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Jason Hale, MLA

“Who is Jason Hale?” my son kept asking. “Who is Jason Hale?” It was hard to explain to an eight-year-old why this man’s name was on so many campaign signs around town. Then a knock on the door. It was Jason Hale, trying to get my family’s vote in the next provincial election. My son was in awe of this celebrity.

Jason was our local candidate for the Wildrose Party, a disaffected right-wing result from the nominally right-wing Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. The PCs had governed Alberta for 41 years, always attaining a large majority in the legislature, facing an uninspiring opposition.

But in 2012, the voters were giving serious consideration to Danielle Smith, the very charismatic leader of the Wildrose. Even though Jason won my constituency and joined Ms. Smith in the Legislature, the Alberta voters choose the reliable PCs to govern them once again.

But the new PC leader, after securing the victory for her party, somehow developed a sense of entitlement, which even the PC insiders did not see coming. The opposition Wildrose quickly pounced on the entitlements. Ms. Smith got the media and public’s attention. The PCs seemed powerless to make the change internally. But with months of constant drumming by the Wildrose and new entitlements sprouting, the PCs finally forced their premier aside. They elected a new premier, a man with great political experience and respect at the federal level.

The public certainly liked this messianic change: four by-elections went to the PCs. The electorate did not reward the Wildrose, who were really responsible for getting the PCs to change out their leader. Had the Wildrose sat quietly during these entitlements only to expose them during the next election, Ms. Smith would be the premier today.

The four by-election victories made it seem the Alberta voters would never let go of its beloved PC party. If a long-term career in Alberta politics was the goal, the PC Party was the place to be. So Ms. Smith, Jason Hale, and a few other Wildrose MLAs joined the PCs.

A month later, the new premier was losing his messiah status and thought it best to call an early election to capitalize on the psychological advantage his party had with the Alberta public before it was temporarily lost. But it was too late. Not only did the PCs lose their 44-year reign, they did not even beat the Wildrose, a party still scrambling with defections, a new untested leader, and a much lower campaign budget.

With Jason’s sudden political change, the Wildrose had to quickly parachute an outside warm body in my constituency. Voters here preferred that warm Wildrose body to the well-known and respected PC candidate (who was not Jason Hale).

So who was Jason Hale? In his three years as MLA, he certainly liked being a public official, attending many events in my community. He was always pleasant and approachable. I would have liked to see how he participated in meetings where actual decisions were being made, but this side of politicians is rarely available to the public. Whether Jason Hale was a good politician or not, had he not followed the messiah, he would still be the local MLA today.

The plight of Jason Hale is the plight of nearly all citizens in western democracies. We are clinging to messiahs, hoping and believing that they can fix things for us.

When will we ever learn? Or maybe we just like all this drama?

Published on 2015

The Passing of Jack Layton

Federal, Provincial, & Municipal