For the discerning and keen observer of the passing political parade it is high drama. For the partisan who believes his party has been kept from power for years, indeed generations, by an increasingly incompetent political monolith that cruel fate has smiled upon, it is payback time. For the Alberta Liberals and other opposition forces, it is unbelievable.
Is it political hara-kiri? Is this grotesque Vegreville Gothic scene really happening? Has this cowpoke Alberta Government slipped its own neck into the noose they had made for the rustlers - i.e. the people of the perceived rich and pampered Calgary? The answer is yes to all three questions. Special Ed and the revenge of the hayseeds from north eastern Alberta are wounded and bleeding. They don't quite realize it yet. The shock of taking power is masking the pain. But the pain is coming, and soon.
We've seen it before. Ernest Manning passing the mantle of leadership of the once formidable Social Credit Party in 1969 to nice, pleasant and borrrrrring Harry Strom, a salt-of-the-earth, God-fearing farmer from Southern Alberta. The wrong guy at the wrong time. Peter Lougheed (yes, that Peter Lougheed that the dumb and dumber Alberta neocon Tories of the Klein years vilified as being a liberal), led his party into a golden age. The farmer never had a chance. By 1971 Lougheed was Premier, and Strom was a footnote. The pundits and the Alberta Tories couldn't believe it.
We saw it also with the catastrophic succession of Kim Campbell to the Federal Tory Leadership after Muldoon in 1993. The frowning, babbling, lightweight pseudo-neocon who believed that a political campaign was no place to debate issues carried her Party to a two measly seats in the Federal Election. She was toast, and so was the venerable Federal Progressive Conservative Party toast. Neither would recover. Neither the pundits nor the Federal Grits could believe it - at least not the size of the Grit victory.
The Federal PC's were dead and for good. Those who believe that the present Federal Conservative Party is the old Federal PC Party better shake their collective heads. John Diefenbaker would be lynched by Bush's pal Steve and his pals like Stockwell Day, Jason Kenney, Vic Toews, and Jungle Jim Flaherty. Dalton Camp would be confined to Devil's Island. Joe Clark has gone into self imposed exile no doubt fearing for his physical safety.
This weekend's Provincial Tory Convention in Edmonton was a political disaster for Special Ed and his Government. First of all, they trash Joe Lougheed in his bid to become Party President. You see, young Joe, an attractive and ambitious young lawyer, has two strikes against him as far as the Stelmach boneheads are concerned. First of all, according to the present day 'Special Ed' Tories, his father was a liberal who spent beyond our means (translation: he maintained infrastructure and services, and never divided the electorate by playing one group off against another). Secondly, young Joe was from Calgary, and how many times do the Special Ed guys have to tell you that these days, Calgary is out. St. Albert must be in. Lougheed lost to a St. Albert party hack.
The Special Ed squad also chose to do nothing about massive rent increases. This is a problem throughout Alberta, but particularly so in Calgary where greedy landlords, including old Klein pals who bought the Holy Cross Hospital for a song, are sticking it to the little guy like there was no tomorrow. And with rent increases of 50% and upwards and $1000 per month or more, there is an increasing number of modest income tenants or hopeful home buyers who have decided that there is no tomorrow in Calgary. It may be in Regina, Saskatoon or Swift Current, but not in Calgary.
Special Ed spelled out his solution at the Convention. It is - get this - to sic the hirsute Ray 'King Kong' Danyluk, his Housing Minister, after the greedy landlords. Danyluk, who has the appearance of real muscle in the Tony Soprano sense of the term, has yet to offer any suggestions to resolve this crisis, even though it has been percolating for many months. Special Ed though gave us hope. He said that the solution is for King Kong Danyluk to get the Landlords in line by 'moral suasion and intimidation.' Eddie added, "He's (King Kong) a pretty big guy. Maybe people will listen to him." I kid you not!
The conventioneering Tories weren't finished with the venerable cowtown who gave the Province both the now non-person Lougheed and the clown Klein. Special Ed in his cumbersome, bland oratory, actually brought a thousand of his neanderthals to their feet - and that is no small achievement for Eddie - and a 40 second standing ovation. Why? Do you think it might have been the announcement of the construction of a hospital or some schools or the upgrading of highways? No. They cheered him for attacking Calgary's Mayor Bronconnier - known as 'Bronco', to his exponentially increasing numbers of supporters in his home town. What did Eddie do to get this awesome reaction? He belittled Bronco's argument that Special Ed's strings-attached offer of millions of bucks to the cowtown, most of which was for pet Provincial projects, would delay the westward extension of the LRT.
What Eddie and his rural army from Northeastern Alberta together with their arch-rightist pals fail to recognize, is that the Calgary problems are symptomatic of urban and rural problems in the whole Province. Calgary's problems are Edmonton's, Lethbridge's, Medicine Hat's, Grande Prairie's, Red Deer's, Fort McMurray's, Drumheller's, Hanna's, Pincher Creek's, Redwater's, Barrhead's and Peace River's. They are driven by a crying need for schools, hospitals, infrastructure, and some relief for tenants, affordable housing, and much else. All of this has been brought about by mindless neglect. Which continues and which is being recognized by Albertans in the four corners of the Province.
Kevin Taft is licking his chops. He's going to be Premier after the next election and you can say you heard it here first.