“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” —Abraham Lincoln
Premier Prentice gave every member of his caucus a copy of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals. No doubt to help them “decide” whether to let Danielle Smith, the leader of the Opposition, and eight members of her Wildrose caucus join the Progressive Conservative government.
The absurdity of the situation escaped his dimwitted caucus.
The book describes Abraham Lincoln’s relationship the three men in his own party who challenged Lincoln for the Republican presidential nomination. After Mr Lincoln won the presidency he persuaded these three members of his own party to join his cabinet.
In case Mr Prentice hasn’t caught my drift there’s a huge difference between asking members of your own party to help you solve difficult problems and allowing a bunch of opportunistic carpetbaggers, some demanding cabinet posts, in the door.
The fact that Mr Prentice welcomed the gang of hypocrites who staged “one of the greatest acts of betrayal in Canadian political history”* with open arms tells us a lot about Mr Prentice.
Mr Prentice says it’s an opportunity to unite the conservative family. He’s delighted that the PCs once again represent the “full diversity of voices and regions from across all Alberta” (read: we’ve recaptured the rural vote). He says Alberta needed “united leadership and shared purpose in tackling the challenges ahead”.
United leadership and shared purpose? In case Mr Prentice hasn’t noticed, he already has an overwhelming majority in the Legislature and under his much touted “new management” he can accomplish anything his little heart desires.
No, this was simply a bargain with the devil to avoid the risk of a minority government in the next election.
Reunification at what cost?
Ms Soapbox is not totally naïve. She knows that some politicians are self-serving opportunistic swine. However even she expected better of this premier.
A review of the Reunification Agreement sets out four themes that show how far Mr Prentice is willing go to win a majority government in the next election.
- Violating the trust of PC voters: By agreeing to the Wildrose policies set out in the agreement Mr Prentice violated the trust PC voters placed in him and his government. If they wanted to be governed under Wildrose policies they would have voted for the Wildrose party in 2012 and 2014. They didn’t.
Specifically, PC voters did not vote for narrow social conservatism which enhances parental rights at the expense of the rights of LBGTQ children. Mr Prentice wisely backed away from this policy when he “paused” Bill 10, but reversed his position to appease the nine Wildrose defectors.
- “Selling” the premier’s personal endorsement: Mr Prentice gave the defecting Wildrose MLAs a lock on the PC nomination process in the upcoming election. In an open letter Mr Prentice personally endorsed each Wildrose MLA who chooses to run as a PC candidate in the 2015 nomination process. Can I have an endorsement if I promise to stop slagging the premier on the Soapbox?
3. Violating the candidate selection process: The agreement effectively blocks anyone but the defecting Wildrose MLAs from being a PC candidate in their riding in the next election. If a misguided member of the PC party were to put his name forward he’ll receive a call reminding him of the Premier’s endorsement. I understand that such “reminder” calls run the gamut from “you’ve got to take one for the party, step aside” to “get out of the way if you know what’s good for you”.
By blocking nominations from anyone but the defecting Wildrose MLA, Mr Prentice subverted the democratic process of candidate selection and is forcing his choice, no, Danielle Smith’s choice of candidates on the PC voters in these ridings.
- Stealing the Opposition: Mr Prentice negotiated with the Official Opposition as a bloc. He violated his promise of greater accountability, transparency and good governance because he knew that if he succeeded he’d destroy the most effective opposition Alberta has had in decades.
Mr Prentice stole the Opposition from the Albertans who put it there. Then he smugly announced that his seat count now equals that of ex-premiers Lougheed and Klein.**What he fails to recognize is that in Lougheed and Klein’s day it was the people, not the premier who put them there.
Cabinet vs Board Room
Mr Prentice fulfilled his promise of a “government under new management”. He handpicks his cabinet, parachuting outsiders into key portfolios like a CEO picking his executive team. He grows market share in rural areas by poaching “talent” that can deliver the votes. He mitigates a loss of market share by co-opting the Opposition so they can’t hold the government to account.
Abe Lincoln said: test a man’s integrity by giving him power. Mr Prentice had the power to say “thanks, but no thanks” when presented with the Wildrose defection plan. Instead he gutted the Opposition by drafting its disaffected MLAs into government.
It’s a shrewd move if you’re a CEO. It’s an abuse of power if you’re the premier.
*Globe and Mail, Dec 17, 2014, A1
**Globe and Mail, Dec 19, 2014, A1