Alberta Politics

NDP launch “The Truth About Jason Kenney” campaign. Kenney reuses Wildrose Party democratic reform promises

Former New Democratic Party leader Brian Mason took centre stage today to launch his party’s new attack campaign directed at United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney’s more controversial views on social issues like LGBTQ rights, Gay-Straight Alliances and abortion, how his plans to balance the budget could impact funding to health care and education, and the substantial political baggage he carries after serving 19 years in Ottawa.

The campaign features a video of Albertans reacting to some of Kenney’s more outlandish statements and views on social issues.

That the NDP is focused on the Kenney is no surprise. The UCP behemoth has a significant lead over the NDP in the polls, in fundraising, and party membership, but Kenney’s popularity is much lower that his party’s and his past as a social conservative activist against issues like women’s reproductive rights and gay rights, are issues that will mobilize the NDP’s base of support.

The anti-abortion group the Wilberforce Project recently bragged on their website about the influence it had exerted on the UCP candidate nomination process. It is unclear how much influence the social conservative group has actually exerted but it brought the divisive issue back to the forefront last week.

Rachel Notley Alberta Premier NDP
Rachel Notley

As party leader, Mason was a warhorse of opposition politics in Alberta, so it is not surprising that the NDP decided to employ the retiring MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood to launch this part of the campaign. This also allows the party to distance the negative side of its campaign from its leader, Rachel Notley, and its incumbent MLA who are running for re-election.

Ask any Alberta voter on the street if the like negative advertising in elections and the response will be unanimously negative. But that political parties of all persuasions consistently use them speaks to their effectiveness. Also, we kind of expect parties to act this way now.

The negative focus on Kenney and his unpopular views on social issues is a central part of the NDP’s campaign, but it is overshadowing the positive message the NDP is trying to promote – that Notley and her party are the best choice for Alberta families.

The party’s strongest asset, Notley has been touring the province making a flurry of pre-election announcements over the past month, including promises to upgrade the Red Deer Regional Hospital , build a new interchange in Leduc, expand the Telus World of Science in Edmonton, and invest in Calgary’s tech sector. But the positive side of Notley’s campaign feels almost like a side-show to her party’s constant attacks against Kenney.

Whether a strong focus on Kenney’s more controversial views will be enough to turn around the NDP’s electoral fortunes – and ‘enough’ could be a relative term at this point – remains unclear.

Kenney pledges MLA recall, MLA free votes and floor-crossing ban

Jason Kenney
Jason Kenney

UCP leader Jason Kenney announced his party would introduce reforms to Alberta’s elections laws, including MLA recall, free votes, a fixed-election day, and banning floor crossing in the Legislature, mirroring many of the promises made in the Wildrose Party‘s 2015 election platform.

MLA recall is a perennial issue that opposition MLAs, most recently Wildrose MLAs, have frequently called for over the past 25 years. At least 7 attempts have been made by opposition MLAs to introduce MLA recall legislation through private members’ bills since 1993, all of which have failed.

Leela Aheer Wildrose MLA Chestermere Rockyview
Leela Aheer

UCP MLA Leela Aheer, then a member of the Wildrose Caucus, introduced a private members’ bill in December 2015 calling for an MLA recall process that would have allowed 20 percent of voters overturn the results of a free and fair democratic election. The bill died on the order paper.

When Alberta briefly had MLA recall laws, from 1936 to 1937, signatures were required from 66.6 percent of voters to trigger a by-election. The law was repealed by the Social Credit government after a group of disgruntled Albertans was thought to have collected enough signatures to recall Premier William Aberhart in his Okotoks-High River district.

Banning floor-crossing by requiring that MLAs resign and seek a by-election before they can change parties was a promise made by the Brian Jean-led Wildrose Party in the 2015 election. This promise plays to the resentment many conservatives felt when Danielle Smith and 11 of the party’s MLAs crosses the floor to Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservatives in 2014, and, more recently, when Sandra Jansen crossed the floor to the NDP.

Kenney also pledged make it illegal for governments to advertise in the run up to an election, similar to a private members’ bill introduced by then-Wildrose MLA Rick Strankman in 2015.

The UCP would also reinstate the Alberta Senatorial Selection Act, with a pledge to hold Senate Nominee elections in 2021, and ban groups affiliated with a political party to register as third party election advertisers, a direct shot at the Alberta Federation of Labour, which is running its Next Alberta campaign.

10 replies on “NDP launch “The Truth About Jason Kenney” campaign. Kenney reuses Wildrose Party democratic reform promises”

UCP leader Jason Kenney announced his party would introduce reforms to Alberta’s elections laws, including MLA recall, free votes, and banning floor crossing in the Legislature, mirroring many of the promises made in the Wildrose Party‘s 2015 election platform.

The above is something very important to Albertan’s needs and to reduce minimum wage going back to the Industrial revolution when businesses could hire child labour for cheap. Maybe that is what Jason Kenney means what the Alberta Advantage is.

What guarantee is there this recall policy will not be conveniently forgotten after the election by Kenney if he is successful? After all he seems to have already forgotten his grassroots guarantee pledge made to his party members and if so it wouldn’t be the first time a conservative leaning, self portrayed populist Alberta politician reneged on that sort of promise. Kenney hasn’t said much about policy for a long time, I suspect this policy was hurriedly pushed out to distract from all the embarrassing information about him on the website that came out around the same time.

I really doubt the Wilberforce Project has put so much money and effort into nominating so many UCP anti abortion candidates if they don’t think they can achieve anything. It seems clear now that they have successfully inserted a large number of their preferred candidates in the UCP, but I suspect many of Kenney’s supporters and UCP members were inclined to support Wilberforce already anyways. However, it’s apparently a secret which UCP candidates were supported by this group, so I suppose during the election voters are going to have to go to public forums and ask each UCP candidate if they were funded or supported by this group or not.

Jason needs to come out promising the deep cuts we need, and the deep cuts we need now. I bet the deficit is close to $20 billion under the NDP!

I would love to know how a floor crossing ban would work. If one was in place, and a MLA wanted to cross the floor, all he/she would have to do is start voting with the party he/she wanted to join. This, I assume, would very quickly lead to an expulsion from the party.

Once expelled, the newly ‘independent’ MLA could continue to vote with his/her new party. I can’t see how a floor crossing ban could prohibit the MLA from attending caucus meetings with the new party – the Charter makes that pretty clear.

The floor crossing ban would be nothing but an empty shell. Moreover, Jason Kenney has to know it.

Firstly, as a long-time New Democrat, I admit to being somewhat disappointed by the attack-Kenney website. I had hoped we were above that sort of thing, which only alienates voters and drives cynicism about politics & politicians. We need to campaign on a positive, hopeful vision for the future of Alberta. Even if the NDP goes down in flames this Spring, as the polls predict, our heads should be able to be held high.

Maybe the Party’s campaign team needs to go bold; one idea: propose policies to close down food banks—because of reduced poverty & improved food security, hence driving down need—by the end of the next mandate. (Remember, Canada’s first food bank opened in Edmonton).

As for Kenney’s so-called “democratic reform” ideas, these are all stale, well-worn ideas from the Preston Manning-era Reform Party. Let me rebut some of them, one-by-one:
– recall: this idea is dangerous to representative democracy and to good governance in the broader public interest. What happens if an MLA or MP has to vote on an issue that serves the provincial or national interest, but goes against the narrow parochial interests of their own constituents? Recall would lead us to endless gridlock, logrolling & pork-barrelling, just like what we see south of the border.
– fixed election dates: another bad idea imported from the USA, where there is an endless election cycle that stands in the way of governing. In our Westminster parliamentary system, a Government holds office as long as it retains the confidence of the elected House, and when it loses that confidence it must either resign or call for an election. In a majority House, defeat rarely if even happens, but if a Government goes far enough offside, it can still be sent packing. In a hung House, aka “minority government”, the Government must negotiate with one of the smaller parties in the House if it is to govern, either with a true Coalition—rare in Canada—or a “confidence & supply agreement” as we now see in B.C. & New Brunswick. Also, constitutionally, legislatures in Canada already have an expiry date: five years after the end of a general election.
– banning floor-crossing: also a bad idea, and in fact, inconsistent with the concept of Confidence. If a Government goes rogue and its caucus can’t rein it in, floor crossing could hold it to account by cutting its majority, triggering defeat in the House and an election. Floor crossing has a long tradition in our system; indeed, one of the UK’s greatest parliamentarians, Winston Churchill, did it twice. (Watch what happens with Brexit if you want to see how Confidence works … ).
– more free votes: this would seem, on the surface, to be a nice idea, and in fact, it is eminently doable right now by redrafting the mandates of caucus whips. But, if a party’s policies are supposed to be developed by its “grassroots members” at party conventions and the like—which the NDP has long maintained & the UCP had briefly claimed—what right does some random MLA or MP have to vote counter to those policies on their own initiative? What, for example, if some of those UCP MLAs has been allowed to stay in the House & vote on Bill 9, and maybe even vote in favour of it, instead of running away en masse as they did? Their party clearly objected to the bill, but so what? Similarly, would NDP MLAs have been allowed to vote against the OH&S, WCB, and labour law reforms, despite longstanding party policy demanding them? If every vote is a free vote, what would party affiliation even mean to the voters? When we vote for a party candidate, we kind of expect to get what we vote for; free votes on matters covered by party policy are a kind of electoral bait & switch scheme.

Jerry, I agree with you. I am disappointed by the constant emphasis on Jason Kenney, and on attacking the social conservative agenda. The same thing was tried with Harper, and eventually voters got tired of it and elected him anyway. And you could argue that nothing terribly bad happened on the social conservatism agenda side during the Harper years. I despise the man (Harper), and will never forgive him for inaction on climate change, gagging scientists, and cheap rhetoric and gestures surrounding taxation, but I have to admit he was an astute enough politician to avoid stirring things up in the areas of eg. gay marriage and abortion.
The NDP government has significant achievements under its belt, and should be able to run on its record to some extent. Cleaning up campaign financing, creating new provincial parks and protected spaces, overhauling labour legislation to make it more in keeping with other provinces, raising minimum wage, building infrastructure, and keeping a close reign on public sector salaries (contrary to he expectations of right wingers) are all good things, and there are others. Set against that is not doing enough on the deficit or taxation (the increases to personal income tax did not go far enough – they did not affect me at all, and I am quite well off), and the lack of imagination shown by the whole “wedded to pipeline” business.
But in addition to running on their record (many promises were kept) , and raising concerns about cuts that will come if the UCP comes to power, there has to be a lot more vision to capture the imagination of votes, particularly centrist urban voters. Unfortunately it is getting late and trying some things now will seem a bit like desperation. But I would have like to have seen some action on electoral reform (might have got some Alberta party and Liberal and Green voters to lend their vote for one election), and perhaps lowering voting age to 16 (has been done in Scotland and elsewhere, and after all the mess the planet is in will affect young people a lot more than old codgers like me, so they should have a say. They can drive and be tried in adult court, after all).

One thing that would be a smart move would be to revisit the Prentice budget on 2015 before the election. And point out that the tax increases and extra fees (health levy etc.) in that budget would have affected a lot of people more than NDP policy did, and that that budget showed that something clearly had to be done on the revenue side. Although Jim Prentice was much reviled for his “Albertans need to look in the mirror” comment, it had some truth to it. The biggest problem here is that people want top class services but are unwilling to pay for them. If we had average levels of taxation (for Canada), a significant part of our deficit would disappear.

I wish the NDP would put less emphasis on Kenney’s well known social conservative views and concentrate on his other poor decisions. With the current attack on Venezuela maybe voters need to be reminded of Kenney’s support for the destruction of Libya and expanding the migrant crisis. That issue really puts his base in an awkward position. Does anyone remember the insured mortgage purchase program? Canada’s version of banker bailouts and the resulting legislation providing a mechanism for bail in’s, which is taking your savings. Or perhaps Bill C51? I’m sure there are more skeletons in his closet maybe it is time for Kenney’s past to come out of the closet?

Hmmmm. NDP launch American style attack campaign “The Truth About Jason Kenney” . . . announced by retiring Brian Mason . . . and this allows the party who’s logo has gone missing . . . to distance the negative side of its campaign from Dear Leader Rachel Notley. . . . that the NDP is focused on the Kenney is no surprise . . . .

As a United Conservative supporter I’m not sure what to make of the overall New Democrat election strategy. From my prospective Rachel is showing her true colours as a nasty brass knuckle politician. I don’t think that reflects the preferred style of the majority of New Dems.

I see the attack campaign as a bit of a desperate attack on the majority of conservative Albertans like myself who are watching previous years discipline to build the Alberta Advantage poured down the drain by profligate governments – Red Tory and New Dem. The end result will not be borne by retirees like me but by our grandchildren. Kenney is the handy substitution for voters like me – which is who the New Dems are really attacking.

I’ve watched the first (only?) “Truth” video and it looks like it panders to the already converted, not prospective New Dem supporters. It will be interesting to see how the attack videos fit into the overall picture as the spring election unfolds.

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