All posts in Alberta Politics

The bloom is off the (Wild)rose – Opposition Leader Danielle Smith assailed by doubts, dissent and departures

Are the wheels falling off the Wildrose bus, which may or may not look exactly as illustrated any more? Below: Beleaguered Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, Taber-Warner-Cardston MLA Gary Bikman and Wildrose House Leader Rob Anderson.

These may be happy days for the Progressive Conservatives under Premier Jim Prentice, but the bloom is definitely off Alberta’s Wildrose Opposition.

Just weeks ago seen as a sure bet to be the province’s next premier, Wildrose Opposition Leader Danielle Smith is today buffeted by an embarrassing scrap between her party’s social conservatives and socially progressive members over LGBTQ rights, troubled by questions about her own performance in four recent by-elections, and sees her supporters tempted by the welcoming glow of the rejuvenated Tory benches.

Commentators are starting to talk openly about the wheels falling off the Wildrose bus.

In other words, the turnaround in Tory fortunes engineered by Mr. Prentice in the short time since the PC Party’s darkest hours under the catastrophic Alison Redford seems to have had a calamitous effect on the morale and unity of the Wildrose Legislative caucus and the rank and file of the party, which for almost two years has looked as if it were about to canter into government without breaking into a sweat.

Mr. Prentice’s success should surprise no one. He is a capable and disciplined politician at the head of a party that was ready to pay attention to a strong leader after two and a half years of chaos and deepening doubts about Ms. Redford’s erratic and at times irrational leadership.

But the apparent unraveling of the Wildrose caucus and party so quickly in the face of the Tory regrouping is a surprise – at least this early in Mr. Prentice’s tenure.

But since the party’s loss of all four Alberta by-elections to the government on Oct. 27, Ms. Smith’s hold on the affections and loyalty of the other 15 members of the Opposition party’s caucus, not to mention its inevitably fractious general membership, has appeared increasingly tenuous.

Right after the by-elections, Ms. Smith said she would stand for a leadership review, then changed her mind, apparently at the urging of supporters in caucus who were none too confident she could win it.

Last weekend, while Ms. Smith was still smarting from the by-election losses and trying to figure what to do next, Wildrose members at the party’s general meeting in Red Deer ignored her call to support an amendment to the party’s human rights policy.

Instead, they voted down the change, which would have said the party would defend the rights of all Albertans “regardless of race, religious belief, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation of that person or class of persons.” (Emphasis added.)

Their leader’s hope, of course, was that by passing the resolution the party could finally put behind it the reputation for intolerance stuck in the public’s mind with the so-called Lake of Fire Affair during the 2012 election campaign, in which a Wildrose candidate outlined his views on the eternal consequences of homosexual relationships in a blog published by an evangelical church at which he was also a pastor.

The revelation, which Ms. Smith later characterized as a “bozo eruption,” without question played a role in the Wildrose defeat at the hands of Ms. Redford’s PCs.

Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason this week portrayed the vote in Red Deer as a “bozo eruption” by the entire party – but I don’t think that’s quite right. Oh, they were bozos, alright, but this was no eruption. Alas, the party, with its roots in the social conservative fringes of Alberta politics, has suffered a steady leakage of this kind of thing since Day 1.

Ms. Smith gets it that her party needs to change if it’s going to succeed. The instinct of too many of her party’s members is the opposite.

Perhaps they were influenced at the AGM by the brochure left under the windshield wipers of their cars by the “Reform Party of Alberta,” an entity apparently created by Randy Thorsteinson, a familiar name to those who follow Alberta’s social conservative fringe. He founded the Alberta Alliance Party, a predecessor of the Wildrose Party, and was leader of the Alberta Social Credit Party for a spell, in his effort to push socially conservative nostrums at an uninterested public.

If nothing else, both Mr. Thorsteinson’s reemergence on the Wild Rose Country so-con scene and the Wildrose Party’s rebellious membership are symptoms confidence on Alberta’s right the party can form the government if they only behave themselves is beginning to waver.

The defeat of the human rights policy immediately led to plenty of bad press, plus the very public resignation of a Calgary party official who supported the change.

Ms. Smith will have a chance to try to get this issue right with her caucus next month, when Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman’s private member’s bill supporting gay-straight alliances in schools, which passed first reading in the Legislature yesterday, comes back for second reading.

Ms. Smith says she is likely to support the bill. Her caucus is squirming with indecision. Here’s betting they don’t have it in them to do the right thing.

Meanwhile, the decision by former caucus member Joe Anglin early this month to sit as an independent seems to have opened fissures too. The disputatious Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA and former Green Party leader may have been a bad fit for the Wildrose caucus, but his departure amid claims the caucus in the midst of a “civil war” has according to blogger Dave Cournoyer garnered the support of other Wildrosers.

To top it all off, speaking in the Legislature this week, two members of the caucus could be heard heaping praises on Mr. Prentice and his government.

“We want to help the Premier. We believe he’s serious and self-aware enough to realize help and good solutions are available from other sources, like the Wildrose Official Opposition,” Cardston-Warner-Taber MLA Gary Bikman said wistfully in the Legislature. “Welcome to Wild Rose Country, Mr. Premier. We’re all MLAs, and we really are here to help you.”

The same day, Wildrose House Leader Rob Anderson, a former PC Party member, pitched in: “I’d like to stand and say a few words about the Speech from the Throne. I thought it was a very interesting document. I think there were a lot of good things in there, a lot of good words, good ideas. …” He went on: “Hopefully, we can work together.”

Is this a theme, or what? Is it just me, or do these guys sound like they’d like to re-join Mr. Prentice’s party as soon as possible?

Then there’s the unconfirmed buzz in the Legislature that at least one other Wildrose MLA – no one named in this post – is talking to the Tories about crossing the floor now that Ms. Redford’s political career is history.

If this keeps up, Ms. Smith’s political career may soon be history too.

Indeed, if it continues, it’s hard to believe she won’t be thinking seriously about pulling the plug on politics herself.

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Two political general meetings in one weekend: Wildrosers conduct gloomy post-mortem while PCs flirt with characteristic hubris

Steady as she goes! Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, centre, works to keep party stalwarts, on either side, on the right course, which would be not too far to the right, of course. Alberta Premier Prentice, at the wheel above, tries to get the earnest Wildrosers to take a wrong turn. Actual Alberta conservative party leaders, supporters and their political vehicles may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: The real Mr. Prentice and the real Ms. Smith.

Both of Alberta’s right-wing parties held general meetings this weekend – the ever-ruling Progressive Conservatives in Banff and the so-far never-ruling Wildrose Party in Red Deer.

The PCs led by Jim Prentice patted themselves on the back for their victories in the Oct. 27 by-elections and the Wildrose Opposition led by Danielle Smith beat themselves up for their inability to make any headway in the same four votes.

They both, arguably, missed the boat in their deliberations.

Readers of Alberta Diary are just going to have to put up with armchair strategizing  from afar, since getting to Banff is just too big an investment in time and money for a busy pre-Christmas weekend, and Red Deer, well, nobody in their right mind would go to Red Deer at this time of year!

Indeed, the fact the Wildrose Party’s leaders were inclined to pick that central Alberta city – a venue that seems to possess all the vices of a small Prairie town and none of the graces – may illustrate part of their problem.

That said, of the two, the Wildrose Party had the more interesting topic to ponder – how to deal with the existential crisis it faces if it can’t pull off a victory in the next general election, something that looks less likely every day Jim Prentice remains as premier.

On Friday Ms. Smith told the party faithful that she’ll step down as leader in 2016 if the Wildrosers don’t win the election widely expected that year. Of course, that’s not much of a promise as there’s unlikely to be much of a Wildrose Party left to lead if it can’t win an election after the Tories and the province suffered through a catastrophe like Alison Redford.

According to reports in the popular press, Wildrose rank and filers stood up at the meeting and complained their slogan in the Oct. 27 mini-election election sucked, the focus on Ms. Redford’s disastrous tenure in office was all wrong, and, as the Edmonton Journal put it, they had a problem with “disorganized internal data.”

This all has a ring of truth to it, but none of it really goes to the root of the Wildrose problem.

Yeah, “Time to Send the PCs a Message” was a pretty lame slogan, but I doubt any slogan would have made much difference in a vote in which, as Wildrose House Leader Rob Anderson rightly pointed out, the deck was stacked by the governing party in favour of the governing party.

The Wildrose campaign’s negative focus on Ms. Redford was a mistake. Albertans seem in a forgiving mood when it comes to Mr. Prentice’s leadership, at least willing to give him a chance to prove the Redford Government was an aberration, not the reductio ad absurdum of 43 years of PC rule.

But that fact is closely related to the Wildrose Party’s genuine need to set itself apart from a PC party that espouses the identical ideology, advocates the same policies, is funded by the same corporations and people, and in many cases still has the same members, but also has the significant advantage of actually being in power.

The Wildrose plan, clearly, was to say, “we’re more honest than those other conservatives.” Or maybe, “we’re more competent,” which wasn’t a hard case to make with Ms. Redford at the helm. But the replacement of the Redford PCs with the Prentice PCs seems to most voters to have put paid to both arguments.

So how are the Wildrosers any different? Well … and this is the party’s real problem that no Wildroser wants to confront … they’re still scarier than the PCs to most uncommitted voters.  The devil you know, and all that.

Moreover, the deep-pocketed corporate oilpatch backers whose money got the Wildrose off the ground in reaction to Ed Stelmach’s feeble effort to charge a fair royalty are bound to be significantly less enthusiastic about a second conservative party now that there are no policy differences on questions affecting the energy industry.

The real problem the Wildrosers face now, as some of the news coverage of their meeting illustrated, is that they’ll be pushed away from the moderate positions Ms. Smith has worked hard to foster by the disaffected social conservative extremists who played a big role in establishing the party.

That would be exactly the wrong thing for them to do – as Ms. Smith clearly understands. The Wildrose Party will never win as the party of Tory outsiders. But the pressure on Ms. Smith to tack to the loony right will now be great.

Which brings us to that “disorganized internal data,” whatever that means. The Journal’s reporter didn’t explain.

I don’t think the problem was that the party’s data was disorganized, so much as it was misinterpreted. This may or may not be what the Wildrose insiders had in mind, but it sounds very much as if on Oct. 27 party strategists got the idea they could beat Mr. Prentice in Calgary-Foothills and pulled resources that should have been used to win in Calgary-West, where the Wildrose candidate ended up only 315 votes from the brass ring.

In reality, Calgary-Foothills voters, concerned about keeping the good times rolling, were never likely to reject Mr. Prentice and introduce major instability into the administration of the province.

But victory in just one seat was all it would have taken to turn a gloomy post-mortem this weekend into a huge celebration for Wildrosers. So that Oct. 27 miscalculation may turn out to have been a blunder of historic proportions.

As for the PCs, they seem to go from strength to strength under Mr. Prentice, but the problems of hubris and a weak bench that plagued them during the Redford Era remain, lurking in the wings.

Mr. Prentice boasted that money is again flowing into Tory coffers, just like the good old days before Ms. Redford ascended to the leadership. No surprise, really, since the PCs are now advocating the oilpatch policies the Wildrose Party was established to ensure.

Mr. Prentice cleverly left the impression an election may come sooner than later – a simple strategy that could stampede the Wildrose Party into once again trying to line up candidates too soon. It’s said here the Wildrosers would be smarter to wait for serious candidates to emerge from the woodwork.

It was this mistaken sense of urgency that led to the party’s acceptance as a candidate in 2012 of Pastor Allan Hunsperger, who holed the Wildrose boat just before election day when his religious views on homosexuality emerged in a blog post no one had thought to cleanse from the Internet.

And it could again result in the Opposition party picking, at best, weaker candidates than necessary.

But it would be a grave mistake for the Tories to conclude, as they seem to have done, that all the damage suffered by the PCs under Ms. Redford can be patched up in a few weeks by Mr. Prentice.

Their strongest players are gone, purged from important positions by Mr. Prentice for the crime of being too closely allied with Ms. Redford.

The weak players that remain may be just as prone to egregious blunders as the candidates the Wildrose Party is in too much of a hurry to nominate.

So while things look bleak for the Wildrose Party this weekend, it would be a mistake to count them out.

And while things look as rosy as an Alberta wild rose for the PCs, it would also be a mistake to assume their restoration to another four or five years of power is a foregone conclusion.

Mr. Prentice and his three new MLAs – Health Minister Stephen Mandel, Education Minister Gordon Dirks and Mike Ellis – will be sworn in Monday morning, then everyone will repair to the Legislative chamber in the afternoon for the start of the third session of the 28th Legislature with the delivery of the government’s pre-election Speech from the Throne by Lieutenant-Governor Donald Ethell.

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Revolving door still spinning at Alberta Health Services executive suite in wake of $3-billion ‘Sonic boom’

Former Alberta Health Services VP and interim co-CEO Rick Trimp, who left the massive health care agency on Halloween, in a screen grab. Below: AHS CEO Vickie Kaminski, blogger and political candidate Susan Wright, Health Minister Stephen Mandel and former health minister Fred Horne.

Rick Trimp, who most recently was Alberta Health Services’ vice-president of province-wide clinical supports, programs and services and before that was briefly the organization’s interim co-CEO, doesn’t work for the massive provincial health services agency any more.

That much we know. Everything else is murky.

Mr. Trimp became interim co-CEO responsible for population, health and province-wide services when the previous CEO, Duncan Campbell, was replaced a year ago after only a month on the job. Mr. Campbell had Tweeted that a halt was being called to plans for a privatized medical super-lab in the Edmonton area. Days later, then health minister Fred Horne countermanded that statement and told Albertans nothing had changed about the super-lab plan. Mr. Campbell was sent back to his previous job as chief financial officer.

As interim co-CEO responsible for population, health and province-wide services, Mr. Trimp was the public face of the process announced Dec. 11, 2013, to choose the public-private partnership to build the consolidated Edmonton lab testing centre, a process worth $3 billion to the winner.

So Mr. Trimp obviously played a central role in the controversial decision announced last month to name Sonic Healthcare Ltd., a $6.7-billion Australian company, to run the massive privatized Edmonton-region lab services program for AHS.

Mr. Trimp’s departure was announced about two weeks later in a terse Halloween memorandum emailed to AHS “senior leaders,” which is what the organization calls its top executives nowadays.

Sent on behalf of AHS’s latest CEO, Vickie Kaminski, appointed last May 26, the email said little more than “I wish to announce that Rick Trimp will be leaving Alberta Health Services from his roles as Vice-President, Province-Wide Clinical Supports, Programs and Services, effective October 31, 2014.” That is to say, the same day as the memo was emailed.

It went on: “On behalf of AHS, I would like to thank Rick for all his contributions to AHS and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.” It then provided a list of eight senior execs who would fulfill his various duties until a replacement is named and advised leaders with questions to call Ms. Kaminski.

As far as I can tell, Mr. Trimp’s sudden departure was reported only by CBC Edmonton radio and TV news, which chose not to leave a permanent story on the network’s website.

On the face of it, little of this saga makes much sense.

Commentator Susan Wright argued in her excellent Susan on the Soapbox blog Nov. 9 that the decision to choose a foreign company for the huge project borders on “lunacy.” It will benefit Australian not Canadian tax authorities, the foreign company will far higher interest carrying costs than the Alberta government would have, and Sonic pays its executives huge amounts that will require topping up by Alberta taxpayers, argued Ms. Wright, who was the Liberal candidate in the Oct. 27 Calgary-Elbow by-election.

Accordingly, Ms. Wright asked: “Why does Stephen Mandel, the newly minted Minister of Health, think it’s a good idea for Alberta taxpayers to support the lifestyles of wealthy Australian businessmen who earn more than $13 million a year, their executive teams who get ridiculous bonuses and stock options and the Australian economy as a whole with corporate tax contributions?”

Good question, for which no answers are likely to be forthcoming.

Also lunacy, it is said here, was the decision a year earlier to use a P3 to build the lab, which is bound to cost taxpayers more and do a worse job than if the public sector had been left to do the job properly. This may have been why Mr. Campbell Tweeted that the project would be reconsidered, until Mr. Horne set him straight on that.

DynaLife Dx of Edmonton, the company that now provides many privatized lab services in Edmonton for AHS and which presumably thought it was a deadbolt cinch for the new, bigger contract, announced on Nov. 6 it would appeal the choice of Sonic.

It wasn’t clear from DynaLife’s news release if it meant a legal appeal or some kind of administrative procedure. No one at DynaLife was answering calls from bloggers that day, and the distinction didn’t seem to matter to the media.

“There were significant flaws and failures in the conduct of the RFP process which drove to a biased conclusion,” DynaLife CEO Jason Pincock said in the news release published by the Canadian company.

Among those failures, the release said, was the fact “AHS did not include or evaluate the significant risks or costs of transition in its RFP process.” And AHS can’t assume DynaLife will just hand over its lab-testing infrastructure to Sonic, Mr. Pincock told local journalists.

The same day, AHS responded with a statement of its own: “We are confident the RFP process was conducted in a fair and transparent manner with all proponents being treated equally, and that the robust RFP evaluation and selection process has resulted in the selection of the best quality laboratory service solution for Albertans.”

Well, the process may or may not have been transparent to the companies involved, but like most everything where privatization and P3 schemes are involved, there’s absolutely nothing transparent about the process to the people who pay the bills and require the services – that is to say, us Albertans.

Similarly opaque is the reason for or meaning of the swift departure of a senior executive who played a key role in the selection process so soon after the choice was announced.

So pardon my French, but what l’enfer is going on? Mr. Mandel?

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Alberta’s big problem is the same as Russia’s – so what’s Stephen Harper doing about it?

Keep those wells a-pumpin! Keep those oil prices low! Squeeze those Russkies! Uh … just a minute. … isn’t that bad for Alberta’s many varieties of Conservative? Below: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Mr. Harper’s hero, Margaret Thatcher.

The Globe and Mail, tireless cheerleader for the Harper Government, was gloating Monday about the impact falling oil prices, a declining Ruble and the bite of Western sanctions are having on Russia, which, the Report on Business rejoiced, is being pushed toward the brink of recession.

Woo-hoo! That’ll teach those Russkies to try to keep NATO missile forces off their strategic front porch!

As we all know, rattling Canada’s largely non-existent sabres at the Russians, exaggerating the threat posed to Canada by post-Soviet Russia and caricaturing Russian President Vladimir Putin as the Beast of the East is a key wedge issue in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 2015 re-election armoury. It’s thought to play well in places like Winnipeg and Edmonton.

To make Russia behave in a properly neoliberal way, it’s widely believed, the United States and the invitees to its geopolitical party, including Mr. Harper’s (neo)Conservative government in Ottawa, have been doing everything they can to persuade the OPEC countries to keep their oil wells pumping at the highest possible rate, thereby keeping oil prices low.

If OPEC’s members were to cut back on production, energy prices would go rocketing back into the stratosphere, to Russia’s considerable benefit, not to mention the Islamic State’s.

But as long as OPEC keeps pumping, the undeniable squeeze on Russia will get more painful.

But has it occurred to anyone among the governing party’s unquestioningly loyal supporters out here in the Alberta Tarpatch that what’s bad for Russia is bad for Alberta too? Leastways, it’s bad for the Alberta energy industry, which from Mr. Harper’s point of view is Alberta.

And not just the oilpatch, but those federal Conservative politicians who come from out here in Wildrose Country – Prime Minister Harper among them – whose Thatcherite scheme for the neoliberalization of Canada depends on revenue flow from a booming energy sector and shipments of Athabasca bitumen via pipeline to all points of the compass.

That was the Margaret Thatcher formula, no? Use the revenue generated by North Sea oil to underwrite the massive tax cuts necessary to cripple the welfare state – or, as people like Mr. Harper prefer to think of it, the nanny state. Then, when it’s too late to put Humpty-Dumpty together again, Milton Friedman’s Shock Doctrine can take over and do the rest.

Mr. Harper – who on Lady Thatcher’s death hailed her as “a truly historic figure, remembered for centuries to come,” which no matter where you stand on her legacy is hard to argue with – plans along with the rest of the Alberta Establishment to use the Athabasca Bitumen Sands to do the same thing to Canada, if only they can figure out a way to get its squeezings to market.

Well, I’ve got news for them: keeping the price of oil low enough to put the screws to Russia isn’t going to do any good for the viability of high-cost oil extraction industries like those in the Athabasca Tarpatch and the shale gas fields south of the Medicine Line. We are not talking about sweet ’n’ easy-to-pump Saudi crude north of Fort McMurray, folks.

Likewise, engineering low oil prices to crush Russia for the benefit of the U.S. strategic program in Eastern Europe is not going to do anything to improve the economics of building pipelines to Texas, British Columbia and New Brunswick.

Gee, it could turn out that Mr. Harper’s made-in-Washington Ukraine strategy is the best thing that ever happened to the North American environmental movement and the worst thing that ever happened to our vast deposits of presumably ethical but undeniably expensive-to-process sandy oil.

In other words, the U.S. tactic that Mr. Harper is cheering on is effective against Russia, but it’s also effective against American ideological buddies in places like Ottawa and Edmonton where neoliberal planners are making the same mistake as their Russian counterparts did during the chaotic Boris Yeltsin era – hollowing out the country’s manufacturing base to rely solely on energy exports to parts of the world that still make stuff, viz., China.

The most important question may turn out the be who has the greatest capacity for pain – Russians or Americans. I suggest you take a look at the history books to answer that one. It’s said here that the Republican Congress’s impatient backers in the U.S. oilpatch will cry Uncle long before the Russians, with their proven capacity to endure suffering.

Remember, when you’re calculating time lines, Mr. Putin is now polling in excess of 80 per cent. Mr. Harper’s approval rating is around 30 per cent.

So Conservative allies in the Alberta oilpatch have their pips under pressure just like Mr. Putin. Here’s betting they squeak first.

Here in Alberta, low oil prices are extremely bad news for the Progressive Conservative government of former Harper minister Jim Prentice, which had been counting on going into an election campaign with a big surplus.

Well, at least they’re selling the stuff in U.S. dollars, since falling prices are having the same effect on the Canadian dollar as the Russian Ruble – which would have helped Canada’s manufacturing sector if the Harperites hadn’t managed to hollow it out already.

Yesterday, the ever-loyal Globe advanced a fanciful theory about how this “shelters” Canadian oil producers, but even Canada’s National Website admitted this can’t last for long.

It’s also not particularly good news for the Cordilleran Elite that runs Canada or whatever you want to call Mr. Harper’s crowd, which has been counting on high energy revenues to bankroll their pre-2015-election tax-cutting scheme while still being able to pull a “balanced budget” out of its top-hat.

It will give the Wildrose Party an opportunity to scream about Mr. Prentice’s mismanagement of the economy, I suppose, but it’s hard to see how that will be very persuasive if oil prices remain low all over. Albertans, after all, actually pay attention to that kind of thing, and enough of them know the reasons to be dangerous.

Presumably the great secretive minds of the Harper Government have connected these dots and know that Alberta’s big problem, which they’d desperately like to go away, is the same as Russia’s big problem, which they’re doing their best to encourage. It would be interesting to know what Mr. Harper plans to do about that.

Right now, it looks like his violently militaristic anti-Russian rhetoric is aimed directly at his own feet. Ain’t it a funny old world?

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Liberal Leader Raj Sherman may have scored ‘own goal’ as Elections Alberta investigates donations to his party by firms he owns

If this is your own goal, there may be something wrong with your game! Below: Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman and Edmonton billionaire Daryl Katz.

Call it the Alberta Political Advantage.

Reports of illegal and questionable political donations have dogged Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government for years. These included contributions made by such public institutions as municipalities, colleges, universities, and health regions, as well as iffy “bulk contributions” organized by well-heeled private citizens who were friends of the PC Government.

Now it would appear it’s not just the PCs.

Leastways, the Edmonton Sun and the Calgary Herald both reported late yesterday that Alberta’s chief electoral officer is investigating two companies owned 100 per cent by Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman, a former PC, for making multiple donations to his own party exceeding limits on donations from multiple companies owned by the same person.

The investigation is based on a complaint made by Edmonton-based researcher Tony Clark.

Alberta Liberal Party financial statements posted by Elections Alberta show donations from Rajnish Sherman Professional Corp. and Empress Group Ltd., both wholly owned by Dr. Sherman, were greater than the allowable annual $15,000 donation limit by $2,000 in 2011 and by $4,000 in 2012, Mr. Clark said in a letter to Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler.

The same law limits donations from the same individual or companies owned by the same person to $30,000 during the campaign period between an election call and voting day, and also makes it illegal for a party to accept a donation it knows exceeds the allowable limits for one individual or company.

According to the Liberals’ Elections Alberta filings, the same two corporations appear to have donated $30,000 to the party this year.

Dr. Sherman told the Herald he does not believe he broke the Alberta Election Financing and Contributions Disclosure Act. “These are separate donations from separate entities,” the Herald quoted him as saying. “As far as I am aware, under the law I can do that.”

Dr. Sherman – like all other opposition politicians in Alberta, understandably enough – was strongly critical of Edmonton hockey and drugstore billionaire Daryl Katz’s involvement in the controversial “bulk donation” of $430,000 in the spring of 2012. That donation was made to the faltering campaign of premier Alison Redford, which was in danger of being swamped by a rising Wildrose tide during the last provincial general election.

That controversial donation, in the form of a single cheque from Katz Group Properties Inc., appeared to many Albertans to be in violation of the law – although Elections Alberta eventually ruled in 2013 that it was OK for a group of donors associated with companies owned by the owner of the Rexall drugstore chain and the Edmonton Oilers hockey club to contribute to a group donation even though it was handed over in the form of a single bank draft.

Notwithstanding Elections Alberta’s conclusion, the popular consensus, in the words of the National Post, was that the donation and the ruling made a mockery of the province’s election financing law.

While Elections Alberta cleared the bulk donation, it did say one $25,000 component was not legal because the named contributor, Katz Group chief financial officer Paul Marcaccio, was not a resident of Alberta.

Dr. Sherman said at the time that such donations tend to undermine public confidence in the system, and complained that the province’s election finance laws have “holes you could drive a truck through.”

“The current rules do nothing to prevent large contributions to all leadership candidates in all political parties from companies, unions, and wealthy individuals,” he told the Canadian Press.

One of those holes is a three-year statute of limitations, which means Dr. Sherman and his party couldn’t be prosecuted for what occurred in 2011 if it were deemed to be an offence.

Yesterday Dr. Sherman told the Sun any errors in his companies’ donations were “an innocent oversight” and that the party would refund the money if it is shown to be in the wrong. He complained to the Herald that the rules are “fuzzy.”

Moreover, Dr. Sherman said the donations from his companies “pale in comparison” to the pattern of illegal donations made to the PC Party over many years.

In that, he is most certainly right, although it might not have been the shrewdest thing to say under the circumstances.

This situation has the potential to become a serious embarrassment for Dr. Sherman and his Alberta Liberals. You have to know what the Tories are going to say if he points to sketchy donations by their supporters in the future.

On this topic at least, whatever the legal technicalities, it seems likely the public will conclude the Liberal leader has scored an “own goal.”

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Business arising from the minutes: Unionized St. Albert workers sign deal; CTF Alberta director suddenly departs

Toronto’s once notorious Rochedale College, now a perfectly respectable apartment building. Below: Outgoing Canadian Taxpayers Federation Alberta Director Derek Fildebrandt and the King’s Noodle Restaurant (grabbed from TripAdvisor).


It was my intention, since I am away from Alberta on business, not to file an Alberta Diary post this evening. Truth be told, Friday night and Saturday are the week’s worst times for readership anyway, as those readers with a life tend to be off living it.

Still, my iPhone gonged portentously when I exited my Air Canada flight from Edmonton here in the Ford Bothers’ hometown tonight with two interesting and relevant developments related to stories published here over the past two days.

Apropos the question of whether or not City of St. Albert inside administrative workers and employees of the city’s public library should join a union to protect themselves from the depredations of radical Ford-style municipal politicians, the city announced today it has reached a two-year agreement with public works and transit employees represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

The city’s agreement with CUPE Local 941 includes pay increases of 2.7 per cent in each of 2014 and 2015. The agreement was ratified by the union’s members on Wednesday.

Like most things unions do, collective agreements are public, so copies of this one will be available in several places, including on the city’s website and from the Alberta Labour Relations Board, for local anti-public-service zealots to work themselves into a swivet over.

Meanwhile, just after lunchtime today, Canadian Taxpayers Federation Alberta Director Derek Fildebrandt Tweeted: “Moving on from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation,” and provided a link to a blog post explaining the reasons for his imminent departure.

Readers will recall it was reported on Dave Cournoyer’s blog on Wednesday that Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith has been “working hard” to recruit the CTF spokesperson as a candidate for the next provincial general election in the Calgary-Bow riding.

“Mr. Fildebrandt is an outspoken critic of the PC Government and has targeted Premier Jim Prentice with FOIP requests dating back to his time in Ottawa,” Mr. Cournoyer pointed out.

So, yesterday, Mr. Fildebrandt wrote in his personal blog that “the time has come for me to move on from the CTF.”

As a result, Mr. Fildebrandt wrote, “I am currently exploring opportunities in the private sector.” He promised, however, that “while I am transitioning from the CTF to the private sector, I have every intention of continuing to write and speak about issues of public policy that are important to me as an individual.”

Mr. Fildebrandt’s sudden goodbye was not crystal clear about exactly what his political intentions may now be. He wrote: “I feel the need to address speculation over the past few weeks as to if I will seek a seat in the Legislative Assembly to represent my community in Calgary. I had been approached about the prospect of doing so, and I did consider it carefully with my wife Emma. We were married just over a month ago and it is difficult to see room for such an endeavor at this time. 2016 is a long way off and while I may give future consideration if circumstances permit, I don’t see it in the cards.”

As for Toronto, I am pleased to report that the former Rochdale College – once the city’s most notorious drug den – now appears from my hotel across the street to be a completely respectable apartment building, possibly even a condominium.

And just like the 1970s when I lived nearby, one can still have a filling dinner at the King’s Noodle Restaurant at Spadina and Dundas and get change back from a $5 bill – although, at those prices, nowadays one really ought to leave a decent tip.

There’s no better time than right now for non-union employees of the City of St. Albert to look for union protection

St. Albert’s 2013 civic election campaign was pretty dirty, as the illustration above, grabbed from an anonymous blog during the campaign, illustrates. Since those kind of tactics seemed to work, the next one, in October 2017, is likely to be dirtier still. Below: St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse, Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Doug Horner.

ST. ALBERT, Alberta

If you’re a front-line administrative or library worker employed by the City of St. Albert, you should be thinking seriously about joining a union. Now. Here’s why:

Cast your mind back to the rhetoric and tactics of a number of candidates in this community during the last Alberta civic election in November 2013.

One of them talked incessantly about his plans to eliminate several city departments (and, presumably, the jobs of all the employees that work in them as well as the services they provide), arbitrarily cap city employees’ salaries, and slash the pensions of city employees – never mind that those pensions were not under the control of the city government.

That person didn’t win, as it happened, but he was part of a slate of candidates endorsed by a couple of well-financed anonymous entities that did very well, electing a couple of councillors who are now acting in ways that strongly suggest a concerted attempt to unseat Mayor Nolan Crouse and replace him with one of their number is already underway.

Well, fair enough, I guess. That’s democracy.

Leastways, it’s democracy Alberta style – complete with pots of money from secret sources, anonymous smear campaigns, and scurrilous images implying that candidates without the endorsement of the unnamed “concerned citizens” who may or may not live here planned literally to piss away your tax money. (Full disclosure: it was my name on the urinal on the far left in a graphic published by one of these anonymous campaigns.)

But it’s fair to say the people who endorsed these candidates – whoever they were – are honing their techniques and learning the lessons of other “populist” “anti-tax” campaigns as taught by such institutions as the Calgary-based Manning Centre for supporting far-right municipal takeovers.

While it is unfair to make generalizations about the views of a fairly large group of potential municipal candidates on the political right, it is fair to conclude that many of them sincerely believe with almost religious fervour that private companies always do a better job than public employees – notwithstanding a vast body of evidence to the contrary.

Others have a much nastier point of view about public servants.

Regardless, if you are an employee of the City of St. Albert – whether you are a unionized outside or police worker or a non-union administrative or library worker – it’s safe to say there is bound to be a significant number of candidates who disparage public services generally, hold your work in contempt, and even actively dislike you just because of the role you play in their community.

If you are an employee of the public library or in the arts generally, these same people are quite likely to wishfully believe your work is merely a frill for a “special interest” and, moreover, that in the digital age the important services you provide are obsolete anyway.

How many times have you heard one of these people ask, “Why do we need a library now that we have Google?” (In my six years as a public library board member, I always tried to answer that question with this question: “Why do we need a fire department now that we have running water?”)

The point is not that the ideas offered by these people – and promoted by their anonymous and deep-pocketed backers – have much merit, they obviously don’t, but that they have considerable appeal to a significant minority of citizens in our society. Never doubt that the spirit of Rob Ford is alive and well right here in St. Albert.

With voter turnout traditionally low in municipal elections because many voters wrongly conclude little of importance happens at the municipal level, a well-motivated and generously financed group can do a lot of damage. Voter turnout in  St. Albert in 2013, by the way, was a pathetic 34 per cent.

So, what to do? One thing, obviously, is to ensure you vote yourself, and not to vote for candidates who disregard public services and the people who deliver them.

But with candidates who could very well get elected in sufficient numbers to dominate council talking openly about attacking your jobs and your retirement security, it behooves you to ensure you have a legal contractual relationship with your employer that guarantees you will be treated in a consistent and businesslike fashion in the event of an organized attack on your livelihood.

If worse comes to worst – and it very well could – city outside workers and police service staff employees who are now members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees will be in a much better position than those of you who do not have union representation. Another union with a great record representing civic workers is my former employer, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

A union contract can’t guarantee your job won’t be privatized, but it can guarantee you won’t be treated arbitrarily if it is.

Moreover, union membership can provide you with an effective voice that cannot be ignored to advocate for the services that benefit all of us in a community, and with legal and labour relations resources to protect you against illegal or arbitrary abuse or dismissal in your own workplace.

Last year in Alberta, public service union members working together proved just how effective they can be, successfully protecting their modest pensions in the face of a concerted attack on their retirement security by the Redford Government – led, we should be embarrassed to have to acknowledge, by Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Doug Horner.

When it started, Mr. Horner, then the finance minister, bragged that he was prepared for a fight if government workers dared to stand up to him. Well, they did, and look where he is today!

The blunt fact is there are people in our community who intend to come after you, your jobs and your families. They are powerful and well connected. And they have money to back their objectives.

You need to be prepared to act collectively to protect your rights in the workplace – and, incidentally, to protect the things that make our community worth living in.

The best way to do that is to be part of a union. And the best time to do that is now, three years before the next civic election, not in the midst of a crisis caused by anti-public-service radicals allowed onto council by an inattentive electorate.

Of course, there will be lots of people who will tell you shouldn’t exercise your legal right to join a union. Some of them will be angry with you. Some of them will sound hurt. Usually just thinking about who they are and who they work for will tell you everything you need to know about how much they truly have your interests at heart.

By all means, listen to such arguments. But I also suggest you talk to your colleagues and friends who are already members of a union and see what they say.

I’m talking about St. Albert, of course, because that’s where I live, and the present trend in our municipal political life concerns me as it should concern you.

But it’s safe to say similar candidates with similar views are saying and plotting similar things in communities all across Alberta and Canada. So this little object lesson is something for non-union municipal employees to think about everywhere they are found, not just here in St. Albert.

Remember: the time to protect yourself is now, not when the stuff is hitting the fan.

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Said to be sought as candidate by Wildrose Party, ‘tax watchdog’ spokesperson’s intentions are for the moment unclear

CTF Alberta spokesperson Derek Fildebrandt last summer at the Legislature in Edmonton. Below: Premier Jim Prentice and political blogger Dave Cournoyer.

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith is “working hard” to recruit Canadian Taxpayers Federation Alberta spokesperson Derek Fildebrandt as a candidate for the next provincial general election in the Calgary-Bow riding, blog author Dave Cournoyer reported yesterday.

“Mr. Fildebrandt is an outspoken critic of the PC Government and has targeted Premier Jim Prentice with FOIP requests dating back to his time in Ottawa,” Mr. Cournoyer wrote, citing “rumours” that he said have been circulating for some time.

If it is true the Wildrose leader hopes to recruit the CTF’s Alberta director as the party’s candidate in Calgary-Bow, as Mr. Cournoyer’s blog suggests, surely Mr. Fildebrandt needs to clarify what his intentions are regarding running for the party before he issues another press release.

If he plans to run as a Wildrose candidate, obviously anything he or the CTF says about any other party’s platform or policies needs to be treated with caution by media used to reporting the so called “tax watchdog’s” often-debatable pronouncements without balancing commentary as if they were divinely inspired.

But even if Mr. Fildebrandt is merely being recruited and has no intention of running, his potential Wildrose candidacy is now on the public radar and obviously deserves clarification before he pontificates further on the economic policies of any political party.

Mr. Fildebrandt has not yet responded to the email I sent him at his CTF account early yesterday afternoon seeking his comments on Mr. Cournoyer’s report and asking specifically about the nature of his discussions, if any, with the Wildrose Party.

Inevitably, if he were planning to run for the Wildrose Party, such a situation would raise questions about the CTF’s non-partisan status, frequently trumpeted on the group’s website and in press releases assailing pubic employees’ pensions, publicly funded services and other policies deemed insufficiently conservative by the CTF that blanket Canadian newsrooms with the ubiquity of winter snow.

As has been argued in this space before, the CTF’s role as a non-partisan commentator on tax policy depends on a nice distinction about the meaning of partisanship. The CTF is a faithful supporter of the policies of the Harper Government and its provincial auxiliaries, and its staff provides a frequent recruiting field for conservative political talent, despite the fact the organization doesn’t officially support a particular party.

But having a potential candidate for one political party commentating in a supposedly neutral fashion on the platforms and policies of three or four competing parties, if that were to happen, would take the CTF’s normal advocacy of market-fundamentalist nostrums to a whole new level of partisanship.

The CTF’s criticism of Mr. Prentice and his Progressive Conservative government undeniably took on an aggressive tone last summer.

In August, Mr. Fildebrandt released thousands of pages of Mr. Prentice’s expense records dating back to when the PC premier was the federal Conservative Government’s minister of Indian affairs and northern development.

The highly critical media statement that accompanied the 3,264 pages of documentation made reference to “at least one major irregularity” in Mr. Prentice’s federal expense accounts, and left the impression there might have been more.

However, it is said here, the assertions made in the release depended on a highly tendentious interpretation of Parliament’s expense claims rules and the documentation contained no credible evidence of actual improprieties in Mr. Prentice’s past expense claims.

In the event, the CTF commentary failed to stir up much distrust of Mr. Prentice, and it is telling that the CTF has not returned to this issue. Lately, the CTF has moved on to other issues, including heaping praise on the Harper Government’s income-splitting tax scheme and demanding that the pensions of Members of Parliament who are convicted of crimes be revoked.

Presumably the CTF would include in that demand convicted Conservative politicians like Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former Parliamentary secretary, who was convicted last week of spending too much on his 2008 election campaign and then trying to cover it up. Mr. Del Mastro resigned his Parliamentary seat yesterday, in part to protect his MP’s pension, which he will be eligible to receive in 11 years when he is 55.

The CTF also has strong connections with Canada’s powerful corporate anti-union lobby, and Mr. Fildebrandt has been aggressive in his recent attacks on the pensions of unionized public employees.

Wildrose Leader Smith was the Alberta director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, a market-fundamentalist Astro-Turf group similar to the CTF in conservative ideology and modus operandi, before announcing her intention in 2009 to run for the leadership of the party then known as the Wildrose Alliance.

Soon after Ms. Smith’s plans were revealed in this blog, she gracefully left her role with the CFIB.

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The Annals of Irony: Those alleged Wildrose caucus recordings and Danielle Smith’s 1999 school board ‘opposition research’ escapade

A mean note found in a trashcan or a coffee cup and reassembled. Actual mean notes found in actual trashcans may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Former Wildrose MLA Joe Anglin, Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith, former Calgary Herald editorial page editor Peter Stockland, former Calgary Liberal candidate and public school trustee Jennifer Pollock, former CBE chair Teresa Woo-Paw, now a PC MLA.

There is a certain irony in Opposition Leader Danielle Smith’s distress this week at the thought someone might have recorded meetings of the Wildrose Party’s Legislative caucus.

That someone, according to Ms. Smith, was former caucus member Joe Anglin, who on Sunday asked Speaker Gene Zwozdesky to reseat him as an independent MLA posthaste when it became apparent he was about to be kicked out of the Opposition party’s caucus.

Mr. Anglin, the MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, firmly denies the allegation, calling it “a fabrication.”

Nevertheless, Ms. Smith told the Calgary Herald on Monday, “he records conversations and I have no idea what he does with the tapes when things are recorded. When you want to be able to have a full open conversation and you’re worried that your conversations might be recorded, then that creates a bit of a chill on a discussion.”

Certainly, if there was any danger of private conversations being aired, it just might have just the kind of chilling effect that concerns Ms. Smith.

Nevertheless, a similar circumstance seemed not to trouble Ms. Smith very much back in 1999 when she sat as a school trustee on the Calgary Board of Education, the city’s public school board.

Memories are short in the digital era, so only the most alert readers can be expected to recall Ms. Smith’s key role as a trustee on the dispiritingly dysfunctional Calgary school board during the late Nineties. The board’s notorious troubles seemed to have arisen after the 1998 civic election from an ideological rift between trustees committed to public education as traditionally funded and supported and a couple of right-wing trustees more sympathetic to market fundamentalist nostrums – one of whom was Ms. Smith.

Before long, discarded notes handed between some trustees were fished out of a boardroom trashcan, a coffee cup or some other receptacle and presented to the media after a contentious Calgary Board of Education meeting had adjourned.

The rude unsigned notes that ended up being published in the Calgary Herald, the National Post and Alberta Report, the Byfield Family’s now-defunct loony right news magazine, included uncomplimentary references to Ms. Smith’s hairdo and board chair Teresa Woo-Paw’s suits, plus negative reviews of their abilities as trustees.

Ms. Smith told the Herald at the time she had seen the trashed notes and thought the handwriting on them was that of trustees Jennifer Pollock (a well-known Liberal in Calgary) and Judy Tilston.

Liz LoVecchio, another trustee unsympathetic to Ms. Smith’s views, later told the Herald she had written some of the notes, adding, “the only way somebody could’ve got hold of these was either they ruffled through garbage and pieced them back together, or they stole them from me.”

For her part, Ms. Smith defended her use of the notes in another Calgary Herald story (published on April 2, 2012, and no longer available on the Herald’s website) as “opposition research.” She denied retrieving them from a garbage can, but said she found them stuffed in cups left on the boardroom table after the meeting.

Jane Cawthorne, who succeeded Ms. Smith as a CBE trustee, argued in a blog post published a few days later that it’s not important where Ms. Smith found the “mean girl” notes. “The point here is that Smith made it an issue, found the notes and made them public. She wanted those notes in the media. The media in turn were delighted to outline all the details of who said what about who’s hair and someone’s ugly suit.”

Needless to say, this all had a distinctly chilling effect on the board’s discussions.

Indeed, soon after, Ms. Woo-Paw – who is now the Conservative MLA for Calgary-Northern Hills and Premier Jim Prentice’s Associate Minister of Asia Pacific Relations – approached then education minister Lyle Oberg and asked that the board be dissolved as too divided to function.

Dr. Oberg complied in August 1999, appointing an administrator to run the board. Soon after that, Ms. Smith, who was 29 and had no journalistic experience, was hired by Calgary Herald editorial page editor Peter Stockland as an editorial writer and columnist.

With labour relations rapidly deteriorating at the Herald and Ms. Smith’s role as a just-hired supporter of the employer arousing fears among unionized editorial staff, she was unkindly known for a spell by some of her colleagues as “Trashcan Dani.” In retrospect, perhaps it should have been the “Coffeecup Kid.”

Regardless, when the Herald’s journalists went on strike in November 1999 in a bitter and ultimately unsuccessful eight-month struggle to win the first contract to which unionized Alberta workers are supposedly legally entitled, Ms. Smith regularly crossed their picket lines and worked throughout the strike.

After that, her media career took off and segued naturally into her present political role – one in which she has understandably if ironically grown more concerned about the chilling impact of repeating private conversations in public than she was as a school trustee.

This post also appears on Full disclosure: David Climenhaga was vice-president of Local 115A of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada throughout the Calgary Herald strike.

Conservative parties squirm as fired AHS executive triumphs over government, controversial MLA quits opposition caucus

This just in from Alberta’s two conservative parties. Below: former Alberta Health Services CFO Allaudin Merali, Alberta Premier Jim Prentice, MLA Joe Anglin (CBC Photo), Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, former health minister Fred Horne.

Alberta’s governing Progressive Conservative Party and its Opposition Wildrose Party, in addition to sharing an identical right-wing ideology, face a similar problem this morning, a situation and a person each party would very much like to see go away as quickly as possible.

In each case the circumstances have the potential to embarrass each party seriously enough with voters to impact its chances in the next general election.

For the Progressive Conservative government led by Premier Jim Prentice, the potential embarrassment is caused by the substantial settlement received by Allaudin Merali, the chief financial officer of Alberta Health Services fired in 2012 when expense claims he had filed in a previous job were reported by the CBC and became a major crisis for then-premier Alison Redford and her health-minister, Fred Horne.

Mr. Merali was back in the news yesterday after rightly declaring the $900,000 settlement he received last week was a victory in his two-year fight with the government and a vindication of his conduct in both his former jobs.

For the Wildrose Party led by Opposition Leader Danielle Smith, the potential embarrassment is caused by Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Joe Anglin, handed his hat by party members in his own riding last July when they nominated his constituency association president to replace him in the next provincial general election.

The mercurial Mr. Anglin, always ready for a fight, was back in the news yesterday in a frenzy of recriminations after quitting the party’s caucus on the weekend and declaring publicly its ranks are riven by “a civil war between ideologues and pragmatists.”

In the short statement sent to media and political bloggers by Mr. Merali yesterday, the former CFO for both the Capital Health Region and Alberta Health Services declared that the settlement of his claim against AHS and former Minister of Health Fred Horne “covers not just amounts that were due to me under a contractual commitment but also damages.”

Mr. Merali’s statement continued: “The settlement is a clear indication of two points: the decision to refuse to honor a legal contract was wrong, and the defamatory statements by Alberta Health Services and the former Minister Horne and other politicians (particularly the former premier) were irresponsible and totally inappropriate. AHS, the former minister and the former premier were not entitled to shred my contract and damage my reputation, by insinuating that my expenses under a former employer, Capital Health were in any way improper, let alone that they were a cause to terminate me.

“As AHS indicated in their press release on October 31, 2014, they are ‘….satisfied that the termination of … employment is properly characterized as having been without cause.’ Therefore, this settlement has clearly vindicated me in that I had done nothing wrong and that my dismissal was unjust.” (Emphasis added.)

In this assessment, Mr. Merali is most certainly correct.

It was clear from the get-go the expenses he filed at Capital Health in 2008 and 2009 were approved by his supervisor, CEO Sheila Weatherall, and that he was being punished years later for the political embarrassment the health region’s vague expense-claims policies caused to the PC Government after the CBC story appeared.

What was bizarre was the determined insistence by Mr. Horne, Ms. Redford and the government’s army of public relations specialists that no matter what his contract said they could tear it up because … well, because they felt like it.

It turns out, however, that even after more than 40 years of PC rule, the rule of law persists in Alberta and a legal contract is a legal contract – even when the premier and her health minister don’t like it.

So it can be argued, even though this is bound to be unpopular in certain journalistic quarters because of the inevitable cost to taxpayers of a settlement, that Mr. Merali’s victory is a victory for everyone who believes in the rule of law.

It is worth noting in this context that Stephen Lockwood and the rest of the board of AHS, fired by Mr. Horne last year for not agreeing to tear up legal contracts with other AHS executives, were right while the minister and premier were out to lunch.

As for the well-known Alberta journalists screeching last week that the government should continue to fight Mr. Merali’s claim, Premier Prentice obviously can recognize a lost cause when he sees it. So taxpayers will be spared the further burden of such foolishness.

Mr. Anglin, meanwhile, issued a statement of his own on Sunday, noting that he had written the Speaker of the Legislature asking to be seated as an Independent MLA immediately.

“It is no secret that I have been a round peg in a square hole in the Wildrose Party,” Mr. Anglin wrote. “I speak my mind. I bring different experiences and a different point of view to the caucus than my colleagues. This has never been an issue for me: a strong party is made stronger by a variety of opinions.”

However, he went on, “behind closed doors, the party has increasingly lost focus on its original mission of creating a true grassroots party. It has been caught up in a civil war between ideologues and pragmatists. …

“As a result of poor management and infighting, there will be a motion today by my leader, Danielle Smith, to have me removed from caucus. To be honest, this is upsetting but not surprising. It was clear by the way the party executive mishandled my nomination process last June, and by the way they mismanaged the past four by-elections, something needs to be corrected.

“The Wildrose Party is now at a crossroads. The Party’s interference in local constituency matters and its lack of respect for the democratic process must be corrected if this party is to continue. … The party and its leadership are in crisis.

“This party … is now infested with an unelected backroom weed that is choking off the grassroots movement. I still have the highest regard for Danielle Smith as a person. She is intelligent and thoughtful, but in saying this I have little respect for the people advising her. Ultimately the leader bears the responsibility for addressing these problems.”

The intramural fight soon degenerated into the public accusation by Ms. Smith that Mr. Anglin had been taping caucus meetings, a claim the MLA denied. The party also withdrew its previous announcement it would hold a leadership review.

Notwithstanding the similarity of their situations, it’s clearly going to be easier for the Prentice PCs to clear up their problem than it will be for the Smith Wildrose Party.

That’s simply because Mr. Merali has absolutely nothing to gain from sticking around. He fought and he won – as it was always obvious he would because he had the law and the facts on his side.

As he concluded his statement yesterday, “I am glad that this is behind me and want to get on with my life now that I have been vindicated.”

Mr. Anglin, on the other hand, now has little to lose from sticking around. He fought and he lost – and he has a nice platform for the next year or two from which to make the Wildrose Party pay for its victory.

Given his pugnacious nature – this isn’t the first time the former leader of the Alberta Greens has been in the thick of such an internal party fight – it seems probable he’ll take advantage of the opportunity.

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