The unite the right movement is gaining traction in the province as Albertans, most of whom did not vote for the current NDP government, seek to end years of bitter infighting to put together a common front to contest the next provincial election in four years time.
Last week popular former conservative radio host Dan Rutherford was the latest voice calling for unification. In his role as spokesperson for the Alberta Prosperity Fund, a non-party affiliated political action committee dedicated to this goal, Rutherford said in a speech to supporters last Tuesday night: “(Albertans) don’t want high taxes, they don’t want big government. They want Alberta resilient. They want Albertans to be running this place.”
Rutherford joins a chorus of voices since the Bill 6 debate in December calling more forcefully for the Wildrose and the Progressive Conservatives to form a united front against the NDP. But it is far from certain those two party’s supporters will have any interest in doing so on other than on their own terms.
The Wildrose can rightly claim they have the greater number of seats and should be the leading voice in any such coalition. However Alberta Tories had, until last election, been entrenched in political power in Alberta for decades and have probably not adjusted to the idea they are not the governing party anymore. They will have to come to believe that before any fruitful discussion can take place. It may take another election or two to come around, as it did for the federal Progressive Conservatives when they were shown the door by Canadian voters in 1993.
In some ways this unification of the right is what former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith was seeking with then Premier Jim Prentice when she crossed the floor with the majority of her MLAs in the months leading up to last spring’s election. But that wasn’t a true unification of the right, more of a cloak and dagger deal done in the dark with big perks for Smith and her traitorous eight, and without formal party or electoral approval at any level.
If unification is to be achieved, as the Reform Party and federal Progressive Conservatives did in 2003, both sides are going to have to give up something and create a wholly new entity which is of both, (or of neither), to make it stick. This new entity would also have to take into account the concerns of Alberta voters who voted decisively for change in last year’s election. It can’t be (Tory) business as usual. It has to be something more; a forward thinking party which can take Alberta into the next three decades of growth and prosperity.
Will there be enough political will to get the right together before the next election in four years time? Possibly. Will politicians and party organizers be able to swallow their well-developed egos to contribute to something greater than their own vanity and partisan talking points? Less likely.
And so the future of the Alberta political landscape will continue to be shaped by the abstruse vanities of small men and women in dimly lit backrooms who think themselves big. Thus it ever was in Alberta politics, and thus it will continue to be.
And god help us all.