would be why, over in British Columbia, Liberal Premier Christy Clark has just hired a well-known Conservative to be her chief of staff. Now, that particular Conservative, the one hired by Ms. Clark, is a fellow named Ken Boessenkool, who is a former adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Calgary MP who nobody is going to call a Liberal. Back in the day, Mr. Harper, Mr. Boessenkool and a couple of well-known dual-citizens signed the famously Alberta separatist Firewall Manifesto. But never mind that just now either.
Getting back to Dr. Sherman, the Conservative who leads the Alberta Liberals, who are still Liberals, he apparently hired the B.C. Conservatives who are called Liberals to help him do well enough in the election to turn the Liberal Liberals into either Conservative Conservatives or Conservative Liberals. Capische?
By the way, some of the old Alberta Liberals who are still Liberals and still MLAs, including the leader before last, Kevin Taft, turned up at an event last night sponsored by the Alberta Federation of Labour to publicize a book by Dr. Taft and a movie about it that describes how Conservatives like Dr. Sherman have been mismanaging the Alberta economy.
Since Dr. Taft is one of the Liberals who won’t be running again, there’s a school of thought he’s “gone rogue” and is openly clashing with Dr. Sherman over the more conservative direction he is trying to steer the Alberta Liberals.
Regardless, somewhere along the line, you may have noted that there is also a British Columbia Conservative Party, which calls itself “B.C.’s only true conservative party.” But they are not really conservatives exactly. They are really Wildrosers, except from British Columbia, although the Wildrosers, who are from Alberta, say they are really conservatives.
The Wildrose Party used to be called the Wildrose Alliance. It is running to replace the Progressive Conservatives under Ms. Redford, who replaced Mr. Stelmach. Neither of them, according to Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, are true conservatives either. Mr. Harper, for whom Mr. Boessenkool used to work, is widely thought to back the Wildrose Party in Alberta because it’s more conservative than the Conservatives.
So, the Alberta Liberals are being turned into Conservatives, the Alberta Progressive Conservatives are Conservatives, the Wildrose Party are conservatives, the B.C. Liberals are conservatives, and the B.C. Conservatives are conservatives and they all want you to believe they are the only true conservatives. If this sounds like Protestant churches to you, you may have a point.
After Conservative party members elected her Alberta premier in October, Alison Redford appointed as her chief of staff a fellow named Stephen Carter, Up to then, Mr. Carter was best known for running the successful campaign of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nensihi, who is seen as a liberal and who as associated with the Alberta Party, a party that is considered to be pretty much the same as the old pre-Conservative Alberta Liberals.
(I’m waiting for someone to write and tell me that Glenn Taylor, the leader of the Alberta Party is a former New Democrat. Well, you can’t have everything. If he still has his NDP card, we’ll send someone around to pick it up!)
Dr. Sherman, meanwhile, appointed his former Conservative legislative aide Jonathan Huckabay as his chief of staff. Mr. Huckabay also stayed with Dr. Sherman during the spell he was an Independent. He also once taught political science for a year at the Instituto Technologico y Estudios Superiores de Monterrey.
So, to sum up the chief of staff changes, Ms. Clark is a Liberal with a Conservative chief of staff, Ms. Redford is a Conservative with a liberal chief of staff, and Dr. Sherman is a Conservative Liberal with a former political science teacher from a Mexican college as chief of staff.
Dr. Sherman also appointed Earl J. Woods, a former CBC broadcaster, as his senior communications advisor. Mr. Woods will have his work cut out for him. And he thanked Rick Miller, his former chief of staff, who is stepping down to run as a Liberal Alberta Liberal and Communications Director Brian Leadbetter, who sensibly took a job doing public relations for a school board.
I hope that cleared things up!
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.