The conventional wisdom is that the sure way to defeat Rachel Notley’s NDP government in the 2019 election is for the opposition to consolidate.
The opposite is happening.
Ten parties are mustering for the next election. Mergers may cut that number to eight.
Five credible politicians are contesting the leadership of two parties and one may join the group.
A third party will select its leader in the autumn.
Two parties of the would-be replacements for the NDP are engaged in leadership feuds that will cripple their ambitions to replace Alberta’s first social democratic premier.
The only comfort that Premier Notley has in her 62 per cent disapproval rating is that no one has yet emerged to challenge her.
The main right-of-centre parties, Wildrose and Progressive Conservative, are internally divided by their proposed merger.
The moderate centre is also divided over the party and the leader who will provide a third option to Notley’s left and the Wildrose-PC right.
Jason Kenney’s cheery “don’t worry be happy” bid to lead the new United Conservative Party has bogged down.
Kenney’s chief rival to lead the merged United Conservative Party is Wildrose and official Opposition Leader Brian Jean.
Jean views Kenney as an interloper. He has orchestrated a 75 per cent Wildrose membership approval threshold for merging into the UPC, a level of support that may not be reached.
NaÔvely ambitious Doug Schweitzer, a PC remnant from Jim Prentice’s brief premiership, has also declared his candidacy to lead the United Conservative Party.
Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt has positioned himself against the “vanilla conservatism” of Kenney and Jean, and is raising money to be the libertarian candidate in the race.
Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark is ensnared by the 83 per cent approval June 24 in Red Deer of the adoption of the Alberta Party as the vehicle for the Alberta Together movement.
His emerging rival is the ex-mayor of Edmonton Stephen Mandel, the eminence grise behind Alberta Together.
Mandel’s minions may force a leadership convention on the Alberta Party.
Only the new Alberta Liberal Party Leader David Khan is unencumbered. This summer, Khan is burying the Liberals’ tainted brand and is carving out an option to the NDP and the UPC.
Five parties don’t rank in the first tier.
Red Deer’s Randy Thorsteinson has restored the Reform Party of Alberta to good standing with Elections Alberta.
The long-standing Social Credit Party, renamed the Pro Life Association Political Association, lead by Jeremy Fraser will field candidates.
The separatist Alberta First Party lead by Bart Hampton may field one or two candidates in 2019.
On the left, the Communist Party Leader Naomi Rankin is a perennial candidate.
The Green Party of Alberta has set a deadline of Sept. 10 for leadership nominations.
In sum, the attempt to craft an alternative to the NDP is fractured and Premier Notley can be thankful she still holds the commanding heights.
Frank Dabbs is a veteran political and business journalist, author of four books, editor of several more and is working this summer on the history of Trimac Transportation and the McCaig family.