Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Poison Pill in the Wildrose Defection

I'm a traitor, but I don't consider myself a traitor. - Aldrich Ames

“You lose your voice for your constituents and you lose your voice to advocate,” – Danielle Smith – November 26, 2014 (when asked about the defection of Kerry Towle to the PC Party)

“We’re here to just make sure that Albertans are taken care of and that when the government makes mistakes they’re called out on them.  They make an awful lot of mistakes so it keeps us pretty busy.” – Danielle Smith – November 26, 2014 (when asked about the defection of Kerry Towle to the PC Party)

As news breaks of the potential defection of major players from the Wildrose Party to the PC Party, including Opposition Leader Danielle Smith, Rob Anderson, Jeff Wilson, Gary Bikman, Jason Hale and Blake Pedersen (maybe more to be announced), I can’t help but think of the poison pill this represents to the PC Party.

The fact that leaders of a political party could abandon their party when “the times get tough” is a major reflection upon their character and their dedication to their former organization and the people within that organization.

The fact that one of the defectors, Rob Anderson, has done this more than once (having defected from the PC Party to the Wildrose and now is attempting to return to the PC Party) is a damning conviction in regards to his character and his opportunistic nature.  In doing so, he has slammed both parties and therefore is worthy of neither.

When one considers the venomous attacks against the PC Party by this merry band of roving politicians, one has to wonder what exorcism, voodoo or other transformational process was imparted upon them that converted their hate into love.

Do they suddenly believe (or want us to believe) that the party they hated is suddenly worth embracing in order to meet their constituent's needs or should we call it for what it probably is – a selfish or self-serving gesture that suggests that they believe that they cannot beat Jim Prentice in the next election and so it is better to join the winning side early rather than go down to defeat.

Why would the PC Party accept them?

It would make sense if the PC Party were desperate to increase its control of the Legislature but the Legislature is already well in-hand, so the extra votes aren’t needed.

Do the defectors bring any skills to the PC Party that the Party does not currently have?  If the defectors’ public actions are to be used as the litmus test, the answer would be no.

However, absorbing them into a Party that has its future well in-hand opens the door to internal rifts as Wildrose-leaning insiders and original PC Party members begin to clash on policy, platform, candidate nomination / selection, etc.

The rumor that the defectors will be provided with uncontested nominations for their ridings in the upcoming election will also alienate long-time PC supporters and deepen this rift.

To add insult to injury, what happens if some of the defectors are offered plum ministerial portfolios while long-time members of the PC Party who stood by the Party when times were difficult are passed over?

And let us not forget that the existence of a strong opposition (as far as it is) ensures transparency and accountability in government.  The Wildrose Party has created more insight into the workings of the Alberta PC Party than has been seen in the Province for many years.  The fact that receiving the defectors would even be considered by the PC Party is a warning that there would be no solid opposition remaining to question the action, something that should concern the citizens of Alberta.

The Wildrose Party has also contributed to the overthrowing of two Alberta Premiers so their track record is actually not too shabby.

The Bottom Line

Once someone demonstrates that they can’t be trusted with another party, why would you suddenly believe they are trustworthy in your own camp, unless you are so desperate for their support that you can look blindly past the obvious as politicians often do in order to accomplish their objectives.

And so with no obvious upside and plenty of opportunity for downside, the PC Party should reject the Wildrose defectors as being of insufficient character and values for the Party and being a potential poison pill in the future.

If they are rejected and return to take over the helm of the Wildrose Party, it would be justice for that Party to reject them also for once a self-serving traitor’s motives have been exposed, can you ever really trust them in the future?

After all, this is what this event is all about – an evaluation of character, values and trust of both the PC and Wildrose Parties and the question of whether these attributes can be found in the people who serve the Province.

Let us not forget that in the end, the constituents must come first.

Do the elected officials in question remember this?

If the Wildrose Party does take them back (should they be rejected by the PCs), maybe the Wildrose Party should be renamed something more appropriate … maybe something like the Benedict Arnold Party.

Because that name appears to be a more accurate reflection of the character and values of many (not all) of the players leading it.

I think that the people within the Wildrose and PC Parties and the people of Alberta deserve better.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

PS When I see actions such as those taken by the defectors, I think of posters like this:

Propaganda - What lies behind us and lies before us are small matters compared to what lies right to our faces.

or this:

Change - Politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed often and for the same reason.

Addendum – Maybe Not What It Seems - December 17, 2014

Watching some PC MLAs say that they can “look beyond the past” implies that said MLAs don’t care about the company that they keep as long as the company that they keep appears to serve their own needs.

I wonder if the backlash against the defectors would be so great that they would go down to defeat in the next election anyway (regardless of the party they serve) and if that were to happen, is acceptance of the defectors just a waste of time and energy or is it part of a masterful plan to skewer the Wildrose Party, using the self-serving nature of the defectors against themselves?

Or …. is this the greatest political takeover in Alberta history, with in fact the Wildrose policies becoming the PC Party policies, bringing true conservatism back to the PC Party and making the Wildrose experiment one of the more brilliant ones in Canadian political history.  This scenario would bode well for the defectors with potential plum ministerial positions being offered to them but would alienate the left-leaning members of the PC Party, thus encouraging them to move on if they don’t like what they see. 

Time will tell.

Final Addendum – The Deal is Done – December 18, 2014

As the dust settles at the time I write this, 9 members of the Wildrose Party have joined the PC Party, simultaneously gutting the Official Opposition, practically wiping out the Party that stood in opposition and providing guaranteed jobs to the 9 self-serving individuals who put themselves above their Party, their colleagues, their friends and the people they serve.  The backlash from both PC and Wildrose Party members has been strong.  However, to the many who donated significant time, energy and money to the Wildrose Party, the feeling of betrayal appears to be especially strong as Ms. Smith and company stabbed them in the back without remorse.

It doesn’t matter to the floor crossers.  They are, after all, politicians.  Should we have dared to expect anything better from the people who dared to insist they were different than the team they have just joined?

Shame on them or shame on us?

While the gushing, positive language in Ms. Smith’s press presentation was all around “like minds coming together”, the words sounded empty and hypocritical.  She carefully evaded providing specific answers to any questions posed by the press and successfully said a lot about nothing (or nothing about a lot, depending on your interpretation).  She is a politician first.

In business and in Life, I believe that a large part of how people perceive me is based on the company I keep.  I personally wouldn’t take anyone on any team of mine whose selfish needs destroy others in the process.  Not only would that person’s character reflect poorly on my own character, but the reality is that I would never know when the person would do the same to me.  Some of these floor crossers have demonstrated such repeat behavior already.

The world of politics is very different.  While people can campaign on things like character and values, such attributes take second place to accomplishing the needs of the politicians, needs that hopefully intersect somewhere with the needs of the people. The Premier didn’t need to accept the floor crossers, having the legislative weight to accomplish his intentions but he did so anyway, accepting people of lesser character into his team.

If it is a reflection on the Premier and the PC Party, at this point it doesn’t matter.  He has a legislative juggernaut that doesn’t need to pay attention to the people and is no longer faced with the challenge of answering to an opposition. 

These events also send a message to the members of the PC Party who stuck it out when times got difficult.  The message is two-fold:

    1. Your ongoing support is appreciated but may not be rewarded as the floor crossers secure plum positions in lieu of those who worked hard for the Party.
    2. Character and values are optional, except when being promoted to the electorate at election time as essential attributes that differentiate the Party from others.

While people insist that this is not a merger of two parties, I have read confidential documents from unhappy participants in this event that suggest that the PC Party is about to move much further to the right.

Where does that leave Red Tories, both candidates and the people who support them?

Time and the level of electorate amnesia that is common with such events will prove to be very revealing.

And finally, while I was never a fan of the Wildrose Party, I did admire their tenacity in being a strong opposition despite their small size.  Their ferocity and perseverance accomplished a lot within the Legislature that benefitted the people of Alberta.  Are the days of someone holding the Government accountable and responsible gone for the people?

Time will tell.