With the news that two MLAs — Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth — have freshly defected to the Wildrose Alliance, many Albertans are continuing to wonder what lies ahead for the Progressive Conservative Party.
When rumours of a mass defection from the Tories to the Wildrose Alliance, its originator suggested that as many as ten MLAs would defect. With Paul McLoughlin and Duane Bratt both expecting more disgruntled MLAs to follow suit, many observers are wondering who may jump next.
The answer isn’t that hard to find.
Anderson and Forsyth were both members of a group Don Braid labelled the “stingy seven”. Originally dubbed the “fiscal four” — Anderson was a founding member of this group — the faction called for Ed Stelmach’s government to exercise fiscal discipline.
Along with Anderson, Calgary-North MLA Kyle Fawcett, Calgary-Edgmont MLA Johnathon Denis and Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffith called for fiscal restraint. Calgary-Bow MLA Alana DeLong, Edmonton-Calder MLA Doug Elinski and Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman joined later. Forsyth openly declared her sympathy with the group.
As Forsyth explained then, the lack of receptiveness to the group on Ed Stelmach’s part was somewhat perplexing.
“I look back fondly on the Deep Six [a similar group in Ralph Klein’s day],” Forsyth said. “Our premier today was part of that, so I don’t see why he would be opposed to this.”
Dough Griffith served as an unofficial spokesperson for the group. But as spokesperson, Griffith pointed to an odd reluctance on Stelmach’s part to embrace the group’s ideals, despite his own stated interests. This reluctance led many to suspect the group was less than entirely inclusive.
“Some people thought our group implied none of them were concerned about the same things,” Griffith. “They’re not sure what we’re supposed to be. They’re not sure if the group is opposed to government.”
“But it’s not. None of this is opposed to what Premier Stelmach wants,” Griffith continued. “He’s an advocate of reducing red tape, and he’s called for a program review. That’s what we want, and that’s what the government is going through right now.”
In this sense, if Stelmach faces any further defections, it will be due to his failure to act on his own stated principles. Even if no more MLAs defect, Stelmach will still have to face the remaining members of the Stingy Seven within his own caucus.
Of course, Ed Stelmach could always relieve the pressure by starting to act on his stated principles now.