Last night the Progressive Conservatives kicked off their leadership race in earnest.
As expected Jason Kenney urged party members to “unite Alberta” (ie destroy the PCs by merging them with the rebranded Wildrose party) while the other five candidates reassured attendees that the PC party could rise from the ashes.
It was a relief to hear PC MLAs Sandra Jansen and Richard Starke, former PC MLAs Stephen Khan and Donna Kennedy-Glans and Calgary lawyer Bryon Nelson reaffirm their support for the socially progressive platform originally espoused by Peter Lougheed.
Kenney was noticeably silent about social issues with the exception of a reference to the NDP’s pedagogic intrusion into the education of our children (more on that below).
Over the next four months Kenney will roll out a campaign that comes straight out of the Trump playbook; but because Kenney is smarter, smoother and more experienced than the airhorn down south, some progressive conservatives may be hoodwinked by Kenney’s rhetoric, not realizing they’ve been had until it’s too late.
The Trump Playbook
Step One: Find a way to get into the race
Unlike Trump who entered the Republican party nomination race on the pretext he was a Republican, Kenney made no bones about the fact that he was not a Progressive Conservative and the first thing he’d do if he won was destroy the Progressive Conservative party. The PCs let him run anyway. That was sheer lunacy and now the PCs are fighting for their lives.
Step Two: Create a disaster
Trump says America is a “disaster”: crime is up, poverty is up, the economy is a mess. It’s all bad, bad, bad. This plays to the fears of two kinds of supporters: those who’ve been hit hard by economic setbacks and those who haven’t but are afraid they will be.
Kenney’s sole focus is the economy. It’s an easy target given that energy is Alberta’s economic driver and world oil prices have crashed. The unemployment rate is higher than its ever been, young people are leaving the province for jobs elsewhere, the whole thing is very discouraging, and while it shows signs of improvement Kenney won’t acknowledge them.
Step Three: Create a scapegoat
Trump blames everyone for the “disaster”. It’s the fault of the elites, the immigrants, the Muslims, the Mexicans, the Blacks who are shooting each other in the streets and those nasty women. Did I forget anybody?
Kenney blames the “accidental socialist” government that hates the free market and is indoctrinating our children in some perverse way by demanding schools provide gay-straight alliances and gender neutral bathrooms.
What Kenney doesn’t say out but what’s implicit in his mission to destroy the Progressive Conservative party is that progressives are just as bad as socialists. Why else would he be on a mission to eliminate the party when he could just as easily run on a platform to renew it?
Step Four: Promise a quick solution
Trump’s solution for all that ails America is Donald Trump. He’s the smartest man on the planet and the best negotiator so just leave it with him and he’ll make America great again. Believe me!
Kenney’s solution is almost as simplistic. He will bring back the Alberta Advantage—making Alberta the place for hope and prosperity where dreams come true (his words, not mine)—by eliminating the provincial carbon tax, fighting the federal carbon tax, reducing personal and corporate taxes and eliminating “job-killing” regulations.
Kenney’s solution will take Alberta back to the Klein era…which wasn’t entirely successful when oil prices were high and an absolute disaster when oil prices fell.
Unless Kenney has a plan to diversify the economy Albertans will be no more economically secure under a Kenney government than they were under the Klein, Stelmach, Redford and Prentice governments.
But Kenney isn’t concerned about changing the economic structure of Alberta. He’s focused on re-establishing conservatism across the province.
His argument goes like this: after 44 years in government the Progressive Conservatives drifted too far to the left. This forced true conservatives to abandon the party and join the Wildrose. The creation of two conservative parties allowed the NDP to sneak into power. The only way to set the world right is for the two conservative parties to merge and they can’t merge unless the conservatives throw out the progressives who have no business being in the party in the first place.
Trump’s attack on everyone but the alt-white legitimized the voices of bigots, racists, sexists, xenophobes and homophobes. The party of Abe Lincoln deserves better.
Kenney’s supporters are following in Trump’s footsteps. They despair at the “liberal stench” emanating from the other leadership candidates. They bemoan the fact that the LBGTQ community has more rights than they do. They attack Sandra Jansen, the PC MLA who says she’s fiscally conservative and socially progressive in the most vulgar misogynistic terms imaginable.
Surely the party of Peter Lougheed and the people of Alberta deserve better than Jason Kenney—a fly-in candidate from Ottawa whose idea of leadership is mouthing platitudes, attacking progressives and handing out camouflage ball caps emblazoned Unite Alberta.