Tag Archives: Jen Gerson

Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning and Jason Kenney.

In or Out? Jason Kenney could have a rough landing into Alberta politics

CBC reports that after 19 years as a Member of Parliament in Ottawa, former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney, 48, is considering entering provincial politics in Alberta. Postmedia’s Jen Gerson writes that he will not confirm whether this is true.

It was a prediction first made by Postmedia’s Graham Thomson in January 2016.

Premier Rachel Notley Calgary Stampede Alberta

Rachel Notley

Mr. Kenney is reportedly backed by a cadre of federal Conservative strategists and insiders, including former Reform Party and Wildrose Party campaign strategist Tom Flanagan, who told CBC that the group discussed whether “he could win the PC leadership then negotiate a merger [with Wildrose].

So, Mr. Kenney, who just this week was appointed to the parliamentary committee studying electoral reform, could be abandoning plans to replace Rona Ambrose as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and setting his sights on uniting-the-right and challenging Rachel Notley‘s moderate New Democratic Party government in 2019. If Mr. Kenney is going to enter Alberta politics, he will need to decide quick because the Progressive Conservative Party will be choosing its new leader before April 30, 2017.

Jim Prentice Premier Alberta

Jim Prentice

Mr. Kenney is a skilled politician, but he would ominously follow in the footsteps of another former federal Conservative cabinet minister, Jim Prentice, who jumped into provincial politics in 2014 before leading the 44-year old PC government to defeat in May 2015.

New rules approved by the PC Party at its recent annual general meeting could make a leadership bid challenging for an outsider candidate. The PCs replaced the one-member one-vote system that existed from 1992 to 2014 with a new closed delegate system. This will require candidates to build broad support in 87 constituencies across the province, rather than relying on the ability to sign up large groups of voters in concentrated regions.

Sandra Jansen

Sandra Jansen

If federal Conservative MPs decided to back Mr. Kenney’s bid, an orchestrated takeover could be possible, but there is significant animosity among rank and file PC members to a merger with the more hard-line Wildrose Party. And he would undoubtedly face a strong challenge from the moderate wing of the PC Party, most vocally represented by Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen and Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke.

Mr. Kenney’s supporters may have been connected to a recent attempt by a conservative lobby group to hijack the one-MLA Alberta Party. The takeover was thwarted when the party’s executive quickly rescheduled its annual general meeting to an earlier date. It is likely that the marauding band of conservatives were coveting the party’s brand name rather than its moderate-conservative platform.

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

A bid for the PC Party or the Alberta Party leadership might seem odd for Mr. Kenney, who is likely more comfortable in the social conservative wing of the Wildrose Party and with his former colleagues at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. The historical success of the PC Party in Alberta between 1971 and 2015 was not based on adherence to conservative ideology but on the ability of its leaders to build a big blue tent of conservative, moderate and liberal voters.

Despite strong support for sending federal Conservatives to Ottawa, Alberta is now a much more progressive and moderate province than it was 20 years ago, when a young Mr. Kenney was roaming the halls of the Legislature as the spokesperson for the taxpayers federation.

Naheed Nenshi

Naheed Nenshi

Mr. Kenney is not well-known for his conciliatory approach to Alberta politics. In 2015, he argued that “people like” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi were to blame for the politicization of the niqab ban instituted by the federal Conservative government. In 2014, he engaged in a  public spat with Ron Liepert when the former finance minister defeated long-time MP Rob Anders for the Conservative nomination in Calgary-Signal Hill. And in 2012, Mr. Kenney’s true feelings about then-deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk were made known in a leaked reply-all email.

There is also the inconvenient fact that Alberta’s elections laws make it impossible to actually merge the financial assets of the two political parties. Those laws also make it unlikely that the Wildrose Party could change its name to the Conservative Party of Alberta. This does not mean that there could not be one dominant conservative party to face the NDP in the next election, it just means that any sort of actual merger of parties is unlikely to happen.

It should be noted that the last time an attempt was made to unite-the-right in Alberta, former Reform Party leader Preston Manning (pictured above with Mr. Kenney) was forced to apologize for his role in nudging 9 Wildrose MLAs across the floor to the PCs. That was in December 2014.

There is also the question of how his former federal colleague Brian Jean, now leader of the official opposition Wildrose Party, will feel about Mr. Kenney stealing the spotlight, and potentially his leadership. Despite being constantly undermined by internal party disputes and self-inflicted embarrassment, Mr. Jean deserves credit for leading his party from the brink of extinction to 22 MLAs in 2015. The inconvenient truth that his party still only sits at 35 percent in the latest public opinion poll could add momentum to those pushing to replace the Wildrose leader.

The decision by Mr. Prentice, Mr. Jean and now maybe Mr. Kenney, gives the impression that Conservative party politics in Alberta is becoming a grazing plot for Conservative politicians whose careers in Ottawa have stalled. It was widely believed that Mr. Prentice was using his job as premier to springboard into a future bid for the federal Conservative leadership. I expect the same would be suspected about Mr. Kenney, if he does actually jump into provincial politics in Alberta.

Doug Griffiths leads unconvincing charge against *scary* Wildrose robocalls.

Wildrose Alberta Robocall

Are the Wildrose robocalls really that scary?

Swinging at the chance to bloody their opposition, Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives are trying to make a connection in Albertans minds between automated robocalls made on behalf of the Wildrose Party and controversial robocalls made by Conservative Party organizers in Ontario.

It’s a stretch.

Last week the Wildrose Party was fined $90,000 by the Canadian Radio Telecommunications Commission for breaking regulatory rules around automated robocalls made during last year’s provincial election. According to the CRTC, the Wildrose Party failed properly identifying themselves when the robocalls were made (they were push-polls).

Doug Griffiths

Doug Griffiths

Unlike the controversial robocalls from Ontario, there is no indication that the Wildrose robocalls were intended to suppress or misdirect voters from their polling stations.

This difference does not seem to matter to Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths, who has led his party’s charge, calling on Elections Alberta to investigate the Wildrose robocalls. So far, Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party has admitted to making the calls, paid the fine in its entirety, and has released the script of the robocall in question.

As the National Post’s Jen Gerson wrote, “[o]ne can hardly fault Alberta’s besieged Progressive Conservatives for trying to squeeze the ruling  for all it’s worth.” After three years of being harassed from scandal to scandal by the Wildrose, the Tories see an opportunity to strike-back against their relentlessly aggressive opponents. And this is becoming a trend.

This new offensive strategy appears to have started with Premier Redford’s unfortunately hyper-partisan speech to a group of school children at a government press conference last month.

Manmeet Bhullar

Manmeet Bhullar

Online, ministerial press secretaries have become partisan mini-celebrities by spending their days locked in heated political arguments with Wildrose Caucus staffers on Twitter. Long-gone are the days when ministerial spokespeople at least pretended to be non-partisan.

Last week, Service Alberta Minister Manmeet Bhullar accused the Wildrose of bigotry for failing to promptly remove racist comments from their Facebook Page (a Wildrose staffer was quick to point out racist comments that had not been removed from Premier Alison Redford‘s Facebook Page). Minister Bhullar’s accusation sends a message to moderate voters, who might be unhappy with the PC Party’s deep funding cuts to post-secondary education and cuts to support for persons with developmental disabilities, that their only alternative is still scary.

The robocall accusations against the Wildrose remain thin, even the Tories use robocalls – because it is an effective campaign tool. But this is payback and we should not expect the Tories to be nice about it.

sparks will fly as party leaders take off their gloves at tonight’s “make or break” televised debate.

Alberta-Election-Leaders-Debate-2012

The televised leaders' debate starts tonight at 6:30pm.

Tonight’s hotly anticipated televised Leaders’ Debate will be the first time that the four main party leaders have debated each other in this format. All eyes will be on Progressive Conservative Premier Alison Redford and Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, but do not count out veteran NDP leader Brian Mason or Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman, who is the wild-card in tonight’s debate.

Whether tonight’s debate will have an impact on how Albertans vote on April 23 is yet to be seen. Its relevance will entirely depend on the leaders’ performances and abilities to deliver a message that connects with Albertans.

The talented Jen Gerson, now with the National Post, has prepared a drinking game for the evening.

Alberta Party leader Glenn Taylor was not invited to join the debate and he will be live-blogging his responses to debate questions on his party’s website.

I will be live-chatting about the debate on Global Edmonton’s website with Calgary’s Joey Oberhoffner and Lethbridge’s Jeff Henry. I will also be talking about the election on CityTV’s Breakfast Television at 7:10am tomorrow.

If you are looking for a place to debate, the Edmonton-Calder NDP are hosting a debate party at candidate David Eggen‘s campaign office and the non-partisan folks behind Alberta Votes Matter will be watching the debate at Edmonton’s Suede Lounge.