It has now sunk in to anybody with half a brain who follows Alberta politics, that Special Ed and his Vegreville Gothic Tories have a huge problem in Alberta cities. It is trite to say that Special Ed and his government of farm hands brought it on all by themselves with the spiteful and juvenile transfer of power from Alberta's cities to rural settlements and communities when he formed his first cabinet. This was the result of the Special Ed crew being bound and determined to have their day in the sun after their boy, in December, beat Calgarian Jim Dinning for the leadership of the Tory Party.
Dinning was a symbol of everything Special Ed and his gang wanted buried. He was smooth, urbane, educated, and connected to a Calgary corporate and political establishment, that had enormous influence in Provincial Governments continuously since Peter Lougheed knocked off the Socreds in 1971. In the view of Ed and his pals, the effete and pampered cities - particularly wealthy, arrogant, and oil drenched Calgary - were out.
Boy, did Special Ed and his boys really want to stick it in the cities' ear. And boy, did they. In Special Ed's first cabinet, from Edmonton, a city that boasted 1/3 of Alberta's population, there was only one cabinet Minister out of a cabinet of 18. This was down from 3. And from the detested Calgary, also having 1/3 of the population, there were 3 Ministers out of 18 - down from 7.
Special Ed and his range riders shure showed those cities who was boss.
Yep, they shure did. In 6 months time, Special Ed would see his party's popularity in freefall as well as the loss of Ralph's Klein's seat in Calgary Elbow to the Liberals.
Something had to be done. And by jiminy, Special Ed was decisive if he was anything. He had to make Calgary and Edmonton feel a part of his government again. He had to mend fences and fast. So he and the boys got together and came up with a solution. Bring a couple of Calgary ladies almost to the cabinet table by making them associate ministers, add a former Edmonton Liberal turncoat to an almost minster associate minister, and give one of the two guys with real brains in the cabinet, who happens to be from Calgary, the Deputy Premiership - a position that because of his comparative sharp intellect amongst his pygmy-like colleagues, he for all practical purposes occupies already.
So, the lucky Calgary ladies are the toothsome Cindy Ady, the new associate minister of Tourism, and the longtime silent MLA Yvonne Fritz, the new associate minister of Affordable Housing. Justice Minister Ron Stevens of Calgary Glenmore is the new Deputy Premier. On the Edmonton side, former Education Minister and Liberal turncoat, Gene Zwozdesky has now been elevated to the lofty role of associate minister of Capital Planning.
Will it turn Special Ed's luck around? Not bloody likely. The appointments are tokenism and nothing more. This was reflected last evening at Mayor Bronconnier's super fundraiser on the grounds of La Caille Restaurant in downtown Calgary. The guest list of 1700 or so was a who's who in business and professional circles at $200 bucks a pop. They were the type of people that used to be the backbone of the Tory party of the old days. As Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft and his four Calgary Liberal MLAs worked the crowd, they were greeted by friendly smiles, hearty hand shakes, and plenty of friendly advisors all around. There wasn't a Tory MLA in sight - little wonder since Bronco has been bashing them for some months now. So its got to be back to the drawing board for Special Ed. His move was precious little and already, very late.
Ominously, for Ed, it was whispered about that, alas, Fritz and Ady were not the first Calgary Tory MLAs who were offered those posts. Apparently, a few other sitting Calgary MLAs were offered the new posts before the offers were made to the lucky winners. They of course, had done the wise thing. They turned the offers down.