The Edmonton Journal’s Capital Notebook relays this tidbit from government insider Paul McLaughlin, publisher of the newsletter Alberta Scan. According to Capital Notebook, McLaughlin, relying on credible sources, is reporting that as many as 10 Tory MLAs could cross the floor and sit as Wildrose Alliance members if Danielle Smith is elected leader. (h/t to Jenn Prosser for posting this story).
Is there any truth behind this? It’s impossible to say at this point, but let’s consider a couple of things. First, the recent by-election in Calgary-Glenmore could have many MLAs worried about their future come general election time. Second, the Stelmach government hasn’t been very tolerant of dissent from within (here’s a recent example of an MLA paying for speaking out in public). You would think the last thing an MLA would want is to be caught thinking about crossing the floor if he wasn’t serious about it. Would this be idle speculation then? I tend to think not.
If this does happen, the ramifications could be huge. First, if all ten cross the floor, that would make the Wildrose Alliance the second largest caucus in the legislature, and the official opposition. It would guarantee them official party status, giving them greater resources to support their MLAs. Second, heading into the PC Party convention in November, this would be a huge, possibly fatal blow to the leadership of Premier Stelmach. At the very least, it could plunge the party into a divisive fight over his leadership and the future direction of the party.
It’s also worth noting that if this happens, a lot of the impact depends on which MLAs cross the floor. A cabinet minister or high-profile MLA would create a much bigger stir than a relatively unknown first-term backbencher. Whether the MLAs were all on the far right of the PC Party or if some were moderates would also affect perception. How and when floor-crossing would occur also matters. A group splintering at once would create a news story. If they begin to trickle out after the PC convention, it’s still news, but the impact might be dulled.
In any case, this is something worth keeping an eye on. It might be nothing, or if it’s Danielle Smith giving a victory speech in three weeks time, it might be the start of a big story.