Those Ignorant of History are Doomed to Repeat It

Yesterday, two members of Ed Stelmach’s Alberta PC caucus crossed the floor and joined Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Alliance. Two Calgary area MLAs, Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth, left the PC caucus citing failed leadership and bureaucratic glut in the Premier’s office.

Today, Stelmach send an email to supporters addressing the news (emphasis mine),

Now, a quick review of history from Wikipedia,

Alberta’s second dynasty was the United Farmers of Alberta who rose from a minor party known as the Alberta Non-Partisan League, formed in 1916. Henry Wise Wood would lead the party into the 1921 election and form a majority based on winning rural seats. The party did not run in the cities and allied with Labour candidates. Henry did not want the job as premier so the farmers were forced to shop around. John Brownlee was asked first but declined. Herbert Greenfield, the second choice, became the new premier.

Greenfield would resign four years later because he was often absent due to illness. John Brownlee, who had previously been offered the job, succeeded him. Brownlee’s reign as government leader was troubled by the onset of the great depression. He resigned in scandal after he was accused of sexual acts with a minor in the Attorney General’s office. This and another scandalous divorce by Oran McPherson, speaker of the legislative assembly, gave the United Farmers an image of moral decay. In 1934 Richard Reid would replace Brownlee and lead the United Farmers government into total defeat at the hands of the new Social Credit party.

This, of course, happened during the Great Depression.

In recent history, Stelmach replaced Klein.

Back then, the decay was cited as moral, today it is financial decay and bureaucratic ascendance.

Albertan political history is marked by political dynasties. Is this the end of the Progressive Conservatives and the rise of the Wildrose Alliance?

Danielle Smith interview

The video above is the first 46 seconds of my ten minute interview with the new leader of the Alberta Wildrose Alliance Party, Danielle Smith. You may also want to watch my previous interview with Smith.

After the introductory banter, I grabbed my sheet of questions ready to ask and placed it down on my laptop keyboard. My hypersensitive trackpad then decided to hit pause on the recording!

But fret not, I’ll be posting a written summary of our interview soon (see the update below). Smith answered a number of questions pertaining to her new role as leader of a rising party in Alberta politics, the growing pains the party is bound to go through, her expectations for “success” over the next little while and for the next election, her thoughts on Stelmach’s next few weeks and where and how “Conservative” became a misnomer for Alberta PCs.

I’ll post a summary of her answers soon. Keep watching this space.

UPDATE: Here is a summary of the questions I asked Danielle and the answers that she gave.

I recognized that she’s been asked the libertarian/social conservative question many times over the week by reporters so I asked her how as a libertarian-rooted leader that she would look to socially conservative policy and whether leadership would be top-down, bottom-up, or a mix of both.

Danielle reiterated that the WA is a grassroots party and that she needs to better inform some about what she views as the “libertarian” ideology. She said that at the root of libertarianism is liberty, and that this means property rights, freedom of speech and freedom of religion among others.

I asked about any lessons that Danielle might take from the Reform tradition. As that party grew, it became not just a movement but a party vying for power. As the WA grows, what will she be doing to prevent what we call “bozo eruptions” from those speaking not for an organization (the party), but rather the movement.

Danielle responded by explaining that she hopes that Preston doesn’t think that she’s just robbing from the Reform playbook. In fact, she says that the party is relatively new and they are still growing and that the media and Albertans will view them through this lens and understand that that yes, they aren’t yet a well-oiled comms machine.

Regarding the PC AGM in early November and a possible Stelmach leadership review, I asked Danielle if one of the successes of the WA would be to make the PC Party more right, or more “conservative”. I also asked Danielle about the possibility that Ted Morton may become the new leader and asked if she’d find this heartening.

Danielle responded by saying that Morton is certainly one of six or seven out of about 70 PC MLAs who is still a conservative and that Morton would actually find himself at home within the WA.

I asked Danielle if she’d spoken to any of these six or seven PC MLAs and she responded that no, she has not spoken to any of them since she became leader however, she has many friends in that caucus and she talks these friends regularly.

About the “Conservative” label, I suggested that Danielle may believe that the Alberta PC Party does not own that label anymore. Without addressing any particular policy, I asked her why she may think that.

Danielle responded that the Alberta PC Party has largely become a vehicle for opportunism and career advancement and that the PC’s are largely out of touch. Danielle went on to discuss specific policy initiatives of the WA and directed people to check out the WA website for the party’s policies.

On the strategy front, I mentioned that some of us that follow politics too closely are wondering if the WA is take a one election strategy to attain power like the 1935 social credit party or a two election strategy like Lougheed’s 1967 and 1971 Tories.

Danielle responded that the WA party will be going for the one election strategy for power and said that she’s not going for 3 or 4 seats after the next election, but 42, or 43. She explained that Albertans do not elect oppositions but rather they elect governments.

Danielle Smith Wildrose Alliance leadership bid is very likely

Danielle Smith is the former Alberta director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and is a regular commentator on Canadian politics. She resigned her position at the CFIB because it suddenly presented a “conflict” for other opportunities, namely seeking the leadership of the Wildrose Alliance now that Paul Hinman has stepped down. I asked her about Alberta politics, refreshing conservatism and her very likely bid.