Dave Taylor and the realignment of Alberta politics

Unless you are paticularly ill with a case of alberta politicitis, you probably can’t place the name Rob Anderson, Heather Forsyth and Dave Taylor. But for those of use stricken with the ailment, these names are near the top of our minds.

Today Dave Taylor, a Liberal MLA from Calgary, held a press conference to declare that the provincial Liberal party doesn’t excite him or the province anymore and that he figures his constituents will be served better if he sits as an independent.

Earlier examples of party defection this year came from PC MLAs Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth who crossed the floor to join the Wildrose Alliance, a party enjoying great poll numbers since it elected its new leader Danielle Smith.

Three makes a trend and the current trend the is realignment of Alberta politics. For small-c conservatives, it has the first blush of a coming family feud, for Liberals it presents a stark reality of being pushed out the doors while the battle for the province’s top prize is done within the forum. Taylor is predicting the spotlight shift and seeking to appeal to his constituents on his own brand.

As for the family fued, about two months ago I asked Smith about the metric for success for the new Wildrose. She remarked that bringing the PCs further to the right would mean success for her party, but joked that it was a bit early to talk about a “united alternative”.

If the trend continues, it may yet echo a similar scene seen federally under the tenure of Stock Day when he was leader of the Canadian Alliance. Missteps in leadership at the top had MPs in flux between parties and pseudo-parties in the Canadian House of Commons. Dialogue that transpired between members of the (rebel) alliance and the PC in those days helped forge a path for merger.

These events also occurred within the context of a bitter decade-long divison between conservative traditions. I asked Monte Solberg about this and he explained, “after several election losses the logic of uniting the federal conservative parties became so overwhelming that it even overcame the petty resentments between our parties, and they really were petty.”

For conservatives in today’s Alberta, the PC Party of that province represents their vehicle for power while the Wildrose projects their ideological core. The question becomes, will the Wildrose become a viable vehicle while maintaining conservative values or will the PC Party shift right to maximally capture Alberta’s political realignment?

One factor which will significantly determine this outcome is organization. While PCers have long grumbled that their problems stem from the top in the Premier’s office, the Wildrose’s challenges stem from some of the senior grassroots of the organization. The party has taken big steps to address this in recent times, seeking to professionalize its executive tier with recent hires, however, some of the old guard of the previous incarnation of the party — those that sit on riding executives — still call many shots from the “this is how we’ve always done it” perspective. Smith and her new pros must balance their ambition of creating that viable vehicle with grassroots demands of the party while being mindful to embrace grassroots ideology while eschewing tired tactics and strategy presented under the guise of the same.

If Dave Taylor had seen long term viability in the PCs for the big debate that is yet to come, he probably would have joined the PCs — the caretaker party that has governed the provice for the last three decades. Though, perhaps his reluctance is a sign that the party is indeed shifting right to meet the Wildrose’s challenge. For the Liberals, their longterm viability has never been apparent. Again, Solberg: “The problem in Alberta is that the Liberals are so weak that at this point a conservative vote split wouldn’t make a huge difference. I doubt very much that Taylor is leaving because Liberal fortunes are improving. Vote split or not the Liberals are in very sad shape.”

New Cabinet

The cabinet has been shuffled.

Solberg is at Rideau Hall to accompany his good friend Chuck Strahl. Monte will not be getting a new portfolio. He will remain in HRSDC.

Monte’s pal Strahl goes to Indian Affairs. A good upgrade especially as a BC minister.

MacKay goes to defense and keeps ACOA. The higher visibility should help the Tories regain some ground in Atlantic Canada.

O’Connor to revenue. As the most obvious prediction of a portfolio change, some thought O’Connor would go to Veterens Affairs. The former defense minister now goes to a largely administrative portfolio.

Oda to international cooperation. Oda replaces Josee Verner in this portfolio. Some say she was a poor communicator in Heritage, lacking the ability to speak French, she now takes over the CIDA portfolio.

Jim Prentice goes to Industry taking over for Maxime Bernier. Prentice is said to be the hardest working minister in Harper’s cabinet and will bring his work ethic to this new portfolio.

Maxime Bernier is tapped for foreign affairs. Such a move will have both the effect of raising Bernier’s portfolio and gives Quebec a minister in a more elite department. Further, as Quebec’s Van Doos soldiers are in Afghanistan, having a good communicator in this portfolio from the province.

Josee Verner to Canadian Heritage/Women/Languages. An Oda/Vernier swap. Vernier gets promoted and Oda demoted. Verner will be well positioned to celebrate Quebec City’s 400th anniversary.

Gerry Ritz to Agriculture/Wheat Board. A promotion for the Saskatchewan MP was pretty much assured when fellow Saskatchewan MP Skelton announced her retirement. Skelton being that province’s sole representation in cabinet, her resignation created an opening for a Saskatchewan MP. I’ve heard that Ritz will press forward on market choice and fight against the Wheat Board.

And, Diane Ablonczy finally gets her due as Secretary of State for Small Business and Tourism…

…which puts a wee blotch on my cabinet prediction! I predicted that no backbencher would be promoted to cabinet. Perhaps this was an 11th hour decision?

But, as I predicted, nobody lost their job and it was a significant shuffle. Cabinet did not grow in size. Also, as predicted, Day and Baird stay in their portfolios.

Further, Bernier was shuffled, but not to defense nor finance as some predicted.

So, is this Canada’s New New Government? What are your thoughts? Does this put a new face on the Conservative government? Cheers, Jeers? Did Harper make a good shuffle today? The Globe reported that Harper would be decreasing the size of cabinet in order to prepare for an election. However, the usual knowledge is that cabinet in fact grows prior to an election to promote seats and as many faces as possible.

The Prime Minister is likely to prorogue Parliament and go ahead with a throne speech this fall. This shuffle is also timed to give ministers enough time to process their MCs and move forward before the fall. The PM will also draw thoughts from his new ministers for the expected throne speech.

What it’s all about

I have to admit, I’ve been feeling a little blog fatigue lately. It happens every once and a while and especially of late as the theme of this blog (politics) is currently in the off-season. I’ll poke around from place to place from Blogging Tories to Nealenews and I’ll glance at topics which currently fail to motivate me to contribute. Topics such as Liberal corruption, the Governor General and the sponsorship scandal just don’t strike me at the moment and they certainly lack motivational power to get me to write in these dog days of summer.

There is a truth to be learned here. If I’m turned off by blogging now, this likely represents the yearly low point in public political interest.

Consider this piece written by Monte Solberg today,

“Sure politics will always be somewhat about strategy, tactics and spinning your message. The public even expects that. But when spin is at the center of everything you do citizens head for the exits, find the nearest Tim’s, and go nose to nose over hockey, and did you hear what Cherry said.”

Monte notes the nation’s general disaffection with politics. The unfortunate mood is a result of the Liberals over-spinning for the sake of power over issues. The Canadian electorate is spun-out.

However, Monte continues,

Look I love hockey and Don Cherry, but being a hockey fan has to come second to being a citizen. Actually being a citizen is what we are paid to do. Citizens get their pay in the form of freedom and democracy, and our obligation is to keep caring about those things even when the government makes us want to quit caring.

You can of course burn off some of that disaffection by saying sarcastic things on a blog. I hear that helps. An even better thing to do though is to catch a vision.

One of the arches on the Peace Tower quotes a great truism from Proverbs, (quote) Where there is no vision, the people will perish (unquote).

The quote sounded familiar.

I blog about politics because I certainly care about the state of this country. I started Blogging Tories because there are others who certainly do as well. But, I blog, first and foremost, because I want to add to the debate that is so thoroughly discouraged, the discussion that is so often met with disdain, and the dialogue that often is met with attempts to discredit. I blog because those that wish to stifle these elements of our democracy are those that rule for themselves, do so at great expense to the people, and do so without vision.

This year, in June, I traveled to Ottawa to interview Monte to kickoff podcasting on Blogging Tories. After the interview was over, as I wandered around Parliament as any other tourist, I noticed an interesting quote etched into stone above a beautiful window of the peace tower at the centre of this nation’s two houses of Parliament. So, I took a picture.

“Where there is no vision, the people will perish” – Click to enlarge

There is a debate brewing in this country and it is not whether or not Stephen Harper can pass as a cowboy in a small leather vest. This debate occurs between people who recognize a neglected healthcare system and wish to improve it, people that see gun violence in Toronto and are asking for a real solution to address it, and people that wish that politicians would make decisions to benefit Canadians instead of their polling numbers.

We debate because we need change. We debate because those that would discourage it have lost their vision. We debate because we’re Conservatives.

Thank you Monte, I think that you’ve cured my blog fatigue. Now, it’s time to cure Canadians from their Liberal-induced political coma.