Braid: Scrapping of Fort Macleod police college may be a sign Wildrose ridings will be first to sacrifice

By Don Braid, Calgary Herald August 30, 2012 6:38 AM

CALGARY — The Redford PCs sure move fast to stamp out some things they don’t care for — rats, for instance, or a police college in an opposition riding.

Cynicism about this shocking decision is inevitable, no matter what the Progressive Conservatives say about police chiefs being cool to the idea (after being quite warm to it not so long ago.)

If this training centre was such a flawed idea all along, why did the government plan it for six years, allot $117 million in the spring budget, and delight local Mayor Shawn Patience less than two months ago by signing a construction contract?

This is no postponement or delay. It’s a cancellation, period. The government is unusually clear about that, although it’s hardly ever clear about anything.

Searching for logic is futile, so we turn to politics.

Voters chose Wildrose businessman Pat Stier in the Livingstone-Macleod riding in April.

The loser was Tory Agriculture Minister Evan Berger, who was quickly hired back by the same department after an astonishing clearance by the ethics commissioner, and now has an office in the riding.

Berger says he hasn’t ruled out running again. His government job certainly gives him a friendly presence in the riding.

And suddenly, there’s a sharp message from Edmonton about what can happen in a riding that doesn’t vote PC. Really, Mother Teresa would be cynical.

Fort Macleod, the birthplace of policing in Alberta, still had the project plastered all over its website Wednesday, complete with photos of Mounties, town officials, First Nation leaders and PC ministers turning sod.

Nobody had a clue cancellation was coming. “I just attended a council meeting in Fort Macleod on Monday,” says Stier.

“They actually passed the final development permit for the project in front of my very eyes.

“And now they cancel it — unbelievable, the worst thing I’ve seen.”

It’s curious, too, that the police college breathed its last breath shortly after AHS announced the unexpected closure of the Little Bow Continuing Care Centre in the village of Carmangay.

As the Herald’s Licia Corbella detailed last week, serious money had recently been spent on the seniors’ residence.

It had passed an inspection. There were all sorts of reasons to believe AHS saw a future for the centre. Nobody expected it to be mothballed.

Now it will be.

The PCs vigorously deny this was a political decision, insisting AHS made the move entirely on its own.

But once again, it happened in a Wildrose riding. Ian Donovan won the Little Bow seat in April, beating PC John Kolk by nearly 2,500 votes.

Trench warfare appears to be developing in many of these new Wildrose areas, and neither side seems to know the rules of engagement yet.

There hasn’t been any real rural opposition to the PCs for decades. In 2004, former MLA Paul Hinman was the only opposition member for many years to actually win a rural seat, Cardston-Taber-Warner.

Now there are 17 Wildrose MLAs, most of them rural. And the PCs, as they pick through new minefields sowed on their traditional lands, seem to alternate between confusion and frontal attack.

There was another blow-up this week, as the Sylvan Lake town council posted a long denunciation of the area’s new Wildrose MLA, Kerry Towle, insisting she hadn’t communicated with council about a road project.

The details are dense, but the local politicians’ discomfort at losing their cosy relationship with a government MLA could not be more obvious.

Even in this context, though, the decision to axe the police college seems spectacularly brutal.

Could there be another factor?

The government’s latest quarterly financial report comes out Thursday, less than 24 hours after the Fort Macleod decision.

There’s revenue trouble, if oil and gas prices are any guide.

Some things will have to give — and the first giving seems to be expected of opposition ridings.

Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the [email protected]

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Original source article: Braid: Scrapping of Fort Macleod police college may be a sign Wildrose ridings will be first to sacrifice