At least, that’s how I have come to see the growing collection of rebels, outcasts, wannabes, agitators and idealists who have been banished to the chilly northwest corner of the legislature chamber.
This section of the chamber is probably best known as the place where the tiny NDP opposition used to sit during the years of Tory party dominance.
Today, the corner of castaways is populated by a more diverse group of politicians, all of whom arrived in their own unique way.
At the front are the three members of the Alberta Party, two of whom joined through floor crossings.
Liberal MLA David Swann is down there, too, doing his best to keep the party relevant.
Around him are former Tories, including Richard Starke who refused to join the United Conservative Party, along with Derek Fildebrandt and Prab Gill, who each left the UCP for alleged bad behaviour.
The newest misfit is Robyn Luff, booted from the NDP after accusing party leadership of making her life as an MLA miserable.
There they sit, day after day, tilting at windmills and hoping to make an impression in the little speaking time they are allotted.
It’s a gang of eight that has little else in common, yet they have been united this session over what they see as bullying from the two largest parties.
That’s led to some strange collaborations, including a have-to-see-it-to-believe-it news conference jointly called by Luff and Fildebrandt, two people who see the world so differently you can imagine they would disagree on whether it’s round or flat.
Members of the group have proven enough of a nuisance that the two leading parties have felt the need to knock them down a peg.
The most obvious of these castigations came last week when the NDP introduced a motion on committee assignments, most notably to remove Luff and Gill from two key committees.
By itself, there wasn’t anything particularly abnormal about the motion. As the majority party, the NDP gets wide power to determine committee roles.
The unusual part was that as soon as the NDP finished the motion, UCP house leader Jason Nixon stood up and invoked the rarely used standing order 49(2) to cut off any amendments or debate.
The government agreed to the order and the matter was closed, just like that, preventing the Alberta Party, Luff and others from arguing for better committee assignments.
On a technical level, the use of 49(2) did nothing except accelerate an inevitable outcome. But the effect of using that kind of procedural sledgehammer was to send a message to the small parties and noisy independents, reminding them of who is in charge.
The affected MLAs raged that the UCP and NDP had colluded to silence their respective irritants.
Nixon and NDP house leader Brian Mason downplayed that idea but didn’t offer the strongest of denials, or any apologies.
Stepping on the little guy wasn’t a particularly good look for Mason, who spent years decrying the tactics of Tory governments, and called the use of 49(2) an act of “political thuggery” the last time it was used in 2008.
Luff exited her caucus in part because of frustration with hyper-partisanship that works to suppress voices of dissent, yet the NDP and UCP didn’t seem bothered that they continue proving her point.
In an amusing moment, Fildebrandt tried to show up the UCP, with some success, by invoking 49(2) himself and cutting off debate on a government bill.
This week, it was Gill’s turn in the spotlight.
The Calgary MLA, who left the UCP caucus in July amid allegations he engaged in ballot-stuffing at his constituency’s AGM, raised a point of privilege Tuesday as a mechanism to accuse his former party of “crooked and racist” politics.
Gill told the chamber he was innocent, but that party operatives threatened court action if he fought the accusations.
Within hours of Gill’s outburst, a copy of the UCP’s previously unseen investigation that found validity to the ballot-stuffing allegations showed up in the email of my colleague Emma Graney.
Coincidence? Not likely.
In the Rudolph television special, Santa and his workers come to recognize their prejudices toward the island of misfits and join forces with them to save Christmas.
And that’s where this analogy breaks down, because no such happy holiday ending is in store for the likes of Luff, Gill, Fildebrandt and all.
Most will be gone following the next election.
In the meantime, they seem determined to make as much hubbub as possible before their curtain call.
That’s no Christmas classic but, if nothing else, it’s a piece of political theatre still fun to watch.
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