While the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties of Alberta were duking it out in the Legislature over the past ten days, and with the mainstream media focused on the Daryl Katz "One Cheque to Rule Them All" election donation controversy, something took place on social media that went unnoticed by most armchair politicos and online party supporters. How it went unnoticed remains a mystery because the accusation that was made is shocking enough to be deserving of both our attention and our concern.
For the past several months, rumours have been circulating of a fractured Wildrose Party about to be ripped asunder not only by its own infighting but by a clear act of subterfuge on the part of at least three party members. While the party has officially denied these rumours, Danielle Smith, the leader of the official opposition alluded to the possibility that the rumours are true during a recent interview with The Globe and Mail. According to the article, Smith worries that Alberta's opposition parties have been too quick to turf leaders and she is hoping Wildrose won't make that mistake.
It has not gone unnoticed that Rob Anderson, the Wildrose MLA for Airdrie and representative of the hard right so-con side of the party - Anderson being the man who insisted on running Alan "Lake of Fire" Hunsperger - has been stepping out into the spotlight more as of late. Then, just this past week, a video link hit local social media.
Yes, THIS really happened:
It is easy enough to surmise from the video that an attempt at overthrow is at play within the Wildrose party and the rumors of the party self destructing are not only true, but the players are very clear. The source and maker of the video are anonymous, but the intended ominous message is clear:
Insurrection is at hand.
If one is to believe what is contained in the video, Rob Anderson, together with Shane Saskiw (former executive director, now the Wild Rose MLA for Lac La Biche), John Wescott (Saskiw's longtime friend who was appointed to the executive director position following Saskiw's departure), Saskiw's girlfriend Shannon Stubbs (who was working for the Legislature and the WRP at the same time, her contract personally approved by Saskiw) as well as several other party insiders - Grant Monsour, and Paul Collins (not as a co-conspirator but a passive enabler) among them - have methodically, precisely, systematically constructed not only an overthrow of the Wildrose Party's current leader, but an overthrow of the grassroots party itself. And thanks to the construct of the Wildrose party's constitution, Danielle Smith has very limited power. There is nothing she can do to stop it.
Smith, as many suspected, is little more than the media face of her party. There is nothing to stop her removal as leader, and there is nothing the so-con faction of the party would like to do more. After all, she was only meant to serve as a means to get the party into power. Furthermore, as a result of being surrounded by those very same people who would have her replaced as leader, it would seem Smith is mostly blind to what is taking place.
Why this should matter to a party that calls itself a "grassroots" movement is obvious. By all accounts, the Anderson/Saskiw/Wescott trinity has already gathered their dream team around them, and plan to stack the Wildrose board with hand picked so-cons. That is not grassroots. That is not transparency. This is not open government.
But why should this matter to Albertans? Why should those of us who voted against the Wildrose Party be concerned about the politics at play within the party itself?
The people of Alberta deserve a strong opposition. Knowing that, 34% of Albertans voted for the Wildrose Party. They voted for Danielle Smith. In many cases those same voters ignored the so-con policy and agenda of some party members, choosing to believe that Smith's words during her campaign were true - that the hard right faction in her party did not have the power to make their agenda the party's policy. They trusted in that. Now, in all likelihood, the official opposition is about to make fools of every Albertan who believed they were voting for a fiscally conservative, socially libertarian, grassroots party while simultaneously making a fool of their own leader.
What takes place during the Wildrose Party Annual General Meeting later this month will tell us how much of what is contained in the anonymous video is true. Will the party's leader be overthrown? Will the so-con faction within the party take over by ensuring a stacked board? Will the true grassroots supporters of the party stand up to be counted against Rob Anderson and his brotherhood of subterfuge? Will they stand behind the leader who took them to where they are now, or will they discard her in favor of a move to the hard right, thus ensuring they will never form a government in this province?
But most importantly, once the AGM has ended, will the people of Alberta have a strong opposition in the Legislature? At this point, all signs point to "no".
The game is afoot!