If the UCP can call themselves “united”, the Buffalo Party can get away with a bison logo.
When the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties voted to merge in 2017, there was an understanding on behalf of some voters that the merger would be a partnership of equals. That lapse in judgement could be forgiven based on the fact that it’s what they were told.
By the time 2019 rolled around, the Alberta Party had become home to former PC and Wildrose members who refused to support the merger; former Wildrose co-founder Marilyn Burns had started the Alberta Advantage Party; former Kenney booster and Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Derek Fildebrant had started the Freedom Conservative Party, and; the Alberta Independence Party showed up with a brand new wildcard party and 63 candidates.
Since then, the Freedom Conservative Party and WEXIT cast offs formed the Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta and there’s a another new game in town: the recently registered Buffalo Party that seeks to be a voice for “overlooked Albertans”.
It’s not quite targeting the “politically homeless”, but coming from its leader John Molberg, a former Wildrose supporter, it actually fits quite well.
Jason Kenney cleaned out almost half of those who had been elected under the Wildrose banner in 2015 before the 2019 election, leaving only 11: Leela Aheer (the once-Minister of Culture and Status of Women) in Chestermere-Strathmore, Angela Pitt in Airdrie, Ron Orr in Lacombe-Ponoka, Todd Loewen in Central-Peace-Notley (formerly of Grande Prairie-Smoky), Drew Barnes in Medicine Hat, Glenn van Dijken of Athabasca-Morinville-Westlock, Mark Smith from Drayton Valley, Tany Yao in Fort McMurray-Conklin, David Hanson from Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul, Jason Nixon from Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, Nathan Cooper of Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, Grant Hunter in Taber-Warner, and Prasad Panda in Calgary-Foothills.
Of those, only nine remain after Loewen and Barnes were voted out of caucus in 2021, and a couple of the other former Wildrose MLAs have been so quiet (Van Dijken and Smith), I forgot they were even in the Legislature.
Brian Jean is back in the fold again after his by-election win in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, calling for Kenney’s resignation, and there is a lot of conjecture as to what happens after Kenney (most likely) wins the leadership review on Wednesday.
Last week, disaffected MLAs who may have chosen not to remain in the UCP caucus pretty much had only two options: sit as independents or join the Wildrose Independence Party.
WIPA, however, is openly in favour of separation. Certainly some UCP MLAs might want to follow that route but it’s not overly popular within the province as a whole.
The Buffalo Party claims to be desirous of independence without holding the stick of separation over potential representative’s heads, creating another opportunity to be against government while cashing their cheques thanks solely to said government’s existence.
Chances are, though, that if Kenney’s win does not convince the dissenters to hitch their wagons to his impending cliff-dive once again, he could very well decide to make good on his threat to call an early election (nugget courtesy of Western Standard, so, the cautionary “grain of salt” belongs here), leaving them to run for another party anyway, or take the “L”.
This is where some individual self-assessment must be made.
Even if the whopping 59,000 members (a grand total of three per cent of those who voted in 2019) give Kenney a 55 per cent approval, there are still constituents who demand representation by their elected officials – and that membership base is barely 0.1 per cent in UCP-held ridings and only 0.07 per cent in rural.
Yes, the membership gets to decide who is premier but the they don’t get to decide what individual MLAs do once they’re elected – MLAs are responsible to the constituency who elected them.
I suppose I’m saying that if the heretofore dissenting MLAs decide to take the membership’s decision as a reflection of the mood in Alberta, they are not paying attention.
Yes, Alberta elects signs – not people – but they’re more than willing to vote for a different shade of blue when they see the Alberta Advantage is off their own backs.