Assignment for Alberta’s opposition

Alberta's political climate expected to heat up, in this week's editorial.

As we enjoy the last few and are warm days of this wet and cool summer, there are signs that we will be having a long and cold winter in terms of weather, while the political climate in the province is likely to get more heated in contrast.

Jason Kenney, the Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful and former federal cabinet minister and right hand man to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is just starting a tour of several central Alberta communities this week to sound out the kind of support he might expect to get from the region in the forthcoming race for the party’s top position.

With his backing within the big oil circles intact, Kenney is likely to try in this tour to familiarize himself with the main issues the agricultural communities are facing and to make connections within the already established Progressive Conservative network that played an immensely important role in allowing the party to maintain its four-decade political dynasty that collapsed in May 2015.

Beginning in earnest to make these acquaintances and establishing contacts among key constituents is a clever move that should be expected of a politician jockeying for the leadership of a traditionally strong party.

The question is how the NDP and, more importantly, the Wildrose Party will be reacting to these initial moves by Kenney.

The first salvo from the NDP came in the form of an attack on Kenney’s campaign fundraising practices with the governing party asking province’s chief electoral officer to launch an investigation into how Kenney is soliciting funds to conduct his campaign. Under the current legislation, no political fundraising is allowed unless there is an election campaign in place.

But the more important question is what the Wildrose Party may or may not be doing in preparation for Kenney’s political campaign, which will ultimately aim at creating a unified right in the province, which, in turn, will mean the dissolution of the Wildrose within the ranks of the Progressive Conservatives if Kenney is to be the leader of the proposed unified right.

Brian Jean of Wildrose has already ruled out any possibility of uniting the conservative political forces of the province under one banner unless it happens within the ranks of his party and under his leadership.

For the time being it certainly looks like a long shot.

But here the question is what the Wildrose are really doing to convince the people of the province that they deserve to be the organization where unification should happen.

Since the provincial election of May 2015, Jean’s party has failed to make an impression among the electorate for being an effective opposition. Granted, with their clumsy steps, NDP government initially shot themselves in the foot by making some quite radical decisions without properly communicating their intentions about them and the Wildrose only preyed on those mistakes.

But when one remembers the solid opposition that the Wildrose under Danielle Smith’s leadership put up against the Progressive Conservative governments of the time, the difference in the style and content of the opposition then and opposition now becomes disappointingly clear.

It is true that at the time Wildrose was also putting out almost daily statements and press releases criticizing government practices before Jim Prentice literally drowned that leadership by persuading them to cross the floor and join PC ranks.

But those statements really brought up serious matters that needed to be dealt with, unlike many of today’s Wildrose press releases, which give the impression that they are issued just for the sake of having said something on any matter that NDP government makes a move on.

If they are to vie for the trust of the provincial electorate, Wildrose Party may be well advised to do some soul searching and come up with more genuine and creative ways of showing to the population that they deserve to be the governing party particularly when they will be taking on a traditionally strong competitor led by a skillful politician as they will be running on the same lane.