Dinning should do end-run around party that betrayed him

There are many twists and turns in politics.

We just witnessed in Canada former socialist New Democrat Bob Rae suddenly turning into a free market Liberal, and in the U.S. ousted Democrat Joe Lieberman, winning back his Senate seat as an Independent.

Again in Canada, veteran Liberal cabinet minister Paul Hellyer made a stab at the Conservative leadership back in the 1970s and has later formed at least two independent political movements, including the stillborn Action Canada.

Going back further, Sir Winston Churchill crossed the floor of Britain’s House of Commons from Conservative to Liberal and back to Conservative again.

When a party fails you, as many Western Canadians thought the federal Progressive Conservative party failed them in the 1980s, it is no act of disloyalty to seek another movement to represent one’s aspirations.

Hence, we had Preston Manning’s Reform party, then Stockwell Day’s Alliance. This shook up the status quo so much the PCs were forced to recognize their fourth party status—even behind the Bloc Quebecois—and agree to hew to some real Conservative philosophies again and unite with the Alliance under the straightforward banner of the Conservative Party of Canada, with veteran Reformers and Alliance personalities such as Stephen Harper and Day in the front lines.

In the column “The end is nigh,” (Dec. 19) I speculated that, under Premier Ed Stelmach, we’d see the collapse of the provincial Progressive Conservative dynasty, much as under Premier Harry Strom 35 years ago we witnessed the collapse of the Social Credit dynasty.

I also speculated Ted Morton, who on the second leadership ballot had 41,000 votes—twice as many as contenders Lyle Oberg and Dave Hancock combined—had been slapped in the face by Stelmach, receiving only the somewhat irrelevant portfolio of sustainable resource development.

What Morton should do is take his 41,000 members over to the Alberta Alliance and help the right-wing party do an end-run around Kevin Taft’s Liberals, whose mouths are salivating at the thought of coming up the middle, grasping Alberta’s treasury, and putting us in a straitjacket of Lib-Left policies.

But then a political insider suggested former provincial treasurer Jim Dinning, who came second to Stelmach with 35.5% of the votes compared to just 35.9% for Stelmach for the first choice ballot (Morton’s peak was 28.6%) should also move to the Alliance.

If both moved, taking with them theoretically a combined 62.5% of their backers, Stelmach’s 1950s-style rural-based PC party would be devastated.

For what does Dinning owe the PCs now? He gave his political life to them, heading Alberta away from bankruptcy to balance budgets and huge surpluses, and then was betrayed.

With the coming collapse of Stelmach’s lacklustre PCs, the alternative to the ghastly Liberals must come from the right.

All the Alliance needs to become viable are some big name political stars who carry enormous respect and huge followings. Dinning and Morton could not be better placed to safeguard the province from the Liberals.

Throughout Alberta’s history, it has always been a new party that replaced a tired, worn-out regime: The United Farmers of Alberta ousted the Liberals after the First World War, Social Credit replaced them, and Peter Lougheed’s once moribund Progressive Conservatives pushed aside the Socreds.

The road ahead looks pretty clear.

 

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