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Foxer
12-21-2014, 05:13 AM
How Preston Manning convinced Wildrose MLAs to join mass defection
Jen Gerson | December 18, 2014 | Last Updated: Dec 19 10:31 AM ET
More from Jen Gerson | @jengerson



A whirlwind three weeks of negotiations to set the terms for one of the most dramatic mass defections in Canadian political history ended in the Edmonton apartment of a Wildrose MLA on Tuesday night.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Or, more cynically, if you don’t feel like toiling on the opposition benches for the rest of your career, dump your party and waltz across the aisle. The view is better, the perks bigger, and the future brighter — if you ever get over being tarred a floor-crosser, traitor and sell-out. But such is the risk the Wildrose Nine are willing to take, as erstwhile leader Danielle Smith marches them to the Promised Land in the Progressive Conservative government of Alberta.

True, parliaments across Canada are full of shape-shifters. Federal Liberal Scott Brison is a former Progressive Conservative. Bob Rae morphed from NDP premier of Ontario to federal Liberal leader manqué. Thomas Mulcair made the opposite journey, leaving the provincial Quebec Liberals to become leader of the federal NDP opposition. And just this week, Ontario MPP Glenn Thibeault deserted the provincial NDP to join the provincial Liberals.

What makes the Wildrose defections stand out, however, is the naked careerism of people who purportedly ran on principle. Wildrose was created as an indictment of the provincial Progressive Conservatives — not of their recent leader, the rapacious Alison Redford; not even of their previous leader, the hapless Ed Stelmach; but of the rot that had set in after 40 years of dynastic rule. Overspending, deals with unions, a betrayal of the legacy of former Premier Ralph Klein — these were but a few of the beefs Wildrose had with the PCs.

Pizza, pretzels and “beverages” were served as the “Wildrose Nine” — the collection of MLAs who crossed the floor on Wednesday to join Alberta’s long-governing Progressive Conservatives — held an emotional meeting with Premier Jim Prentice.

Mr. Prentice spelled out his plan to improve the Alberta government, everything from the pending oil bust, to the fiscal crisis, to a creeping culture of entitlement.

“He talked it through, top-to-bottom,” said Rob Anderson, a key Wildrose MLA who spearheaded the union. “He talked about how he was going to fix it.”

By the end, Mr. Anderson said, he was convinced that the group had made a correct and principled decision — although he knew he and his party’s leader, Danielle Smith, would be subject to outrage and scorn in the days and weeks to come.

The episode will go down as not only entirely unexpected and bizarre, but also as unprecedented. Opposition parties exist to challenge the ruling order, not to join it: there has simply never been an example of a floor crossing quite like it.

According to several sources, it’s a strange tale that can trace its roots to the spring of this year, when Mr. Prentice was deciding whether to run for the leadership of Alberta Tories. It took on a new urgency last month when Ms. Smith flirted with joining a different party and culminated with the rousing words of the party’s icon, Preston Manning.

Back in the spring the PC caucus was in turmoil. In March Alison Redford resigned amid scandal. The centrist, Red Tory coalition that banded together to give her a mandate in 2012 was shattered and disheartened. PC MLAs, who didn’t support her leadership bid and never got behind her after it, were leaderless and rudderless. Many were discussing whether the party had made a fatal mistake by wavering to the left in recent years, which contributed to the rise of the Wildrose.

Amid the panic, rumours began to emerge that Mr. Prentice, a former federal minister, might be wooed to the job.


According to a source close to his campaign, Mr. Prentice’s true Conservative credentials were a boon: this had the “happy coincidence of undercutting the Wildrose, of course.”

“OK, this is stuff that Jim believes in anyway. He wins the leadership, gets into the legislature, starts enacting this stuff. We were joking, laughing, [saying] what’s the Wildrose going to do?”

At the time, the source said, the plan was for Mr. Prentice to win a majority government in 2016 on a right-wing platform, thus eliminating Wildrose’s raison d’etre.

In May, just as Mr. Prentice was announcing his decision to run for the leadership, Ms. Smith announced a merger had already been proposed — a claim vociferously denied by Mr. Prentice’s team.

What PC supporters could not have predicted was the strategic door that opened to them several months later, when Mr. Prentice and his new cabinet ministers swept four open seats in an Oct. 27 byelection.

“The result was everything we hoped for. Three out of four would have been great. Four out of four was the wildest dream that we worked hard to achieve,” the source said.

Before the results had even been counted, rumours had begun to circulate that Ms. Smith’s leadership was in peril — indeed, winning Calgary West, which was lost by Wildrose candidate Sheila Taylor by only 300 votes, likely would have saved the leader.

The byelection losses set up an irrevocable chain of events that would end in Wednesday’s defections and the probable disintegration of the Wildrose Party.

According to Mr. Anderson, informal talks between friends of friends across party lines began as the legislature session started in October. By mid-November, the wheels began to come off the Wildrose bus.

The internecine split between the Wildrose’s libertarian and socially conservative wings became apparent during its annual general meeting in Red Deer on Nov. 14-15, when MLA Jeff Wilson put forward a proposal to explicitly guarantee the rights of all Albertans regardless of sexual orientation.

Despite the fact that the membership voted in favour of an identically worded statement the year previous, the party voted against Mr. Wilson’s motion. It was seen as an explicit and personal protest of Ms. Smith and her leadership.

Ms. Smith — now a PC MLA — told the Calgary Herald that a group had arrived to that AGM intending to “teach me a lesson for walking in the Gay Pride parade.”

“Unfortunately, as I’ve been trying to press the Wildrose to become more mainstream, the more I pressed on that it seems the more reaction I got in the opposite direction.”

According to several sources, she was so furious that she openly mused about several options, including joining the Alberta Party, a more centrist party with not a single seat in the legislature.

Ms. Smith did not respond to requests for comment on the claim.

Within days came the second blow: MLAs Ian Donovan and Kerry Towle announced they were crossing the floor to the Conservatives.

At the time, Ms. Smith characterized Ms. Towle’s decision as opportunistic. “In the end, some people don’t turn out to be who you thought they were, so we’re going to move on with the caucus that we have,” Ms. Smith said.


Yet shortly afterward, Mr. Anderson said he was tasked with striking a negotiating committee to pursue a unification. Several issues were at play, Mr. Anderson said. Tanking oil prices were threatening to blow a $7-billion hole in the province’s budget.

But there was also a sense that Mr. Prentice really was the conservative premier that the province needed in a time of crisis.

“There was a moment for me. I stood up in the legislature and gave a member’s statement on the state of our finances, with oil plunging the way it was,” he said. “I looked across the way and Premier Prentice was pounding his desk as if he were a Wildrose member of caucus.

“I sat across from Alison Redford when she dropped f-bombs on me after a couple of questions. It’s such an extreme change.”

Ms. Smith said her views on Mr. Prentice softened after Nov. 19, when a testy exchange between Mr. Prentice and Wildrose MLA Gary Bikman was ameliorated with the premier’s gentlemanly note of apology.

The unification agreement was hammered out within a few weeks; on policy matters, there was little to contend.

Wildrose MLA Drew Barnes said he first caught wind of the deal last Sunday. By Tuesday, most of the remaining 14 MLAs gathered in an Edmonton Ramada to discuss terms.

Mr. Anderson said it was a sombre meeting, only a handful of MLAs could be counted on to cross. Then he called in Preston Manning, the founder of the Reform Party. The man who oversaw so many fractious attempts to unite the right throughout the 1990s.

“I met with them earlier this week and there were two basic things I said to them: One is that they should take pride in their accomplishments. That Wildrose really forced changes in the PC leadership by holding two of the previous leaders accountable for their behaviour,” Mr. Manning said. “And secondly that by getting 440,000 votes in the last election, they have pushed things on to more fiscally responsible grounds, which enabled the current premier to move there.”

Mr. Manning praised the disheartened Wildrosers by pointing out that the statement of unification essentially committed to most of the opposition’s platform — and especially to a balanced budget.

“The big picture, and this was certainly in their mind, and in the mind of the premier, is that the province is heading into deep water, and it’s absolutely essential to get the budget balanced as fast as possible,” Mr. Manning said.

Mr. Anderson said Mr. Manning’s pep talk was the moment that turned the tide.


“The vast majority of Wildrose caucus members look at him with a great deal of affection, as someone who is a statesman, a man of impeccable integrity, and someone we care a great deal about,” he said.

Mr. Manning swayed several MLAs, likely enough to encourage the nine to walk out of their party as a bloc, according to Mr. Anderson (although others in the room remain skeptical of his true impact).

“Even going into that final discussion, many had not made up their minds. If only three or four decided to go, I don’t think it would have happened,” Mr. Anderson said.

By Tuesday evening, there were nine: Danielle Smith, Rob Anderson, Gary Bikman, Rod Fox, Jason Hale, Bruce McAllister, Blake Pedersen, Bruce Rowe and Jeff Wilson.

Later that night, they went to one of the MLA’s apartments and met with Mr. Prentice.

It was the calm before the storm.

Mr. Anderson said he knew how bad it was going to get.

“I knew how hard it would be for a lot of people in Wildrose to understand. There are a lot of wonderful people in the Wildrose movement, salt of the earth conservatives who have spent a ton of time, money, blood and effort to build a grassroots movement,” he said. “We knew so many would be disappointed. They just wouldn’t understand. Sometimes you’re fighting something so long that you think that’s what life is.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Prentice took news of the floor crossing to his caucus. If rumours are to be believed, it was a contentious meeting.

Late the next day, Mr. Prentice and Ms. Smith emerged from a meeting and announced the Tories would now hold 72 of the 87 seats in the legislature. Ms. Smith had resigned that morning; her last request as leader was that her former party, now a rump of five MLAs, consider a formal reunification.

“What we’re telling our Wildrose family — and we still consider them family — is that the fight is over in this regard. We won. We won. We have a conservative premier in government, and he is completely committed to the conservative principles he espouses,” Mr. Anderson said.

Ms. Smith’s final request has been denied by the executive committee.

National Post, with files from Postmedia News

killer kane
12-21-2014, 10:50 AM
Well, how's that saying go? Oh ya, given the dire nature of our coffers you the voter will have to poney up. It's for the good of the province. Also, wasn't the peacemaker talking carbon tax a while ago? Hang on redberta, I think we're going for a ride. What with our 2 biggest cities run by prog elitist global warming flat earthers, who few if any have actually held an honest job and now the shenanigans of a few people, one of who was the face of the party of so called common sense, the lint in my pocket's getting lonley already for the few sheckels that remain. On the bright side, Diamond Jim and Bennie Smith make a cute couple....Don't they?

blacksmithden
12-21-2014, 12:06 PM
Grrrrrrrrr. I really have to let this issue go...well....at least until the next election. My blood pressure won't take it. We need more tar and featherings in this country.

harbl_the_cat
12-22-2014, 01:11 PM
I think I said in another thread - one way or another, the Tories are leading this province through what is an unavoidable crisis. If oil stays in the sub-$60 range for longer than a few months, I think the wheels are going to come off the Alberta economy in a BIG way and there will be an 1980's style blood bath in the province.

The PC's (with their ex-WRA turncoats) will either come out of this heroes in the eyes of the public or, as you said, needing a tar and feathering.

I'm not optimistic they will come out as heroes, personally (but I've been plenty wrong in the past).

This province demographic is too young - and based on substance (not appearance), the PC's now bear too much resemblance to "the institution" that there is a growing sense of resentment and distrust towards. Trow in a total capitulation and evaporation of the wealth that has sustained the PC dictatorship for a generation, and I think the prospect of their teeth being broken is a real possibility.

This may well make the 2016 election hella exciting though.

Before it looked like it could be a battle between the PC's and WRA. Now, I think there's a very good chance of a "out of nowhere" movement rising up and taking the reigns of power in this province that many (myself included) thought the WRA would be last election.

Foxer
12-22-2014, 04:09 PM
I think I said in another thread - one way or another, the Tories are leading this province through what is an unavoidable crisis. If oil stays in the sub-$60 range for longer than a few months, I think the wheels are going to come off the Alberta economy in a BIG way and there will be an 1980's style blood bath in the province.

The PC's (with their ex-WRA turncoats) will either come out of this heroes in the eyes of the public or, as you said, needing a tar and feathering.

I'm not optimistic they will come out as heroes, personally (but I've been plenty wrong in the past).

This province demographic is too young - and based on substance (not appearance), the PC's now bear too much resemblance to "the institution" that there is a growing sense of resentment and distrust towards. Trow in a total capitulation and evaporation of the wealth that has sustained the PC dictatorship for a generation, and I think the prospect of their teeth being broken is a real possibility.

This may well make the 2016 election hella exciting though.

Before it looked like it could be a battle between the PC's and WRA. Now, I think there's a very good chance of a "out of nowhere" movement rising up and taking the reigns of power in this province that many (myself included) thought the WRA would be last election.

The economy will take a hit, but alberta is a long long ways away from a blood bath. Deficit, sure, but not a blood bath by a long shot. I'd expect a provincial sales tax after the next election tho.

The PC will now almost certainly win the next election. For a new 'out of nowhere' party to appear and get organized and recognized in time is virtually impossible, the PC are too well organized on the ground and that's what tends to win elections. And - a lot of people who would welcome that kind of thing will be feeling 'burned' by 'new' parties after the recent wildrose defections. Why donate money and time just to give someone a 'bargaining chip' to use to join the PC anyway?

However - it'll be interesting to see if voters send a message indicating that they'd be open to a right of center alternative to the PC.

harbl_the_cat
12-22-2014, 04:46 PM
The economy will take a hit, but alberta is a long long ways away from a blood bath. Deficit, sure, but not a blood bath by a long shot. I'd expect a provincial sales tax after the next election tho.

The PC will now almost certainly win the next election. For a new 'out of nowhere' party to appear and get organized and recognized in time is virtually impossible, the PC are too well organized on the ground and that's what tends to win elections. And - a lot of people who would welcome that kind of thing will be feeling 'burned' by 'new' parties after the recent wildrose defections. Why donate money and time just to give someone a 'bargaining chip' to use to join the PC anyway?

However - it'll be interesting to see if voters send a message indicating that they'd be open to a right of center alternative to the PC.

Maybe the PC's will - but I don't share your optimism about the Alberta economy. Again, maybe I'm wrong, but I envision the possibility of a total wipe out of the oil industry - mass lay offs, crashing housing market, Sodom and Gomorrah Old Testament kind of annihilation.

Just look at the historic price of oil since WW2:

http://www.macrotrends.net/1369/crude-oil-price-history-chart

There are only 2 times I can see a sudden, precipitous price in the oil charts that we have seen right now: 1985 and 2008.

In 1985, my father walked away from his house and saw almost everyone he worked with get laid off - accompanied by massive hikes in interest rates.

In 2008, the worst financial crisis since the 1929 stock market crash happened - and was staved off by slashing interest rates and printing money.

What happens next? Are governments and central banks going to come in on a white horse to save the day? Personally - I think they'll try, make the situation worse, and any one associated with the old order will get swept away as the general populace rages at them if not for causing the problem, then certainly for exacerbating it.

Maybe this will happen by 2016, maybe it will happen after - but I've got big money riding that one way or another - it's coming.

Foxer
12-22-2014, 06:17 PM
well you do have to remember that the problems in 85 went well beyond the price of oil for alberta. The NEP policies had severe ramifications that greatly complicated the issue and severely repressed development of oil. In addition alberta's financial situation going into that mess was far more precarious.

There's no doubt the economy will take a hit, and alberta may not be able to boast quite as much as it has been for a little bit.But that's normal and natural - it can't ALWAYS be good times :) There's little chance of a complete collapse or anything, unless oil stays low for a long time. You'll run a defiict, jobs will be a little more scarce (macdonals might actually get someone to work for them again) and there will be some belt tightening. The real estate market will see a correction and sales will slump a little. But all fo that is supposed to happen from time to time. It's nothing earth shattering, and alberta will get thru it just fine and oil won't be low forever.

It does show however how much Alberta needs to diversify it's industries tho. Oil won't be around forever, any more than coal or salt (the 'oil' of their day). When that day comes alberta had best have robust and mature replacement industries.

Mad Hatter
12-22-2014, 08:20 PM
Today Mr. Manning is apologizing for giving the WRP floor crossers bad council to cross the floor. Hmmm. Do I smell a plot?

88 louie
12-22-2014, 11:40 PM
Today Mr. Manning is apologizing for giving the WRP floor crossers bad council to cross the floor. Hmmm. Do I smell a plot?
:Bang head:

killer kane
12-23-2014, 07:56 AM
Manning lost all respect from me, when he joined the flat earth global warmin society.

harbl_the_cat
12-23-2014, 10:31 AM
well you do have to remember that the problems in 85 went well beyond the price of oil for alberta. The NEP policies had severe ramifications that greatly complicated the issue and severely repressed development of oil. In addition alberta's financial situation going into that mess was far more precarious.

There's no doubt the economy will take a hit, and alberta may not be able to boast quite as much as it has been for a little bit.But that's normal and natural - it can't ALWAYS be good times :) There's little chance of a complete collapse or anything, unless oil stays low for a long time. You'll run a defiict, jobs will be a little more scarce (macdonals might actually get someone to work for them again) and there will be some belt tightening. The real estate market will see a correction and sales will slump a little. But all fo that is supposed to happen from time to time. It's nothing earth shattering, and alberta will get thru it just fine and oil won't be low forever.

It does show however how much Alberta needs to diversify it's industries tho. Oil won't be around forever, any more than coal or salt (the 'oil' of their day). When that day comes alberta had best have robust and mature replacement industries.

Well - I guess the job market for me hasn't seemed to slow down (yet). We shall see, good Foxer.

If things work out your way - that will open the door to a lot of opportunities (licking my lips at picking up another few rental properties).

If things work out my way - the PC's will be DESTROID.

Foxer
12-23-2014, 10:51 AM
Well - I guess the job market for me hasn't seemed to slow down (yet). We shall see, good Foxer.

Well it probably will 'slow' a little, but not catastrophically. This is normal. Alberta's economy has been running pretty damn hot for about 2 decades now (which kind of makes up for the decades where it was repressed into the ground at least in part by federal policy) but that is very unusual - there's always slow times and good times in the normal course of events. Just like life. Sooner or later alberta was going to go thru a bit of a 'cooling'. I don't think it'll last very long and I don't think it'll be too deep this time.

The shame of it is that this is kind of a 'rainy day', but the previous PC gov'ts already squandered your rainy day fund when times were still pretty decent and growth was strong. So you're going to wind up with a little debt accumulation most likely. And sooner or later there's probably going to have to be a provincial sales tax or the like to address shortfalls. But none of that is even close to 'catastrophic' in any way - you'd have to go 3 or 4 decades like this to be even close to quebec and they haven't collapsed for example.




If things work out your way - that will open the door to a lot of opportunities (licking my lips at picking up another few rental properties).

Before the rise of the 'dot com' rich, The vast majority of millionaires made their money during economic down times :)


If things work out my way - the PC's will be DESTROID.


LOL - that's a little 'captain kirk ' of you. "Bones... the economy.... MUST recover... or... the party.. will be... DESTROID!!!!"

Possibly. Hard to think people will turn to the libs. When times are tough people turn to the tories. It's possible a new party will appear again and challenge them, but I wouldn't hold my breath in the near future. People are going to be a little gunshy after the wild rose. Its like dating the perfect girl and having her rip your heart out - you just aren't that interested in emotionally investing in a new girl again for a little while.

harbl_the_cat
12-23-2014, 11:12 AM
Well it probably will 'slow' a little, but not catastrophically. This is normal. Alberta's economy has been running pretty damn hot for about 2 decades now (which kind of makes up for the decades where it was repressed into the ground at least in part by federal policy) but that is very unusual - there's always slow times and good times in the normal course of events. Just like life. Sooner or later alberta was going to go thru a bit of a 'cooling'. I don't think it'll last very long and I don't think it'll be too deep this time.

The shame of it is that this is kind of a 'rainy day', but the previous PC gov'ts already squandered your rainy day fund when times were still pretty decent and growth was strong. So you're going to wind up with a little debt accumulation most likely. And sooner or later there's probably going to have to be a provincial sales tax or the like to address shortfalls. But none of that is even close to 'catastrophic' in any way - you'd have to go 3 or 4 decades like this to be even close to quebec and they haven't collapsed for example.

All true - although the sustainability fund really irks me - especially if Quebec and/or Ontario falls apart in the middle (or as a result) of the slump in oil prices.

Although maybe it's not all bad - I think we're going to feel mighty stupid in Alberta not racking up Ontario/Quebec style debts if Quebec/Ontario start defaulting on theirs. Maybe we should just go peddle to the metal and start showering everyone with Green energy initiatives, eHealth, and unionized public sector jobs financed with debt we have no intention of ever paying back.

If anything - maybe we should be racing to the bottom, so Ontario and Quebec transfers would start coming OUR way.


Before the rise of the 'dot com' rich, The vast majority of millionaires made their money during economic down times :)

I heard an expression - "More millionaires were created during the Great Depression than anytime in history."


LOL - that's a little 'captain kirk ' of you. "Bones... the economy.... MUST recover... or... the party.. will be... DESTROID!!!!"

Actually - its from this song from a BC founded dubstep group named "Destroid," (instead of "Destroyed") whoever runs in 2016 (or beyond) should use it as their campaign song (sick Brony remix):


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzjZouxo3wg


Possibly. Hard to think people will turn to the libs. When times are tough people turn to the tories. It's possible a new party will appear again and challenge them, but I wouldn't hold my breath in the near future. People are going to be a little gunshy after the wild rose. Its like dating the perfect girl and having her rip your heart out - you just aren't that interested in emotionally investing in a new girl again for a little while.

Yes - so you're saying Albertans should end up settling with their dysfunctional, crack head, psychopathic, scheming and manipulating control-freak ex-ex-girlfriend because we are all a bunch of masochists after committing to the girl that should have, but wasn't.

Maybe, but for me personally, when "the perfect girl" ripped my heart out a few weeks later, completely out of the blue, I met the real girl of my dreams and married her 9 months later :P

Foxer
12-23-2014, 12:34 PM
Yes - so you're saying Albertans should end up settling with their dysfunctional, crack head, psychopathic, scheming and manipulating control-freak ex-ex-girlfriend because we are all a bunch of masochists after committing to the girl that should have, but wasn't.

Not saying "Should", saying "probably will". Or at least, that whatever happens it will probably happen within the framework of the PC part.

There's more than one way to affect change. The Tea party movement in the states is a really fascinating example. They knew it was impossible to start another party and run it successfully - the US is stuck with a two party system for the foreseeable future. So - they found a way to co-opt the existing republican party by creating an organization that essentially influenced the nomination process to that many of the people running were 'tea party' republicans - essentially taking over the party from within. And although i am not defending their move, in that respect it's possible that the wildrose defectors may actually have an influence in bringing the party back towards the right and away from what some call the "prog" lefty side of the party. It may turn out to be that the best answer for albertans is to renovate the existing house rather than looking for new construction. At least in the short term.

I honestly don't think it's healthy for ANY party to have power as long as the PC's have, i think corruption becomes inevitable. But until something else can be done, that may be the best hope. There's little doubt there's going to be some leaner times in alberta coming up, and even if it's not too bad it will still need a strong and talented hand at the tiller to navigate the province thru it successfully. It might be time to focus on local candidates and pick the right choices.


Maybe, but for me personally, when "the perfect girl" ripped my heart out a few weeks later, completely out of the blue, I met the real girl of my dreams and married her 9 months later :P

HA! - well good for you (and her). Sounds like kismet. However- i think you'll find that's the exception that proves the rule.