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Commentary: All those deep cracks on public view

Brian Jean and Danielle Smith smell blood in the water
Nelson Chris web
Chris Nelson is a syndicated columnist.

Maybe all those decades in power were the real cause of this endless, self-imposed strife afflicting the various Tory factions, here in Alberta.

After all, outside of a few ageing dictatorships in the deep heart of Africa, there hasn’t been a political party, since the end of the Second World War, quite as successful in prolonging its time in office as did the province’s Progressive Conservatives.

From 1971 until 2015, the PCs held sway and, even when finally going down to defeat at the hands of Rachel Notley’s NDP, it was still a self-imposed wound – votes having been siphoned away by the then upstart Wildrose bunch.

Looking back, it probably would have been better if that remarkable winning streak had ended earlier, because the rifts were present even in those far-off Don Getty years. They just widened, deepened and festered; so by the time Ed Stelmach and then Allison Redford seized the leadership reigns the party was a lumbering hulk, held together only by the lure of power.

Well, all those deep cracks, papered over year after year, are now on full, public view. 

Sure, four years of a Dipper (NDP) government proved just enough to nudge the various Tory factions to attend the arranged marriage ceremony Jason Kenney somehow cobbled together – with him blushing at the altar, of course. But like most couplings, entered into at the business end of a shotgun, the long-term prognosis wasn’t too favourable.

So it has proven, as Kenney spends more time battling his own caucus than rebuffing the NDP, who these days are a more formidable and well-funded political force than one that collectively awoke on May 6, 2015, to discover it was the government. 

Now, after yet more tedious in-house wrangling, the hilariously named United Conservative Party is voting by mail-in ballot on Kenney’s job as leader. In the wings, like some Prairie version of Marley’s ghosts, await Brian Jean and Danielle Smith.

Yep, both those previous leaders of the Wildrose Party smell blood in the water - Jean having recently being voted back into the legislature, while Smith is making a run at a seat in Livingstone-Macleod. 

Oh boy, does anyone think that either of those two, if indeed grabbing fast to some future brass ring, would heal Tory divisions and thereby pour balm upon those turbulent waters? Hey, it was recently Easter after all; a little religious allegory seems appropriate.

Both have baggage. Just like Kenney. So, when the dust settles, only the most optimistic of party faithful could imagine the various factions of Toryland will seamlessly join together under some blazingly blue banner held aloft by any of that trio, jubilantly holding hands while singing Kumbaya in perfect harmony.

Nope. Whatever transpires, the rancour will remain and a divided party will face a huge, uphill struggle to beat the Dippers; a party that might be many things, but divided it is not.

Yet, outside the dreary beltway of politics, this province is looking at yet another of those remarkable renaissances for which it is famed. Yes, it is boom and bust out here buddy, so best get used to it.

Oil and gas prices are jumping, commodities are red hot and, compared to some areas of this country, life remains affordable for the average individual. Oh, and thankfully the pandemic rests increasingly in our rear view mirror.

A sitting government would kill for such a backdrop, a year before an election.

Not this one. It requires a rebirth with fresh faces and new ideas. In politics only the catharsis of humiliation can bring that about. Sadly for Tory-leaning voters – still the majority of Albertans - that’s on the cards.

Chris Nelson is a syndicated columnist.