Monday, March 30, 2015

The Prentice Budget and the Fall of Danielle Smith

I cannot find one single person online who was disappointed that Danielle Smith lost her PC nomination bid in Highwood to Carrie Fischer.  Not one.

This, after the biggest combined tax hike and deficit in Alberta's history in a terrible budget that puts blame, as Apprentice Premier Prentice puts it, on Albertans that voted in the PCs year after year, when the party and government completely failed to "look in the mirror" themselves and admit they're the ones who have mismanaged and misspent the very tax dollars they want more of.

Sad how that floor crossing exodus by Smith and her ilk depleted the official opposition to four seats, believing that Jim Prentice was a true conservative, when clearly that is not the case--a progressive red liberal if anything, which is what many of us who've followed Prentice for years know that is what his real stripe is.

Sad how a text exchange with reporter Vassy Kapelos from Global and subsequent apology (which I won't repeat here) became Smith's last known parting note as a politician, after those years of trying to portray herself as an articulate rural Albertan woman that would one day become premier.

Sad how her biggest mistake, as many pundits and bloggers put it, was in the last provincial election where when it looked like a Wildrose victory, an old online post from candidate Huntsburger about gays was outed and trotted.  Right there, Smith should have dismissed his candidacy, but instead defended his right to have these views.  Coupled with a last minute plea to former PC big donors, the Wildrose only hit the mid-teens, crowning Alison Redford as the new preem, who soon later, was pushed out of her own party, leaving the door open for Jim Prentice.

Sad how a premier, who has no mandate from voters, with virtually no opposition, can simply raise taxes without having it actually passed in the legislature first.

Happy that NDP leader Rachel Notley's calm, professional approach toward getting her message out with mass door knockings and online video spots is connecting with Albertans, even conservative ones who believe in a strong opposition.  I mean, come on, even the NDP wouldn't have hiked taxes like this!

What of the Wildrose, the once real government in waiting?

Enter Brian Jean, former Ft. McMurray Conservative MP, who, just hours before Smith lost her bid, took her place as leader of the Wildrose.  Likely more invigorated than ever due to the recent high tax budget, the Wildrose felt like they were onto something and perhaps back in the saddle.

But whoa there!  Just as Brian Jean was celebrating his win on stage with party supporters, recent Wildrose nominee Bill Jarvis was overheard on stage over the room microphone in a massive gaffe saying they needed a couple more brown people in front.  Despite his quick apology, and likely a bad joke, even swifter was new leader Brian Jean in making Jarvis resign.  Unlike Smith with Huntsburger, it appears Jean won't make that big mistake again.  That said, the hillbilly damage reared its head again in the Wildrose, despite other similar gaffes by PC MLAs and PC candidate probes in recent memory.

In another swift move, Jean also put up a $100,000 retainer that he would never cross the floor. It's an interesting gesture that puts those questions to rest.  But, the other question out there is how Jean's own company donated $10,000 to the PCs.  Whether that decision was in his control is a business matter, but that hefty donation alone also points out the dire need for Alberta's political donation laws to emulate the federal model, and badly.

The Wildrose have a steep hill to climb to gain the trust of the once seemingly strong conservative supporters and to win back social libertarians, which despite Alberta's supposed redneck image, clearly dominate the landscape.  I'm hearing many well-respected folks supported Brian Jean, but admit it, 99% of Albertans don't have a clue who he is.

Now that I'm hearing rumours that a provincial election will be called today if not soon, the Wildrose would be lucky to gain official opposition status from the NDP, who may very well double their seats from 4 to 8.  But still, a government in waiting, or even fully effective opposition, this does not make!

Sad how I'm hearing people say, "I'll vote PC because there's no one else to vote for?"  Really?  You really have to ask yourself if you agree with this budget, how corporate political donations prop up the PCs in their favour, and if it's good for democracy having the same party in power for 44 years, among hundreds of other arguments.

But the main argument is this. A government and this PC party in particular require a strong opposition or this province will continue to be mismanaged by absolute power that has corrupted absolutely.

Don't be swayed by a premier and party the way Danielle Smith was.  How she thought their policies lined up with hers and wooed her over, the official opposition leader nonetheless, only to find she didn't have the support she thought she had.

Such is the fall of Danielle Smith.

And such is the fall of Alberta politics.

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