Alberta Politics

Brian Jean is back. The thorn in Kenney’s side wins Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.

Brian Jean is back.

The former Wildrose Party leader will be returning to the Alberta Legislature after winning a landslide victory in today’s by-election in Fort McMuray-Lac La Biche.

He’s a UCP MLA-elect and he’s one of the biggest thorns in Premier Jason Kenney’s side.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney United Conservative Party AGM
Jason Kenney

Jean beat Kenney’s favoured candidate in the UCP nomination contest and the former MLA and MP used the by-election as a platform to campaign hard against Kenney.

He has been openly organizing against Kenney ahead of the April 9 leadership review in Red Deer.

Now he’s the newest member of Kenney’s UCP Caucus.

What I would do to be a fly on the wall when Jean’s strolls into the UCP Caucus Office in Edmonton tomorrow morning.

He’s not alone.

UCP MLAs Leela Aheer, Dave Hanson and Angela Pitt have openly spoken out against Kenney. So have Independent MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen.

It was a big win for Jean tonight. But that’s about it.

The by-election results are disappointing for the NDP, who have been polling ahead of the UCP province-wide, and whose candidate, Ariana Mancini, campaigned hard.

But in this by-election, Fort McMurray’s favourite son was both the UCP candidate and the most vocal anti-Kenney candidate, which is a bizarre situation for the opposition NDP to be in.

Paul Hinman and his separatist Wildrose Independence Party placed a distant third. The other five candidates had distant finishes.

Now with the by-election over, all the players are going to be focused on April 9 and Kenney’s leadership review.

This is going to be something to watch.

With 61/61 polls reporting, here are the unofficial results of the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election:

  • Brian Jean, UCP 3,714 (63.6%)
  • Ariana Mancini, NDP 1,801 (18.5%)
  • Paul Hinman, WRIP 628 (10.8%)
  • Abdulhakim Hussein, Liberal 211 (3.6%)
  • Michelle Landsiedel, Alberta Party 98 (1.7%)
  • Brian Deheer, Independent 56 (1.0%)
  • Marilyn Burns, Alberta Advantage 25 (0.4%)
  • Steven Mellott, Independence Party 24 (0.4%)

7 replies on “Brian Jean is back. The thorn in Kenney’s side wins Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.”

It seems people forget two very important things: First, the bulk of the opposition to Kenney is because Albertans feel he isn’t right-wing enough. Second, they feel Kenney shouldn’t have done anything at all to fight COVID, not because he did too little. Brian Jean’s predictable victory is only the first in a chain of events that I foresee over the next few years in Alberta politics. Still to come:

1. Kenney gets the boot on April 9th in Red Deer.
2. Jean becomes the new UCP leader, and makes Kenney the scapegoat for the catastrophe that has befallen Alberta since April 2019.
3. The next provincial election is called.
4. Albertans fall in line with Jean’s spiel and anti-NDP fearmongering, and the UCP cruise to re-election as a majority government with Jean as their new leader.
5. The total destruction of the public sector is completed, full privatization of everything, including education and healthcare, finishing what Ralph Klein started.
6. Possible separation from Canada if things don’t go their way vis-a-vis Ottawa?

The UCP aren’t incompetent, they know eactly what they’re doing: remaking Alberta in their neoliberal image at any cost is the goal . So far, that goal is being easily achieved because they have a majority government, with no need to listen to any opposition whatosever because nearly anything they do is perfectly legal. And if it’s not? Well, they can easily change the law to make it so.

I would love to have this timeline be wrong. With nearly a century of continuous right-wing governance except for a small blip between 2015-19 (and even that’s debatable), the pattern is pretty much cemented for good. I am not holding my breath for any sort of necessary change to drag Alberta kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. Sad.

Let’s not read too much into the byelection result. Voter turnout was only 24.3%. That means only one in four eligible voters gave a big enough sh!t to drag their a$$e$ to the polls to cast a ballot. Some “landslide”.

Here’s a thought: let’s introduce a change to our electoral legislation that invalidates any constituency-level election with less than a 50% voter turnout, and also bars any of the candidates from the invalidated election from running again in the re-do.

Yikes, considering Alberta’s historically poor voter turnout (the 2008 election only had 40% province-wide), this would have invalidated the whole thing.

Well, I suppose it is not too surprising in hindsight that Mr. Jean might do well, in a community he lives in and is closely connected to, where he has won a number of times before. Running against Kenney sure didn’t seem to hurt him, although I suspect some UCP voters being conflicted would partly explain the very low turn out.

The results were not good news for any of the opposition candidates, but of course this was the strangest race with Jean in effect being another opposition candidate running against his own party leader. Interestinly the other parties on the right did not catch on. Of course, Mr. Hinman was not from the community, so perhaps that didn’t help.

However this result, with such a strong endorsement for Jean, is very bad news for Kenney. I suspect he would have preferred a much closer result. A clearly popular Jean will be just another reason for UCP members to consider dumping Kenney in the upcoming leadership review, in what was already looking like a very close contest.

I have to wonder if Kenney is now seriously thinking about taking a walk while there is still snow here in Edmonton, rather than possibly going down to an embarrassing defeat. I realize he is a fighter, but at some point he has to read the room and, if too many things are going against him, decide if he really wants to continue to a very possible bad end.

Ariana Mancini deserves thanks from all NDPers for running a spirited campaign. Despite her efforts, the results show Fort McMurray and environs is still a political graveyard for the NDP.

Calgary will be the battleground in next year’s election. As Calgary goes, the suburbs around Edmonton and Calgary, as well as some of the regional cities, tend to follow. In this regard, the number of highly credible Calgary candidates already nominated and running in contested nominations remains a hopeful sign.

Former UCP insider Blaise Boehmer floated an interesting scenario in a CBC opinion column today.

Kenney could resign as party leader before the Red Deer vote triggering a snap leadership race that way. The advantage for Kenney is he wouldn’t have to carry into the leadership race the baggage of a humiliating defeat by that segment of the party membership with the motivation, organization and funds to attend an in-person party convention.

Big story from the CBC’s Carolyn Dunn Mar 23 re more details of kamikaze candidate in UCP leadership campaign of 2017. I hadn’t heard about he dark horse whisky thank you gift before, but most of the other details were published in the Calgary Herald at the time. But nobody was paying any attention and nobody seemed to care. It turns out that the behavior in the leadership campaign was an indication what kind of government we were going to get.

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