Former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean announced today that he plans to run for the job he quit three years ago.
Jean announced on Facebook that he plans to seek the United Conservative Party nomination in the upcoming Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election. The by-election to replace Laila Goodridge, who was recently elected as a Member of Parliament, needs to be called by Feb. 15, 2022. He is the second candidate to announce after Joshua Gogo entered the race last month.
Jean represented the predecessor riding, Fort McMurray-Conklin, from 2015 until 2018, when he quit after losing the UCP leadership to Jason Kenney.
This is Jean’s second political comeback. His first happened when he was a last minute candidate for the Wildrose Party leadership in 2015 after stepping down as a MP in 2014. He saved the party from the brink of oblivion in that election and became leader of the Official Opposition.
Since leaving the Legislature in 2018, he has become a vocal critic of the government, flirted with western separatism in online columns, and called for Kenney to resign as leader of the UCP.
“Something must be done or Rachel Notley will win the next election with an overwhelming majority,” Jean wrote on Facebook of the popular NDP leader who’s party has been leading in the polls since last November, once again publicly signalling his lack of confidence in Kenney.
Jean has every reason to dislike Kenney after an alleged Kamakaze campaign was organized against him during the UCP leadership race, and since quitting he has appeared to take pleasure in poking at his rival from the sidelines.
Jean was even spotted at a Calgary Stampede BBQ hosted by ousted UCP MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen over the summer.
There is little doubt that he could win the nomination and the by-election. He is a well-known and popular figure in Fort McMurray, and he comes across as affable and down to earth to anyone who meets him. His lack of stick-to-it-iveness should probably raise some concerns, but at this point local conservatives might just be hopeful to find a candidate who can reliably hold on to the seat.
The question is whether the increasingly unpopular Kenney will allow a rival who has openly called for his resignation to run under his party’s banner?
And if Jean isn’t allowed to run for Kenney’s party, will he run as an Independent or for another party, like the struggling Wildrose Independence Party.
Of course, Jean isn’t alone in calling for Kenney’s resignation.
His former colleague, UCP MLA Leela Aheer, stood at a podium in the Legislature Rotunda last week to call for the Premier to step down and she does not appear to have faced any consequences. Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried has been openly agitating for an leadership review to be held before March 1.
No emergency caucus meeting was held to kick them out, and perhaps more notably, no Kenney loyalists in the cabinet or caucus stepped up to rebuke them and defend their leader. The silence was deafening.
So, Jean now wants his seat back, and he probably wants his party back too.
It is not uncommon for party leaders and politicians to spend time in ridings where by-elections are expected,
Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley was in Fort McMurray in October meeting with community groups and highlighting the UCP government’s failure to stop the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which overwhelmed the staff at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre.
Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview NDP MLA Deron Bilous, who served as Economic Development Minister in the first Notley government, is in Fort McMurray this week and has posted a series of videos about his visit on Instagram.
The UCP Caucus was scheduled to hold its annual retreat in Fort McMurray on Sept. 15 and 16, but the event that would have brought most UCP MLAs to the northeast Alberta city ahead of the by-election was abruptly canceled on Sept. 10 after rumours that Kenney was facing a caucus revolt. Kenney also cancelled his scheduled Sept. 15 keynote speech to the annual Oil Sands Conference and Trade Show, which the UCP Caucus retreat was planned around.