It may be the Ides of March, but on the Alberta political stage, today's production seems to be the Perils of Pauline, not Julius Caesar.
For those of you hoping to see Brian Jean strike back at Jason Kenney and take up the leadership of the Freedom Conservative Party, the Alberta Party, or, hell, maybe even the Alberta Greens, you're going to have to wait a little longer.
Having gotten plenty of attention from overly credulous Albertans yesterday -- including from the puppet-master himself, former prime minister Stephen Harper, who basically told the former Wildrose leader to shaddup, siddown and let his former rival run the United Conservative Party -- Jean tweeted cutely that this had nothing to do with him.
"Wow," he extemporized. "I too have heard crazy rumours about something coming Friday but NONE of it involves me." Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.
Well, remember where you heard it first. Surely by now Jean has used up his diminished supply of credibility. The baby announced the last time the former Wildrose Party leader was involved in a stunt like this arrived on Valentine's Day, and Jean now has an opportunity to concentrate on being an indulgent daddy. Twice burned, I imagine media will now leave the man alone.
Nevertheless, mainstream media seemed determined yesterday to somehow keep this pot of cold water boiling, dropping hints that Something Is Up Just The Same.
According to a Source not identified by the CBC "as he wasn't authorized to speak on the topic" -- surely the most annoying phrase in modern journalism -- "we have reason to believe that there will be some sort of announcements and things done tomorrow, that they're a big deal, but they don't involve Brian."
We'll get back to you if something actually happens.
Meanwhile, former UCP MLA Prab Gill, who has been repeatedly poking a stick in the spokes of Kenney's tricycle, has written a letter to Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson arguing that when UCP staffers were making creepy videos of the folks coming and going from his office they were in fact trying to obstruct investigations into fraud allegations in the UCP leadership race.
"This targeted harassment campaign is directly linked to my knowledge and disclosure of the questionable machinations of the UCP leadership race 'kamikaze campaign' and irregular voting practices," Gill wrote. He argued the intent was "to dissuade me from further revealing what I have witnessed and from further testifying."
The effect of all this hoo-haw on the right has been to keep everyone from doing what they really ought to be doing, to wit, speculating idly about the date of Premier Notley's election call.
The conventional wisdom has been for weeks that the premier would call the election days, if not hours, after Monday's throne speech at the Alberta legislature.
Nothing would suit the UCP and its media allies better, of course, since it would quickly move the allegations of electoral skullduggery, the appearance of fissures re-emerging on the right, and whatever the election commissioner is going to come up with all to the back burner.
So, it is said here, there is every reason for Premier Notley to tarry a little and let the opposition stew in its own juices as long as possible.
This would give her the opportunity to properly set a trap for Kenney's party -- one of the yawning pit variety, which is perfectly obvious to its intended victim but nevertheless difficult to avoid.
This is the purpose, it is said here, of the conveniently leaked health-care bill that the government intends to bring before the legislature soonest, banning extra billing at fee-based medical clinics.
The practice of extra billing -- openly encouraged by utopian market fundamentalists on the ideological right -- would be deeply subversive to Canada's system of public health care and unpopular with significant numbers of voters who are not necessarily New Democrats.
What will Kenney do if this comes before the Assembly before the election is called? He can't very well make this problem go away by signing another Coroplast health-care pledge.
He could support the government, alienating a significant sector of his base. He could vote no, and thereby be officially smoked out by the government on health-care privatization. Or he could lead his troops out of the legislature in another humiliating retreat as he did over the NDP's abortion clinic bubble-zone law.
None of these are good options from Kenney's perspective. Therein lies the trap.
Tune in tomorrow for the next episode of Perils of Pauline (Jason).
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
Photo: David J. Climenhaga
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