Today some unexpected news hit Alberta.
NDP MLA Karen Mcpherson has suddenly announced that she will be leaving the NDP and will be sitting as an independent.
I am going to do some speculation that Mcpherson along with a few others will be joining Greg Clark and the Alberta Party caucus within a year.
The Alberta Party has been working the Alberta electoral scene for years but really has not been able to make much progress aside from some concentrated support in Calgary Elbow. They have been standing for nothing by trying to stand for everything by constantly claiming to stand for the “center” and it really hasn’t gotten them anywhere.
A wise move by the Alberta Party right now would be to solicit and gain as many sitting MLAs as possible in hopes of gaining some prominence before the next general election in Alberta.
While a collection of discontented back bench MLAs is not exactly an ideal caucus, it would bring a great deal more exposure and resources into the nascent movement. Every MLA brings more research budget, more question period time and more of their own following into a party that can’t electorally break double digits outside of Calgary Elbow.
To directly cross the floor into a party without a cool down period is often very heavily frowned upon. It smacks of opportunism or sour grapes and those types of floor crossers are often not elected again.
If a floor crosser wants to avoid the fate of looking self-serving, what they will do is sit for at least one legislative session as an independent. They will then claim to have consulted with their constituents and will claim that their constituents want them to sit with <insert party here>.
Mcpherson’s comments are very telling in her posting.
In two sentences one can see how she is already positioning herself for a jump to the Alberta Party down the road:
We are missing the middle where we have more in common with each other than we are different.
In other words, already using the ad nauseam Alberta Party claim of being centrist.
I’ll be taking time to talk with my constituents about the way forward; I have the utmost respect and concern for them and I want to hear their views on the best way forward.
As expected, laying the ground work to be able to claim that her future move to the Alberta Party will be at the orders of her constituents.
Since announcing his departure from the UCP caucus, failed leadership candidate Richard Starke has been very active in attending constituency events in Vermilion-Lloydminster and documenting those actions on his facebook page.
There is utterly nothing wrong with that. This is what an MLA should be doing whether independent or with a party.
This activity is not the activity of a man who doesn’t plan to run again. Again, nothing wrong with that.
Starke is no fool by any means. He knows that winning a seat as an independent in a general election is next to impossible. One has to conclude then that he is likely working the ground with future re-election in mind under a new party banner. That banner will be the Alberta Party.
Rick Fraser recently left the UCP caucus to sit as an independent. He implied that the party had drifted too far from the center as he perceived it under Alison Redford.
Fraser expressly did not rule out joining another party down the road and a quote from his resignation rings rather familiar:
I will take this time to speak with my constituents before I make any further decisions
Why do I get the feeling that Mr. Fraser’s constituents will tell him to join the Alberta Party in a few months?
I suspect that Greg Clark will be working like a busy little bee in this coming legislative session. All of the MLAs will be in the same city and many lunch meetings can be arranged where terms of joining can be discussed.
Outside of Edmonton, most NDP MLAs are pretty well aware that their chances of re-election are pretty slim. The Notley government is an accidental government and with a united conservative alternative on the ballot it is looking pretty clear that the Albertan electorate will be rectifying that error in the next general election.
Calgary NDP MLAs now face the prospect of going down with the electoral ship or perhaps extending their term by jumping in with the rebranded Liberals with the Alberta Party. An opposition seat could be considered better than no seat at all. The Alberta Party is surely working hard to remind these back bench MLAs that there may be an option for them.
Some MLAs simply aren’t all that sharp and will need to cling to some sort of upwardly mobile party in hopes of maintaining their seats. They rode the wave to get a seat in the first place but don’t really have the strength to win it again without some strong party support from a party on its way up. Will these MLAs jump ship?
Where will the weak go?
We know that opportunists such as Sandra Jansen will do damn near anything to retain a spot in the legislature. I think perhaps even the Alberta Party isn’t ready to take on her vitriolic presence but you never know.
Things change fast in politics. I could indeed be barking up the wrong tree here but I strongly suspect that there is an organized move being made by the Alberta Party to try and build a caucus of floor crossers within the next year.
They can’t act too soon or it undercuts the narrative MLAs need to send out that they consulted their constituents. This fall session will provide an opportunity to organize and prepare for an announcement where a number of MLAs join at once in order to make the biggest splash possible when they change their party status.
It is getting clear that the NDP will not be forming the next government in Alberta and MLAs need to start thinking now if they plan to remain in the legislature in the next term. An election may be less than a year and a half away and setting up within a new party is a lot of work. I expect my speculation will be proven true or proven as pure fantasy within six months or so.