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The biggest question in Alberta politics: Will Jason Kenney win the UCP leadership review?

“Hey Dave, is Jason Kenney going to win the leadership review?”

It’s a question I get asked a lot these days.

My answer?

I don’t know.

Anyone who tells you different probably has a personal or career stake in the game.

What was supposed to be a big in-person vote in Red Deer back in April turned into a province-wide mail in vote. And that loud swooshing sound you heard wasn’t the sound of a late winter Chinook but the sound of the goal posts moving.

And there’s strong feelings on both sides of this fight.

Kenney’s opponents are outspoken. Especially the ones inside his own United Conservative Party caucus.

MLAs Brian Jean, Leela Aheer, Angela Pitt, Peter Guthrie, Jason Stephan, and Dave Hanson.

Plus Drew Barnes, Todd Loewen and friends.

They all want Kenney gone. They think the UCP is going to lose the next election to Rachel Notley’s NDP if he stays on as leader.

His former central Alberta organizer David Parker is leading Take Back Alberta, a group dedicated to defeating Kenney in the leadership review.

His former spokesperson Blaise Boehmer has become one of his biggest critics.

One former staffer has even taken him to court.

But the loyalists working in the Premier’s Office in Edmonton think his critics are bunch of clowns.

It’s a gong show.

Kenney says of his recent interactions with normal Albertans: “100% of the people who came up to me unprompted say things like: We’re behind you Jason, keep up the good work.”

Yeah, ok there, Mr. 22-per cent Approval Rating.

He spins a lot of yarn.

Kenney once claimed that he didn’t impose stricter COVID-19 public health restrictions because of a crying Venezuelan refugee who claimed the fled socialism.

The Venezuelan woman who believed she was used as part of Kenney’s argument remembers her encounter with the premier as much less dramatic.

But Kenney’s staffers loudly trumpet his good deeds.

Three loyal cabinet ministers – Ric McIver, Jason Nixon and Doug Schweitzer – told Kenney’s critics that they have to fall in line if he wins.

That’s doubtful.

If Kenney had the ability to silence his critics and re-unite his “United” Conservative Party he would have done that two years ago.

That ship has sailed.

Scratch that. The ship is leaking.

But is it going to sink?

Even if Kenney is a hot mess of a premier, he’s a still skilled campaigner, and that’s basically what he’s been doing for the past few months – campaigning.

He can even be, dare I say, dangerously charming on the campaign trail.

Kenney does get public support from some conservatives outside Alberta.

They see him as a kind of Philosopher King of Canadian conservatism.

Conservative pundit Sean Speer wrote a long defence of the beleaguered Kenney in the National Post praising his policy agenda.

But commentary by out-of-Alberta conservatives, who probably have fond memories of Kenney’s two decades in Ottawa, almost always omit how intentionally and aggressively divisive he has been since stepping into the Premier’s Office.

Albertans who oppose, or even just dare to criticize, his government’s policies have been routinely derided and attacked by Kenney.

Are you an Albertan who opposed closing and selling provincial parks?

Then you’re a radical urban eco-marxist.

Did you oppose open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains?

Then you must be a radical urban eco-marxist who votes NDP (can you imagine telling that to a 5th generation cattle rancher from southern Alberta?).

You get the drift.

So, do Albertans see Kenney as the conservative philosopher king that his out-of-province admirers do?

Lol. No.

Do normal UCP members?

Definitely not.

Will Kenney win on May 18?

Will he get more than 50 per cent of the vote?

Your guess is probably as good as mine.

Will the deep divisions inside the UCP be healed?

Not a chance.

As veteran political columnist Graham Thomson signed off in a recent column, “No matter what happens that day, Alberta’s already wild politics will just get wilder.”


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9 replies on “The biggest question in Alberta politics: Will Jason Kenney win the UCP leadership review?”

I agree with everything you have written, Dave, except I think the biggest question is ‘What will the UCP renegades do if Jason Kenney wins?’

Honestly, I don’t know what I want to hear when the results are announced on May 18. While I would love watching Kenney’s reaction to learning he has been decidedly rejected, the image of him trying to rein in the renegades would also be entertaining.

I gave up hoping for good government a long time ago.

The true conservatives in my world have had it with these fake ones who aren’t even smart enough to realize what collecting proper royalties and taxes would have done to benefit the Alberta people like Lougheed was doing and Alaska and Norway are doing . Helping the rich steal our oil and tax wealth while they try to force us into a lot more privatization doesn’t make them look very smart, yet they have a lot of our fellow seniors believing every lie they feed them. Giving Kenney’s pal reformer Pierre Poilievre a standing ovation for promising to destroy careers of thousands of CBC employees proves how stupid they are doesn’t it?

“True conservatives” ? What does that mean? Sounds to me like a strawman argument you’ve told yourself for a very long time.

Truly a liar and not a leader! He’s brought AB to it’s knees! Not working for you! Not working for me!

“Brought to its knees” must mean something different in your lexicon. Kennedy ucp have done a good job steering through the pandemic and Alberta has emerged stronger than any other jurisdiction in Canada.

Bret Larson: Who are you trying to fool? The UCP have been an abysmal government, in so many ways. The UCP have done the worst in relation to the management of Covid-19. Statistics don’t lie. Multiple times, Alberta has been the leader in Canada, with Covid-19 case numbers. The fault lies squarely on the UCP for that. What else have the UCP done? Attack medical professionals, including doctors and nurses. Give inhumane cuts to those on government assistance, such as those receiving A.I.S.H. Make cuts to senior citizens benefits. Give illogical cuts to the public education system. What else have the UCP done? Financial shenanigans of the worst kinds.
– $10 billion isn’t there anymore from corporate tax cuts, which never boosted employment in Alberta.
– $7.5 billion is flushed down the drain on a foolish pipeline gamble. That’s around $10 billion in American currency.
– $4 billion of pension money for people has vanished.
– very close to $2 billion is gone from the Heritage Savings Trust Fund.
– $1.6 billion dollars is lost from the UCP’s lack of understanding the basics of accounting.
– wasting money on jetsetting to different places.
– wasting money frequenting the most costliest hotels.
– lawsuits that cost us so much money, and end up in defeat.
– costly public forums, where the highly paid UCP appointees to host these public forums, get a very big amount of money for pretending to listen to the concerns of the people.
– a larger staff that is very well paid, for positions, that really have no substance.
– inquiries that go way over budget, and drag on, and in the end, produce nothing.
– have bad tax policies, which end up losing Alberta very large sums of money, such as what has been allowed to occur with oil companies in this province.
The debt the UCP has saddled Alberta with is quite substantial. It’s at least $125 billion by now.
This is not something we want to continue. Alan is right. Fake conservatives existed in Alberta for decades, and destroyed what Peter Lougheed gave us. It’s a safe bet and a surety that the UCP are fake conservatives, just as Ralph Klein was.

Anonymous with a list of bs. Stands to reason. Missing tax revenues are a hoot. Jurisdictions compete for jobs. Get used to it.

Its fairly clear the UCP ship is listing. The big question for them is whether changing captains at this point will help or if could they could successfully become a more united but smaller group with the same leader. I tend to think keeping on doing the same thing is not going to lead to a better result, but perhaps Kenney and his supporters, however many remain, would disagree with the premise of that.

Maybe Kenney’s political and organizing skills will over come all the discontent or possibly he has a few clever tricks up his sleeve that are not apparent yet to everyone. I do think if he somehow manages to hang on and a lot of his party vote again him (and quite possibly soon after that vote with their feet and leave the UCP en masse), the UCP will be a much diminished party. So, it could be a pyrrhic victory.

No matter what happens with the leadership review, the ucp will be bound tightly come election time by the supper glue discovered in 2015.

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