Once they were the most famous couple in Alberta, although it’s likely they didn’t actually exist.
Nevertheless, Danielle Smith better start wondering what Martha and Henry think about the tumultuous start to her premiership, otherwise the wheels might fall off her UCP governmental bus at the worst possible time.
This legendary pair was immortalized by former premier Ralph Klein, using them as an example of folk he described as severely normal Albertans; not rabid followers of politics nor holders of extreme views, but people relying upon common sense and innate fairness to judge various issues of their day. They were rarely cynical but generally skeptical.
To meet them Klein would urge fellow Tories to get out from under the Dome – by which he meant the legislature in Edmonton – and talk to those not consumed by the latest political wind change or much bothered by the feigned outrage of the endlessly aggrieved. Such people liked their neighbour, no matter what vote-for-me lawn sign was erected every four years.
Anyhow, by temperament Martha and Henry were assumed conservative - the Tories then enjoying a long-standing lock on power in Alberta. Still, common sense could override any such tenuous partisanship, if they indeed sensed things were in danger of going badly astray.
So, while probably a figment of Ralph’s fertile imagination, Martha and Henry are indeed the sort of people Premier Smith needs to convince that she’s able to run things professionally and not appear blinkered by the philosophical musings of those who’d push her towards policies guaranteed to end in electoral disaster come May.
It’s easy to spot those entitled hangers-on: dreary intellectuals, who’d come down with a case of the vapors if ever asked to do a real day’s work.
Yes, Smith has the top job right now, although that’s due mainly to the UCP’s angry brigade; mirthlessly astride one end of Alberta’s extreme political teeter-totter, whilst across from them sit their deemed opponents, the relentlessly woke cohort. They are more alike than each could imagine – righteous, irritated, condescending and entirely lacking any sense of humor.
Despite most Albertans worrying about their living costs, this bunch are still doggedly determined to re-fight those soul-sucking COVID wars, even though it eventually drove their last UCP leader from office.
Hey, ordinary folk want to move on, not get dragged down that same blind alley, one where nasty debates about mask and vaccine mandates are regurgitated ad nauseam.
And if that wasn’t enough distraction, we’re now treated to the head-scratching introduction of a sovereignty bill so convoluted it managed to confuse even those who initially wrote the darn thing.
Oh, and then there are moves afoot to replace the Canada Pension Plan with an Alberta version, whilst getting rid of the Mounties by having a provincial police force take their place. Psst: it would end up being the same officers wearing different uniforms, but only after a fortune spent in transition.
A recent poll showed most Albertans aren’t interested in such things: keeping up with inflation being their main preoccupation.
True, Smith did the right thing in promising to cap some costs and re-index benefits and taxation brackets. This is what the Marthas and Henrys care about – a government that understands their needs and acts accordingly.
Yet the UCP can’t stop returning to sovereignty, pension plans and vaccinations issues. It’s an inch they just can’t quite scratch hard enough.
This makes little sense: their path to electoral success is clear and money’s available to smooth that journey.
Martha and Henry want to vote UCP. They really do. But were the vote held tomorrow they’d probably just stay home.
Chris Nelson is a syndicated columnist.