Before he was Dr. McDreamy, Patrick Dempsey was Ronald Miller.

Ronald Miller was the hero of the ‘80s film “Can’t Buy Me Love,” about a nerdy high school student desperate to be accepted by the cool kids.

When popular cheerleader Cindy Peterson suddenly needs to replace a wine covered dress, Ronald gives her the cash to do it. The catch? She has to pretend to be his girlfriend so the jocks will like him.

She does.  They do.  There are laughs. There are kisses. Then it falls apart when Ronald’s scheme becomes public, ending with a showdown in – where else – the school cafeteria.

And once again the parallel between 1980’s rom-coms  and Alberta politics are striking (okay, stay with me here).

As someone who’s never been part of a political party, I’m still struck by the intimacy within them. I’ve especially noticed it at party conventions, where people from opposite sides of the province chat over coffee like next door neighbours while their kids latch on to each other and play.

It’s a lot like family.

I wonder if that’s why the sense of betrayal among people in the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties is so acute.

It likely began nearly two decades ago, when lifelong Tories broke away to form a handful of successive political movements that ultimately led to the current Wildrose .

And it was exacerbated by the mass floor crossing two-and-a-half years ago, where 9 Wildrose MLAs did the reverse.

I wasn’t surprised at the outrage from Wildrose supporters and remaining MLAs when more than half the caucus joined the PCs. They perceived those 9 MLAs as turning their backs on their colleagues and more importantly, the people who voted them into office in what appeared to be a feeble, collective power grab.

But what always did surprise me was the anger from within the PC party.  Most didn’t see this as a stunning recruitment of valuable seats in the legislature.

Instead, they saw the Tories turning on their own - welcoming their harshest critics, many former Tories themselves, who’d lashed out at and publicly embarrassed the party who’d led Alberta for half a century.

It caused the one thing more powerful than political dominance.

Hurt feelings.

What was supposed to be a major coup, guaranteeing another generation of PC leadership, instead pulled apart the foundation out of the party, prompting a rapid implosion and culminating in the NDP’s first victory 6 months later.

By then every one of the floor crossers was out of a job.

In fact, several were cut loose long before the election, denied the chance to even run again, including leader Danielle Smith.

Now, the Wildrose and PC’s are on the cusp of uniting.

It’s intriguing to hear interpretations of the floor crossings from either side now.

Some say the upcoming unification vote justifies what happened back then– essentially, that the floor crossers weren’t wrong, they were simply ahead of their time.

More vocal are the ones who say the opposite.

They say they weren’t angry about the two sides joining forces, they were angry about the way it played out – without the blessing or permission of the rank and file.

There have been calls to bar the floor crossers from ever running for a new united party, forever wearing their betrayal like a scarlet letter.

Still, others say that’s undemocratic; antithetical to a party vowing to be built on the grassroots.

Through all of that, there are many people in each party genuinely interested in reaching out to each other – above board.

This takes us to Kenneth.


Kenneth was Patrick Dempsey’s friend in “Can’t Buy Me Love.”  He also ended up hanging with the cool kids.  But he didn’t buy the pretty girl a dress or pretend to be her boyfriend. He tutored the cheerleaders in math. 

The girls accepted him on his merits.  So did the jocks.

The movie ended with forgiveness all around and, as most ‘80s teen comedies… a slow clap.

It’s tough to know how many of the hurt feelings have subsided – including those of the 9 MLAs who made the career-crushing decision.

As several supporters of both parties have said, at least this time they’ll have their say, even if the outcome is the new united party attempted by a handful of people last time.

Everyone will get a vote.

Everybody will get to decide.

Cue the slow clap.