Is Brian Jean the right choice for Wildrose leader?

With the Alberta election underway, newly minted Wildrose leader Brian Jean has already began to come under heavy scrutiny. I think we're about to see how much "pretty and female former TV personality" blunted Wildrose criticism over the past few years.

I heard the first rumblings about it last week, literally within 72 hours of the March 28th election where he took the reigns. In a phone conversation, my mother was telling me about a problem both she and her brother had been sharing when they "attended" the Red Deer leadership forum ["attended" meant in this sense that forum was attended by one and watched streaming by the other, and I'm not allowed to tell you which did which. -ed]. I hadn't paid it much attention, I knew that both of them had decided to vote for Drew Barnes and just dismissed it as a bit of the trash talking people always do of the guy they have consciously and intentionally voted against. They didn't like how he presented himself in his address, his answers to a couple of questions, his demeanor towards the other candidates, etc. It's really boilerplate stuff, I had some of the same things to say about Danielle Smith on October 17 2009, and I wouldn't necessarily put too much faith in them. [Then again, when you saw them in Smith it was a prelude of times to come, wasn't it? -ed]

Additionally, Kurn is gung-ho to vote Wildrose and keep sodomy out of his children's schools, but he was tempered by the news that Brian Jean donated to Jim Prentice's leadership campaign and also a few comments where Jean didn't go very far in criticizing the Premier he once closely worked with in a federal cabinet.

Further comments and more specific issues with Jean was given on Twitter Tuesday by Spruce Grove's Trevor (Trevor? I seem to remember his name being Travis) Norris:

The election pronouncement is part of a rough week for the new Wildrose leader. On Monday controversy developed when Fort McMurray-Athabasca MP David Yurdiga distanced himself from Jean after it was implied that a combination federal PC/Wildrose sign-making party was an endorsement of the new leader. While there have been no explicit statements to date, in 2012 the Prime Minister permitted his MPs to campaign for any party (read: PC or Wildrose) in the Alberta election they wished to but that explicitly the federal Conservative party would not permit any MPs to claim the federal party preferred either of its provincial counterparts. One can assume in 2015 a similar situation will arise. In other words, there's little to believe that Yurdiga is in danger of facing any Conservative Party of Canada sanctions for his sign making event, even if he did publicly state he supported Jean. That makes the "no this wasn't an endorsement" move all the more interesting, since it seems to reflect that Yurdiga was concerned about the external politics of being seen supporting Jean -- that is to say that he feared supporting Brian Jean would risk his own reelection possibly later this year. Say what you will about politicians, but when they make this sort of a decision it's worth considering they know something about the candidate and/or the pulse of the electorate. [Then again, Danielle Smith... -ed]

Jean has also promised a leadership where he brings up the issue that cost Ed Stelmach the Premiership (to Wildrose's benefit): "reforming the oil patch" by bringing in more and vaster and longer-term government controls. It's definitely not clear where he thinks the votes are going to come in from such a scheme. Alienating the natural Wildrose constituency (people of all socioeconomic strata who make money from Alberta producing and selling oil-related products) by promising short- to medium-term uncertainty doesn't seem to be a wise political move. Are that many potential Wildrose voters in Didsbury concerned with what seems to be purely local issues stemming from the oilsands and how Fort McMurray is staffed and populated? Enough to get over the obvious degree of "ick" they're going to experience being asked to support massive government intrusion in the private sector? Even if they buy Jean's spin that we already interfere in the economy, so why not interfere in the economy even more as long as we think we're doing so "smarter"? John Galt? Murray Rothbard? Who??

You might find yourself thinking "well, maybe his plan is a good idea". Pace Kim Campbell, elections aren't the time for candidates to have ideas, that's where political bloggers come in. More critically, Jean is talking openly about Wildrose forming government, which means if he wants to flout this scheme it means he intends for it to bring in more votes than it loses.

The controversy continues with the announcement during the election kick-off where Brian Jean would require Wildrose MLAs sign a contract vowing not to defect to another party. Critics pretty quickly lept on how silly and untenable such a deal was, how it was at odds with a Westminster Parliamentary System, and how it reflects an unfortunate top-down managerial style.
Jean said if the Wildrose forms the government it would introduce legislation to prohibit any member of the legislature from crossing the floor to join another party.

He said he has taken steps to make sure that only one person can sign the papers of Wildrose candidates.

If there's any Wildrose consolation, it's that Drew Barnes was facing astroturf objections to his robocalling fiasco.