Danielle Smith has decided that elections are a waste of [your] time

My father has a line that he likes to use whenever he gets word that a couple whose wedding we attended has resulted in a separation or divorce. I've been told it a few times, most recently a family friend who got married in about four or five summers ago.

Well, looks like you wasted gas driving down to Drumheller
The quote has been repeated a half dozen times over the years. When we drove to my cousin's wedding in Canmore, we wasted gas. When we drove to another cousin's wedding in Edmonton (okay, for me granted it wasn't nearly as bad) we wasted gas. Our neighbour who got married in Calgary? We wasted gas. I wasted jet fuel too when I went to a Caribbean wedding a few years ago, but he didn't go so he wasn't as concerned over that one. The implication of the line though is pretty stunningly obvious: we drove all this way (and bought a gift, bought overpriced drinks, maybe even rented a tux). The intent of our drive was to witness an event, to be involved in a process by which two people affirmed a long-term (infinity, in this case) binding contract where they promised to be together, to support each other, and to work towards their united cause: in particular, raising a family.

When this contract turns out to be broken, it meant that our investment was a waste. Why did we drive to Drumheller anyways? Our friend's wife unilaterally decided that she didn't feel like honouring the contract anymore. We thought we were going there to support her decision to start a family, to build something new and stronger and better. Instead, she decided to take the majority of the wedding presents (yes, Dad did ask this) and hike off on her own.

When I learned about the massive Wildrose MLA defection which occurred this week, that line came back a lot in my mind. Much like when I drove to Drumheller for a wedding, a lot of you voted in April 2012 but it turns out all you were doing was wasting your gas money.

Did you vote for Wildrose because you liked the Wildrose Party?
Did you vote for Wildrose because you didn't like the Progressive Conservatives?
Did you vote for the Progressive Conservatives because you didn't like Wildrose?

Congratulations! Your vote didn't matter. You most likely drove to a polling station and wasted your gas money.

At this point it's important to throw in that favourite caveat, that this topic was so beautifully expressed in the South Park episode "Douche and Turd", way back during the 2004 Presidential race. If you don't know it, the key takeaway from it for those watching the Wildrose Defections comes near the end of the episode: Stan finally votes the final vote of the election, and the side he voted for lost by a wide margin. The vote, by the way, was on a new school mascot since PETA had forced the school to change the old name. Stan tries claiming that, since his side didn't win by a single vote, that his vote didn't matter. Immediately the voting proponents stomped on his claim, angrily telling him that it's total nonsense: even if you vote for a losing cause, you still exercised your democratic contribution and therefore it mattered. Seconds later, the town learns that PETA has been killed by Puff Daddy (don't ask), and since the objection to the original mascot is gone, neither of the two choices offered in the election need to be picked and they can go back to the old name. Stan is then told by Randy, "now your vote didn't matter". The same works with this. Even if you were one of the 440,000 Albertans who cast your vote for Wildrose in 2012, your vote still mattered (moreso, naturally, since Westminister elections aren't all-or-nothing like the U.S. Presidential one South Park spoofed). Until this week, that is, when Danielle Smith decided to kill PETA.
And just like how our friend's soon-to-be-ex-wife unilaterally made the decision that our trip to Drumheller was a wasted trip, Danielle Smith and eight compadres made the decision that your vote in 2012 was a wasted trip. The election didn't really matter. Typically floor crossings are more matters for individual constituencies rather than the electorate at large. Rob Anderson becoming a Wildrose MLA was more an Airdrie matter than an Edmonton one. Kerry Towle leaving Wildrose to become a PC last month (more on that later) is more an Innisfail problem than a Calgary one. Sometimes it can have some larger ramifications, particularly when a floor crossing tips the balance of power in the legislature, but it's still primarily a local issue.

This is different. This is literally unprecedented in Canada. Hell, it may be unprecedented in the entire history of Westminster Parliaments. The key phrase in the preceding paragraph, you see, is "tips the balance". The teeter-totter metaphor makes sense when a majority party is only a couple of defections away from being replaced (see Jim Jeffords for a non-Westminister example). It makes sense if a minority government is only a seat away from being a majority government...or a minority government is only a seat the other way from being an opposition party. These are tips of balances of powers.

This is a party with a majority already...nay, a super-majority absorbing a huge chunk of its largest (and, as the mainstream media is now starting to suddenly go on about in a topic they've never once mentioned over the past half-decade under Danielle Smith, its most effective) opposition. The sheer size of the floor crossings, and that they include the leader of the party, make this quite different than the average MLA swapping parties. Oddly enough, since the actual reins of power aren't changing, the dynamic of this switch is even more monumental. This is, at least for the next election cycle and probably the next two cycles, going to completely eliminate the Wildrose Party from contention. Don't be surprised next week to find that Wildrose has ironically dropped in popularity. Why? Voters are mad at Danielle Smith and eight other people...who are now actually PC MLAs. Voters can be dumb, that's how come Wildrose didn't form the government in 2012 (when they were deserving of the role). Ultimately it means the PCs are the only centre-right game in town.

You're totally wrong to do so, of course. If you doubt it, I did an entire series that month about why the PCs were contemptible and why you are either stupid or evil for supporting them.

Can any good come from this? Yes, probably, though nothing right away. For one, this has effectively removed a few of the squeamish "Mildrose" MLAs from the roster. There wasn't many in the way of strong social or fiscal conservatives leaving the party with the possible exception of Bruce McAllister. Remember that since the 2012 election there have been many people, this blog one of the chief among them (but, certainly, not the only!) in calling for Danielle Smith to either be replaced, or for her desire to veer Wildrose to the left to be curbed, shaved, or even stomped. (Those who thought otherwise 18 months ago are probably backing down a little bit. Those who disagreed two months ago when apparently this operation was in the middle of its implementation phase must be backing down at warp speed). Maybe with a purge of some of the leftist elements (not all: as was pointed out to me a month or so back, far-left Alberta Party and Green Party extremists are still infesting Wildrose constituency boards) the Wildrose can at least strike the sort of principled conservatism that they had when Ed Stelmach was ousted as PC leader for fear of Wildrose on the right flank. (The departure of Red Redford was more complicated: even without Danielle Smith in the wings, her time was up in dirty affairs of her own making. Perhaps this will mark the return to a long-time stint as Wildrose being the polar opposite of the NDP: never in power or even threatening power, but constantly keeping the right-wing arguments against the Prentice Tories in the public consciousness. They may even end up the polar opposite of the Liberals in the sense that they do the same as the NDP, only every couple decades they threaten to actually seize power away. Remember that the Alberta Liberals under Lawrence Decore almost beat Ralph Klein from the right. For those who want principles to win the day instead of power, knowing that the important thing is that right-wing legislation gets enacted by the Alberta Government at the end of the day, this isn't exactly a bad thing.

Perhaps, though, Wildrose will end up trying to be the next government, losing two or three more election cycles in the process, and decide that Danielle Smith's plan (immediately dismissed by Wildrose executives) isn't such a bad idea after all. In that scenario, Wildrose and the Progressive Conservatives can meld their differences and enter into a merger where the PC party swings more to the right structurally in return for removing their Wildrose opposition. This wouldn't be the first merger between the Wildrose Party and another party: the Wildrose and the Alberta Alliance, after all, merged just five years ago in order to present a united front...against the PC Party...okay it would still be weird, but not particularly so. A lot of people are already comparing this to another prominent political merger this century...
Its essentially like a replay of the 2002 merger of the federal PCs and the Canadian Alliance, except without any obvious reason as its clear the PCs are not in danger of losing to a left-wing party anytime soon.
frankly, if Prentice never bothered to lift a finger for, no one could do anything about because he already had a majority!
Along with the government/opposition distinction Kyle references in that blogpost, there is perhaps a more major distinction between the "United Alternative" movement in the 1990s and the Danielle Smith merger plan (read: the Danielle Smith floor crossing plan): the "unite the right" movement started with Ezra Levant's "Winds of Change" conference in 1996. Craig Chandler had another in 1998. Reform itself turned into the Canadian Alliance following not one but two conferences, and then Peter McKay and Stephen Harper started working towards a party merger in 2003. In December 2003 the PC and Canadian Alliance memberships both ratified the change (support was in the 90% range for both parties). Hey, notice anything different about this process? Over a period of years various grassroots conferences and events were held to discuss and debate the merger(s). Letters to the Editor in various publications on each side was held. There were radio debates, there were live debates, there was a chance for voters to write their MPs and discuss their opinion on the issue. Whether or not you agreed with the Reform/PC merger that ultimately occurred at least there was a long period in which everybody got their chance to talk about it. Danielle Smith's floor-crossing party was a fait accompli: from what I can determine looking back in articles about this, only a week ago it was still just paranoid rantings from Loopy Joe Anglin, and definitely didn't include the Wildrose Leader. Now it seems that she's instantly the ringleader of a long-standing (but not long-mentioned!) plan of joining up with the man she called corrupt as she was side-dealing with him (at least now we know how she knew so well!). When was this discussed? When were Wildrose voters, or voters in their constituencies, in the loop about what was going to happen and why? She seemed to condense eight years of United Alternative discussions into roughly 36 hours of decision making, apparently only communicated through unfortunately timed leaks.

Elections matter. At least, they're supposed to. Mark Steyn has been on this file since the U.S. midterm elections, which President Monkey basically cast aside days later: for government officials to tell the electorate that the election doesn't matter is to turn them from the electorate to the ruled. Even if the Prentice-Smith team ends up being the most benign and useful political alliance in the history of the planet, the answer still has to come up in that direction.

In 2012, you wasted gas. The blame for that needs to go squarely on Danielle Smith's shoulders. Some of it probably falls on Prentice, but you can hardly blame him for his plan. It's a relatively low-risk high-reward move, despite what Rachel Notley is trying to claim today. Note there aren't a lot of PC supporters upset over this. There are tons of Wildrose voters who are, and as Colby Cosh noted, an ironic block of leftists:
The floor-crossing has some people, mostly those who would never actually vote Wildrose, fretting about the general health of democracy in Alberta.
Ultimately Prentice made a bit of a bold gambit which seems to be paying off in spades. He didn't think the election mattered either, but it's worth noting that he didn't originally get elected in one.

It's hard to imagine that really ever becoming the case. It's why, despite the 4-hour caucus debate the PCs had about letting the ship-jumping MLAs into their party, there wasn't much worry that they would decide to say no. What would be their argument? "Why, we can't let them into our caucus, they are willing to let their political beliefs slide just to be closer to the reigns of power and oh wait that's exactly what all of us have been doing for years."

Good morning and welcome to the new Alberta political reality: the days of a 20-member Wildrose Alliance opposition are gone, soon to be replaced by a 4-member caucus that doesn't even have official opposition status. Strictly speaking, this isn't what any of us voted for. We voted for Brian Mason leading the NDP, Danielle Smith leading the opposition Wildrose, with Alison Redford leading the Progressive Conservatives in government. Select few, in accordance with Parliamentary rules that don't quite factor in the modern era of Presidential-style governance in Westminster systems, voted for Jim Prentice to become their MLA (and, three other guys to become theirs). Wildrose didn't win any of those elections, but they fought in them. (At least nominally, there's some grumblings I'm seeing on Twitter that maybe the byelections were thrown. I'll post later this month on this topic, there are a few connecting threads I want to put together first).

But why am I telling you all this? It doesn't matter. It was just an election. Nothing to get excited over. The election doesn't matter. Danielle and Jim got together and decided what the Alberta Legislature would really look like. Your say was all fun and interesting and all that jazz, but it didn't matter.

You wasted the gas.