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Alberta Politics

Showdown in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche. Can Jason Kenney block Brian Jean from becoming the UCP candidate?

The much awaited United Conservative Party nomination vote in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche is being held on Dec. 11 and 12. The contest between former MLA and former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean and economist Joshua Gogo has attracted a lot of political attention.

Nursing a grudge from the 2017 leadership race and tapping into the current UCP leader’s unpopularity, Jean has openly predicted that Rachel Notley’s NDP would win the next election if Premier Jason Kenney doesn’t resign (a recent poll commissioned by CBC showed only 3 in 10 Albertans respect Kenney).

In response, Kenney and his staff have openly criticized Jean for a lack of sticktoitiveness after failing resigning mid-term as Member of Parliament and MLA for the area, causing two by-elections including the one that elected the former MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, Laila Goodridge.

Kenney’s supporters jumped at the opportunity to slam Jean’s description of Gogo as a “Nigerian economist living in Fort McMurray.” Despite a plummeting approval ratings from the public, Kenney has benefited from not having a challenger inside the party that his opponents could rally around. Jean wants to be that challenger.

This by-election will mark the first time the UCP government has had to face voters since it was elected in 2019, and also the first time since then that the question of Kenney’s leadership will be on a provincial ballot.

Under most circumstances, winning this by-election would be a slam dunk for the UCP, but Jean’s candidacy definitely complicates matters for Kenney’s party.

Here is a look at two scenarios that could play out as ballots are cast and counted in this weekend’s UCP nomination contest:

  1. Brian Jean loses the nomination. Losing the nomination would be a big blow to Jean, who has never lost an election in Fort McMurray before. And it would be a win for Kenney. Jean would definitely be a diminished political force within the UCP after losing, and might decide to remain on the sidelines or retreat to private life. But he could decide to run as an Independent candidate. He has significant name recognition and enough personal funds and financial supporters in the riding that he would be a contender even without the blessing of local UCP members.
  2. Brian Jean wins the nomination. Winning the nomination would be a big blow to Kenney, who has used his position as leader to speak out against Jean’s nomination bid. Unless Kenney refused to sign his nomination papers or found a way to disqualify him from winning the nomination, Jean would immediately become the central figure in effort to defeat Kenney at the April 9, 2022 leadership review. Jean has pledged to continue campaigning against Kenney’s leadership.

Mancini nominated as NDP candidate

Rachel Notley and Ariana Mancini (source: Twitter)

Local teacher Ariana Mancini was acclaimed as the Alberta NDP candidate at a nomination rally featuring party leader Rachel Notley this week.

“This campaign is an opportunity for our region to send a message to Jason Kenney,” Mancini is reported to have told the crowd in Fort McMurray. “The message is that we don’t have to choose between bad and worse. We can choose better. Even the conservatives don’t like the conservatives. That’s saying something,” she said.

This is Mancini’s second time running as an NDP candidate. She placed second to Jean in the 2015 election in the former Fort McMurray-Conklin riding.

Another former Wildrose leader running for separatist party

Paul Hinman (source: Twitter)

Another former Wildrose Party leader has announced his plans to run in the by-election.

Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman, who led the Alberta Alliance-turned-Wildrose Alliance from 2005 to 2009, announced on social media today that he will run for the recently rebranded separatist party in the by-election (the Wildrose Independence Party was named the Freedom Conservative Party in the 2019 election and was previously known as the Western Freedom Party, the Alberta First Party and the Separation Party of Alberta).

Describing it on social media as the most important by-election in history, Hinman described Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche as “ground zero for Trudeau’s carbon net-zero attack against Alberta.”

Hinman appears to be relying on support from federal People’s Party of Canada supporters and has been loudly promoting COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media.

He served as the MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 and Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012.


I am building a list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of Alberta’s expected 2023 provincial election. If I have missed any candidates on my list, please post a comment below or send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

3 replies on “Showdown in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche. Can Jason Kenney block Brian Jean from becoming the UCP candidate?”

Would a losing Brian Jean run as an independent?

I think that question will depend on how honest the UCP nomination loss is. If Brian Jean loses to Mr. Gogo in a fair election I can see how he could easily decide to sit on the sidelines. The Conservatives will have spoken in the nomination meeting, and there would be no benefit asking them to repeat themselves in the by-election.

On the other hand, given Jason Kenney’s history in the leadership campaign, how Mr. Kenney just recently implemented gerrymandering legislation (Bill 81), and how the UCP has failed to honour the 22 constituency associations call for an early leadership review, it is entirely possible Jason Kenney will manufacture Brian Jean’s loss. If that happens, not only will Brian Jean be motivated to run in the by-election, his supporters will be motivated to get out and support him.

Mr. Jean would not be in the race without surveying the landscape very carefully. If he is unsuccessful, an investigation will have to be completed, this time thoroughly. Mr. Kenney’s Unpopularity will be a factor as well and will hurt Mr. Gogo. The showdown to the review is only warming up.

I agree, if Jean loses and the assessment is this nomination contest was not conducted fairly, Jean would be more likely run as an independent. In the very short run this may be less of a disaster for Kenney than if Jean wins the nomination, but in the long run it could be worse.

If Jean then wins election as an independent MLA this would reflect very negatively on Kenney. As an independent Jean would also have more freedom to say what he thinks about Kenney and given his history he would get a lot more media attention than independents normally do. Also, there is nothing to stop Jean from later joining UCP again as a MLA, if Kenney is eventually ousted.

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