Sometimes you watch something unfold and you search for an analogy to help it make sense. You are trying to sort out something that seems rather inexplicable, and so it was when I watched Albertan MLA Danielle Smith cross the floor, abandoning the Wild Rose Party for the Progressive Conservatives.
In the time since she, and other MLAs from the WRP, crossed the floor I have witnessed several resignations from the PC party, including individuals I think quite remarkable like Doug Griffiths. I have seen others declare their intent to not seek re-election. I cannot help but think that the ripple effect of the vote inside PC caucus to accept the floor crossers has been huge, with many stalwart PC MLAs finding they simply don't have the desire to share their benches with those who were the enemy but weeks ago - and I cannot blame them.
For me, though, the most troubling of the floor crossings was that undertaken by the WRP leader, as I searched for some analogy to have it all make sense, and I realized that perhaps what came the closest was if a country leader, during a pitched battle or war, crossed to the opposing side.
Can you imagine had one of the leaders during the American Civil War crossed sides during the middle of the war, laying down their own flag to pick up another? There is something so disingenuous about that, so very misleading (in every sense of the word) to see someone who was at the front of something suddenly "switch sides".
I freely admit I have not ever been a member of the WRP and I objected to some of their platform in a strong way. I objected even more to the way they chose to attack other members of government, often choosing personal attacks over ones based on policy. They went after the politicians as individuals, and yet now, after some thought that could perhaps best be described as self-serving, they decided they didn't want to fight the team, but join it.
I am not sure about you, but I suspect I would have a hard time sitting next to someone who just weeks ago was hissing at me from across the aisle, beating me up on social media or making snide comments about me. I would have a strong level of distrust and a sense of wariness, which cannot build cohesiveness in a team. And I suppose fundamentally I would have a lack of respect for a leader who chose to cross the floor as opposed to stepping down and seeking by-election under their chosen new banner instead. I doubt I would ever find it in my heart or mind to trust that person.
I am perhaps deeply disappointed, too. Between the stories of our previous Premier Redford and the recent behavIour of Danielle Smith I fear women in politics in Alberta have been badly represented, and this tarnish cannot be good for any woman in politics in this province. We have needed leaders of strength and fortitude, integrity and good faith and instead we have seen two high-profile female leaders modelling behaviour that is simply not hitting that benchmark. As an avid watcher of the political scene, as a woman and as the mother of a young woman with political aspirations I cannot help but be disappointed in these events and in what message they have sent to my daughter.
The last three years in Albertan politics have been, in a word, bizarre. We are now on our third Premier in as many years as we saw one go down in flames, one serve as interim, and one elected by a party in need of someone to save them. We have seen an entire opposition party fundamentally decimated when several of their members - and almost unbelievably their leader - crossed the floor to join the other side, leaving their colleagues who remained behind (and many of those who voted for them) bewildered and in some cases angry, and we seem to be facing the prospect of an early election call as we head into uncertain economic times in a province that has been "living the good life" for several years. And while so many of these events are so strange, so unexpected and so very unusual none seems more so to me than the day the leader of a party chose to cross the floor, abandoning her troops and leaving her party in disarray. It has become for me the pivotal moment in the realization of how badly things have gone astray in this province in the last three years.
Recently someone said to me that a basic premise of leadership is that leaders don't cross the floor - except when they do, leading one to wonder if they ever really were a leader after all. What the future will bring in politics in our province is yet to be written - but what has been written in the last three years in this province is not a history in which we should take pride, and I would suggest it has been a dark period for all of us as we look to our leaders - in whom we should take pride, feel trust and find hope - to guide us. I can only hope that a new election is an opportunity for us to begin writing a new history in this province, one far from these bleak days of resignations, floor crossings and broken promises and bad faith. I for one welcome the chance to see new pages written in our book of history of this province, because while nothing will change the past we now have the very real opportunity to change the future instead.