Ich kann nicht Anderson

I approve unreservedly of Colleague Kohler’s reaction to today’s defections in the Alberta assembly. As a former cabinet minister Forsyth may get the lion’s share of the attention in tomorrow’s papers, but Anderson is the more intriguing figure. His indignant, score-settling address to the media about his reasons for crossing the floor would guarantee that, even if there were no pre-existing reason to think so.

He has already established, in less than two years as a politician, a propensity for making jaws drop. Late last year he pulled a bizarre trick, requesting space for an op-ed in his riding’s local papers and essentially using it to say “You know those community lottery-fund grants that the opposition sometimes characterizes as a political slush fund, despite the elaborate pretense that they’re handed out according to objective criteria after  a competitive process? Well, it seems I’ve got personal control of about $750,000 here and I’m telling you up front how I intend to have it spent.”

The Liberals promptly seized on Anderson’s op-ed as proof that Conservative politics in Alberta haven’t changed much since the more nakedly feudal 1980s, and Anderson’s loose talk didn’t win him any friends in the Stelmach inner circle. (It’s natural for provincial governments to become more dependent on a network of relationships, reaching down to the neighbourhood level, when the personality of the leader is weaker.) On the other hand, at least some of the lottery cash seems to have been spent according to Anderson’s agenda, even after he offended sensibilities by setting it down in black and white. It is still hard to tell whether his gesture was a matter of mere naïveté, a sincere expression of his philosophy of government, or part of a cunning plan to do as much damage to the PC brand before today’s exit. Maybe it’s a little bit from columns A, B, and C.

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