It isn’t unusual for a sitting politician to grow disenfranchised and disillusioned with their own party. Many elected officials have had serious concerns with the direction of their party, and with all internal avenues exhausted made the ultimate and risky decision to cross the floor.
Rarer is when a member of a governing party chooses to leave. Giving up a higher position of power to sit as an independent or to join a smaller represented opposition party indicates a concrete difference of opinion to the degree that the member cannot justify remaining with the group. This usually is due to a change in the ideology of the politician, and at times it is because the government has changed course.
But when we see a multiple number of members of a governing party jumping ship over a relatively short amount of time, it virtually sets a precedent. It is also evidence that the ruling party is in trouble.
One leaving is a shoulder shrug. Many leaving is a party falling apart.
From the recent Ed Stelmach era through to the current Alison Redford P.C. government of today, we’ve seen a steady stream of elected Progressive Conservatives such as Rob Anderson, Heather Forsyth, and Guy Boutilier leave the party to join the new small-c Wildrose party.
Raj Sherman left after a very public spat with his caucus over their mismanagement of the provincial health care system and eventually became the leader of the Alberta Liberals. Just this week, respected fiscal conservative Lloyd Snelgrove announced his intentions to leave Redford’s P.C.s and sit as an independent for the remainder of his term after publicly questioning the P.C.’s explanation for their current taxpayer-funded province-wide campaign tour.
Numerous other P.C. MLAs have announced that they’re not running in the next election. You can assume Redford’s ascension to the premier’s chair played a part in the decision of some.
I will mention that the door has swung both ways, as last November Lethbridge-East MLA Bridget Pastoor left the Liberals to join the P.C.s.
In the case of the Alberta P.C.s, what we are seeing is proof of a party that is undergoing a change from within – from the top down, to be more accurate. It is an ideological move to the left of centre on the spectrum. It is no coincidence that many of those who have abandoned the Progressive Conservatives can be described as fiscal, slightly right-of-centre conservatives.
It is also no coincidence that Liberals such as Pastoor would choose to join Redford’s Tories. Given how the Progressive Conservatives have become heavy on the ‘progressive’ with very little ‘conservative’ remaining in the mix, the idea of joining a governing party which appeals to ones big government, intrusive, debt-growing left wing sensibilities would be hard to resist.
Heading into the pre-election budget – to be handed down from an unelected premier, it has become apparent that the 40+ year old Progressive Conservative government has shifted to the left. First under Stelmach and accelerated under Alison Redford, the government has grown beyond its means and has become increasingly intrusive in the everyday lives of Albertans.
It has shed any credibility on fiscal matters and other top priorities in favour of focusing on laws that make criminals out of the innocent. It has mused repeatedly about increasing taxes and creating new ones. It has, for all intents and purposes, abandoned traditional Alberta values.
Albertans are starting to realize this. Apparently, so are some government MLAs.