Even before the dust from the historically close 2023 Alberta general election has settled, Premier Danielle Smith was blabbing about creating an extra-parliamentary council of UCP electoral losers to act as Edmonton’s MLAs.
Of course, on Monday, 20 MLAs were elected to represent the citizens in the 20 electoral districts located within Alberta’s capital.
The trouble is, not a single one of them belongs to the premier’s United Conservative Party. Edmonton’s citizens have spoken. The city’s electoral map is now an unbroken sea of NDP orange. Edmonton city council is also far too woke for the taste of the premier and her coterie of Take Back Alberta MLAs from the sticks.
So what’s a UCP premier to do? There’s no Alberta Senate from which to pluck a representative to speak up in cabinet for the city, and the UCP seems to have lost 14 MLAs to the NDP in Monday’s election (there are still some recounts to come) so there aren’t many urban candidates who can play that role.
She could listen to Edmonton’s elected MLAs, of course, but this is the party of earplugs — granted, handed out by the previous UCP premier, but presumably still serviceable. So that’s not going to happen.
Well, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and Smith never was one to pay a lot of attention to the niceties of Parliamentary democracy.
After spending most of the election campaign successfully swathed in metaphorical bubble wrap to ensure she didn’t say anything to tarnish the UCP’s already sagging brand, she couldn’t be restrained Tuesday.
When she immediately reverted to her trademark style of saying whatever outrageous or dangerous notion had just popped into her head, the first thing out of her mouth was her idea for the “council” of defeated UCP candidates to advise the government on What Edmonton Wants. (Hint: Not them, obviously.)
“I’m going to put together an Edmonton council of some of the candidates who I know are going to want to run again, there are a couple of fantastic candidates, many, in fact, in Edmonton,” Ms. Smith, sounding faintly Trump-like, told the host of a Corus Entertainment radio talk show broadcast in Edmonton and Calgary.
“You can always count on Smith having exactly the wrong instincts when it comes to democratic norms,” observed University of Calgary law professor Martin Z. Olszynski afterward.
Is this going to be funded by the UCP, Olszynski asked in another tweet, “or is Smith proposing to use public money — *taxpayer dollars* — to pay would-be politicians (i.e., partisans) to give her advice about Edmonton — until they can run again?”
“Arguably, it’s the Premier using her power of office to secure govt funds to advance the political ambitions of party partisans,” he added, also suggesting that the idea was in violation of the Conflicts of Interest Act, which the Legislature’s ethics commissioner has already found the premier breached in her congenial chitchat with her former friend, Pastor Artur Pawlowski.
Well, this was a quick reversion to form, but it certainly wasn’t unexpected. There’s plenty more where this came from and we’re going to be battered by it literally for years now.
Usually the UCP and similar Canadian Conservative parties look south to the U.S. for their undemocratic ideas, but this one actually seems to have its inspiration in Canadian history, events that took place long ago enough to justify an etching in some future edition of the Canadian passport!
I speak, of course, of the Family Compact, that undemocratic network of business, legal and religious cronies who dreamed of creating their own Canadian aristocracy and dominated the government of Upper Canada in the first few decades of the 19th Century.
If you went to school when I did, you’ve literally seen the movie.
“Fortified by family connexion, and the common interest felt by all who held, and all who desired, subordinate offices, that party was thus erected into a solid and permanent power, controlled by no responsibility, subject to no serious change, exercising over the whole government of the Province an authority utterly independent of the people and its representatives,” Lord Durham said of the Family Compact in his famous 1839 report to the Colonial Office on the causes of the rebellions of 1837 and ’38.
That sounds pretty much like what Smith has in mind for her crackpot capital city council of electoral under-achievers.
People, four years of this is going to be exhausting. Where’s William Lyon Mackenzie when you need him?
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