Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning and Jason Kenney.

A look at who is backing Jason Kenney’s bid for the PC Party leadership

Conservative Member of Parliament Jason Kenney is expected to announce his candidacy for the leader of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta tomorrow, July 6, in Calgary, deliver a speech in Grande Prairie that evening and then travel to Edmonton on July 7 for another speech. He was widely expected to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada and only just recently began positioning himself as candidate to unite Alberta’s conservative partisans under one banner.

He would be the first candidate to officially enter the PC leadership contest, which is scheduled to be held on March 18, 2017.

  • As I explained in a column last month, Mr. Kenney could have a rough landing in Alberta politics.
  • A skilled organizer with more than 25 years of experience as a taxpayers federation lobbyist and Ottawa politician, Mr. Kenney should not be underestimated by his opponents.
  • Mr. Kenney follows in the footsteps of his former colleague, Jim Prentice, who led the PC Party from 2014 until its defeat by Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party in May 2015. That election ended forty-four uninterrupted years of PC majority governments in Alberta.
  • Mr. Kenney recently purchased a membership in the PC Party, despite being widely seen as a supporter and ideological ally of the Official Opposition Wildrose Party, currently led by former MP Brian Jean.
  • Perhaps anticipating a threat of takeover, the PC Party recently abandoned its one-member one-vote system of choosing its leader in favour of a closed-delegate system, which forces candidates to campaign and organize in all 87 constituencies across the province.
  • Mr. Kenney is not assured an easy victory in the PC leadership race. I spoke with CTV about some of the potential candidates who also might enter the race, including former deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk, who Mr. Kenney once described as an “asshole,” Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke, and Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen, who said she would consider leaving the PC Party if Mr. Kenney became the leader. Edmonton City Councillor Michael Oshry is also considering entering the contest and former MLA Doug Griffiths is rumoured to be interested.

It is unclear whether Mr. Kenney would resign as the MP for Calgary-Midnapore immediately or if he would keep one foot in federal politics until he secures a leadership position in a provincial party. Under provincial elections law, he does not need to resign his federal seat until he is a registered candidate in a provincial election.

Because of his track-record as a social conservative and Wildrose supporter, Mr. Kenney might not find a great deal of support among existing PC Party members, including the 1,001 who attended the party’s annual general meeting earlier this year. But two unite-the-right groups could provide him with a base with which to organize his PC leadership bid.

Mr. Kenney appears to have the support of two unite-the-right groups. The Alberta Can’t Wait group, backed by former Reform Party stalwarts Preston Manning and Cliff Fryers, lobbyist Hal Danchilla and 1980s Tory cabinet minister Rick Orman, and the Alberta Prosperity Fund, backed by former right-wing talk radio host Dave Rutherford, former MLAs Heather Forsyth and Shiraz Shariff, and former PC Party president Jim McCormick. The Alberta Prosperity Fund issued a formal endorsement of Mr. Kenney on July 5, 2016.

The Alberta Can’t Wait group was reportedly planning to hijack the Alberta Party later this summer and Prosperity Fund founder and director Barry McNamar, formerly of the Fraser Institute and Manning Centre, is reportedly suing the Wildrose Party.

The two groups are part of a burgeoning cottage industry of anti-NDP groups, including the infamous and less polished Kudatah, that have popped up since the May 2015 election. Both the Wildrose and PC Parties have publicly rejected their overtures.

Alberta’s elections laws bar political parties from merging financial assets, meaning any actual merger between conservative parties is highly unlikely. Making things more complicated was the formation of a sixth conservative party last month – the Reform Party of Alberta. It may be a more likely scenario that a PC Party led by Mr. Kenney would apply to Elections Alberta to change its name to the Conservative Party of Alberta and urge Wildrose MLAs to run under its banner in the 2019 general election.

Cast into the opposition for the first time in 44 years, Conservatives in Alberta will need to define what their vision is for the future of our province. After decades of fiscal mismanagement, much of Alberta’s current economic situation is a result of decisions made by PC Party governments. Conservatives cannot simply expect that Albertans will forgive, forget and restore the natural governing party in 2019. Those days are gone.

Aside from his politically charged rhetoric about “free enterprise” and the bogeyman ‘bohemian Marxism‘ it remains completely unclear what Mr. Kenney’s vision for Alberta would be, besides just returning Conservatives to power. I expect we will find out more in the next few days.

10 thoughts on “A look at who is backing Jason Kenney’s bid for the PC Party leadership

  1. Ed

    White knight swooping in on his steed a la Prentice. That worked out so well… said no one ever. Prentice 2.0 is not something anyone needs. Too bad he doesn’t grasp that concept.

    Reply
  2. GregH

    “Conservatives cannot simply expect that Albertans will forgive, forget and restore the natural governing party in 2019.”

    Isn’t that pretty much what they expect? They and Postmedia have the big hammer of “The NDP is everything bad you’ve ever heard about SOCIALISM, and they’re coming for your children!!” which seems to be working if you read the Facebook comments.

    Reply
  3. Jerrymacgp

    Before the decide who they want to anoint as their leader, Alberta’s PCs need to decide who they are and what they believe in. Are they Wildrose Lite, willing not only to slash public spending in a recession and throw thousands out of work, but to stick their noses into social and moral issues? Or are they truly a “Progressive” Conservative party, perched comfortably just on the right margin of the political centre, sticking to matters of public finances and fiscal policy, and avoiding those hot button, culture war, wedge issues?

    The NDP in Alberta is a free enterprise party and government; there is nothing truly socialist about its very moderate policies. What we are seeing from them is just putting some parameters around free enterprise, such as tightening workplace protections, which keeps all businesses competing on a level playing field in which none is advantaged over its competitors by ripping off or injuring its workers. The red-baiting rhetoric we are seeing from folks like #kudatah, Mr Kenney and Alberta Can’t Wait is simply hyperbole with no basis in reality.

    Reply
  4. Julie Ali

    I think Mr. Kenney is a real possibility as the next premier. He’s got the financial backing of donors; he has a history of hard work and interaction with ethnic groups and he has the intelligence to adopt the inclusive attitudes of most modern Albertans.

    The PC party is dead in my opinion and Mr. Kenney will have create a new party out of these ruins. He has to interest former PC voters to support him. As pointed out there needs to be a clarification of what the Conservative parties in Alberta imagine themselves to be; right now I am confused about all the various Conservative parties and their possible rearrangements and reassortments of issues/policy/approach to solving problems.

    For voters, like myself who are fluid now in our voting decisions it really does boil down to making democracy meaningful. When I talk to my MLA in Riverbend -Dr. Bob Turner–I expect more from the politician I voted for. Dr. Turner is a nice man but he isn’t representing me. The next MLA I vote for may also be under the boots of leadership in the political party he or she belongs to –but this needs to change. There needs to be deliverables. What Mr. Kenney needs to articulate for voters like myself is real representation, real participation in the political party and close alignment with values of citizens. This takes time, effort and relationship building but Mr. Kenney has the time to do all of this. I think that with his record, he has a better chance at becoming premier than Ms. Notley has in staying as premier.

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  5. Alfredo Louro

    “it remains completely unclear what Mr. Kenney’s vision for Alberta would be”

    Actually, it’s quite clear: Crony conservative politics, no different from what they did before. They must think Albertans are stupid.

    Reply
  6. Colin Logan

    That is a list of old school conservatives if I have ever seen one. Where is the new blood in the conservative movement? There HAS to be some new fresh young faces that can offer new conservative ideas for Alberta. I’m done with the old recycled conservatives.

    If Jason Kenney and Preston Manning is the best they can come up with then Rachel Notley is looking pretty good in 2019.

    Reply
    1. diane marie

      One could see it in the eventual candidacy announcement event. Mostly older, white people and mostly men. The Conservatives in Alberta and, indeed, across Canada are trying to gain power from a shrinking/aging constituency. And they’re so utterly without joie de vivre, brio, verve, humour, obsessed with their glass-half-empty perspective. What a depressing bunch.

      Reply
  7. Calgary Joe

    Another Ottawa career politician who thinks he can waltz into Alberta and take over the show. Good luck buddy. Ask your friend Jim Prentice how that worked out for him. Your social conservative, climate change denial politics won’t work any more, Jason. Alberta is a very different place than when you left it for Ottawa in 1997.

    Reply
  8. Niels

    The main problem I have with the current (also any other non fiscally responsible government) is that they spend far more than they bring in and therefore leave my children/grand children to pay for it. I have no problem with spending billions on climate change or whatever dragon you are fighting if you immediately raise taxes to cover your expenditures. I suspect however that would ensure your political demise. Greece here we come.

    Reply

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