A previous version of this editorial incorrectly stated that MLA Derek Fildebrandt referred to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne as “Mr. Wynne”. In fact, a constituent of Mr. Fildebrandt’s posted the statement on Facebook. The Gazette apologizes for the error.
Right-wing politicos put a resounding stamp on their cause Saturday, voting overwhelmingly to join forces under the new United Conservative Party.
With jaw-dropping 95 per cent support from both the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose, it looks like all the UCP has to do is make sure the champagne is chilled after they destroy Rachel Notley and her fledgling NDP government in the next provincial election.
The polling numbers seem to support this seemingly inevitable outcome. The NDP have been holding down third place among leaning and decided voters, trailing both the front-running Wildrose and the PCs. Now that the two have consolidated under the UCP banner, the right-wing vote splitting that resulted in a NDP majority is all but taken care of, and the UCP can cruise to victory.
Or can they?
The only thing stopping the UCP from forming the next government is, well, the UCP. The knives came out almost immediately after the 95 per cent majorities were announced Saturday. Derek Fildebrandt, the brash, young Wildrose MLA was quick to say he wouldn’t be supporting Brian Jean in his bid for the UCP leadership. This, no doubt, has everything to do with the former Wildrose leader’s suspension of Fildebrandt just over a year ago. Fildebrandt heckled Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who was visiting the legislature. “Invite Premier Wall here, invite Premier Wall,” Fildebrandt shouted at Notley during question period.
It is precisely this element – the bombastic, disrespectful rhetoric, a.k.a. bozo eruptions – that the UCP has to manage with an iron fist if it is to take government from the NDP. That, however, will prove to be a tall order given what we’ve seen of the campaign tactics of Jason Kenney’s supporters. Let’s be clear, however, that Kenney deserves a lot of credit for unifying the right. The PCs and Wildrose would likely still be separate entities, splitting the right-of-centre vote, if not for Kenney’s tireless vision. It would be an ironic twist of fate that the man who is responsible for unifying the right ends up being the man who turns Albertans against the new party he helped create.
The verbal abuse doled out by Kenney supporters, whether in person or via social media, is well documented. If the contest for the leadership of the UCP degenerates into intolerance of others and their ideas, Albertans will undoubtedly question the ability of this new party to govern. Notley will be eagerly watching and taking notes.
Becoming government is entirely up to the UCP. If the new caucus can prove to Albertans that it is capable of constructive discord, they really will only have to worry about what brand the cold champagne should be in two years’ time. Two years, however, is more than a lifetime in politics, which means it’s plenty of time for politicians who simply can’t help themselves.