Jason Kenney is busy ticking off the boxes in his quest to be the next premier of Alberta:
- Become the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party—check.
- Maneuver Brian Jean (WR) into accepting a merger proposal—check.
- Merge the PC and WR parties into the United Conservative Party—check.
- Become the leader of the UCP—ongoing.
- Lead the UCP to victory in 2019—eureka!
The last two boxes might get a little messy.
The détente between Jason Kenney and Brian Jean shattered the minute the PCs and WR agreed to merge into the UCP. From here on it’s every man for himself.
We can expect Kenney and Jean to roar out of the starting gate like King Kong and Godzilla, beating their chests trying to convince conservative Albertans that the other guy doesn’t have what it takes to beat Rachel Notley (Fay Wray?) in the next election.
They’re both fiscal and social conservatives; neither of them is brimming with charisma so how do they intend to differentiate themselves from the competition?
The most obvious point of differentiation for a fiscal conservative isn’t his promise to cut public services (everyone says they’re going to “cut waste”) but whether he’s honest about how deep he’s going to cut in order to eliminate the deficit.
Both Jean and Kenney say they’ll balance the budget without cutting the front line (Kenney goes so far as to urge nurses and union workers to join his party). This is nonsense. The only way to balance the budget without cutting the front line is to raise taxes. That’s never going to happen.
Both candidates know it and are being equally dishonest with the electorate by refusing to admit they’ll cut health, education, and social services as much as it takes to eliminate the deficit.
There are many points of differentiation among conservatives on social issues.
Some social conservatives blast their views from the roof tops. Brian Trost is well known for his discomfort with “the gay thing” and Lisa Raitt says her personal views on abortion won’t impact the status quo. Others hide their beliefs by pretending social issues are irrelevant—governing is all about the economy, right?
Brian Jean and Jason Kenney fall into the latter category; for example, they’re consistently “otherwise engaged” when Pride parades are scheduled, however Jean has shown a willingness to be a bit more “progressive” when it comes to “the gay thing” and children. Jean made it clear he doesn’t support Kenney’s position that schools should “out” students to their parents if they join gay-straight alliances.
Jean appears to trust the electorate enough to reveal the extent of his social conservatism, Kenney on the other hand, continues to duck social issues, content to let his minions speak for him.
And that’s why the King Kong vs Godzilla leadership battle is going to get messy.
The existential battle for Alberta
Kenney and Jean pitched the merger as the first step in an epic battle to wrestle Alberta away from the socialists and give it back to hard working ordinary folk who’ve been victimized and ignored, over-taxed at home and under-represented in Ottawa. They positioned the UCP merger plan as the only way to reclaim the Alberta Advantage and reinstall Alberta to its rightful place in the firmament…and yet 45 to 50% of card carrying conservatives didn’t bother to vote in the referendum. They stayed home.
If the survival-of-the-province-depends-on-you message wasn’t strong enough to mobilize almost half of the card carrying conservatives to vote for the merger, what’s it going to take for the UCP to get the vote out in 2019?
Jean and Kenney are keenly aware that Albertans strongly supported the federal Conservatives in the last election. They’re also aware that conservative politicians like Kellie Leitch (Canadian values test) and Brian Trost (that gay thing) built up significant support using wedge politics.
We already know how far Jason Kenney (niqab ban) will go in search of votes. If Brian Jean follows Kenney down this squalid path we expect the UCP leadership race and the runup to the next election to be two long years of dog whistle politics.
So, here’s the plan, while King Kong and Godzilla are busy duking it out over there, let’s get behind our favourite progressive politician and prepare to take on whoever crawls out from the rubble to battle for Alberta in 2019.
(Hello Fay Wray!)
Todd: the headline in today’s Calgary Herald was “Conservative marriage faces short honeymoon” No kidding!
You’re absolutely right Susan. Get ready for unbridled demagoguery from Kenney and Jean when the UCP leadership race finally heats up and attempts to set the baseline for campaign talking points in 2019.
If past revelations are any indication, the dystopian talking points by Kenney and Jean will be based on emotion rather than sound reason. Unpacked — just a pair of elitist, angry, white guys content on returning us to “back-to-the-future” conservatism and “on-your-own” economics.
J.E. to your point about “elitist, angry, white guys” it’s telling that in the speculation of who would be selected to act as interim leader no one suggested a woman. Admittedly there aren’t that many women to choose from–the PCs lost their only female MLA when Sandra Jansen crossed the floor and the WR only have two, Angela Pitt and Leela Aheer, in their 22 person caucus. Both Pitt and Aheer seem capable of the job and yet neither rates a mention. I don’t know if this is because they’re considering running for the leadership (highly unlikely) or the suggestion of a woman leader of the UCP is inconceivable.
PS I just checked the online news. Nathan Cooper was selected to act as interim leader. No surprise there.
Wonderful posting as always, and much enjoyed – I loved the Kong and Godzilla analogy…but which one is Kenney and which one is Jean? More fun can definitely be had with this!
I appreciated your comments on the voter turnout, the numbers of which struck me as interesting as well. Either the actual numbers of memberships sold over the past few weeks weren’t quite as significant as widely reported (perhaps math is still a bit difficult for some of those involved?), or in spite of the stakes, a lot of members of both parties decided to sit this one out. Perhaps they’ll change their minds after October 28, but if the low numbers on the Wildrose side are those who couldn’t bring themselves to block the merger, but just couldn’t stomach it either, while the PC stay-at-homes are the more progressives who felt the same way on the opposite end of the conservative spectrum, then the Regressive Conservative (RC) road to back to power could be a lot rougher than they expect…no matter who captures the hearts-and-minds of new-party-faithful at the end of October. In spite of this weekend’s triumphalist posing, the RC’s margin for victory (error?) isn’t a big as they seem to think, and if they can’t retain/attract the far-right or moderate centre to their new undertaking, then their rampant optimism seems a bit over-stated at this point.
Thanks Jonathan. There’s definitely something screwy going on with the numbers. The papers say the PCs have over 50,000 members and 25,692 voted in the PC referendum and the WR have 40,000 members and 23,466 voted in the WR referendum. What I’d like to know is what was the impact of the fact that the PCs and the WR were allowed to vote twice. Add that to the gongshow at the last minute when it turned out some people got more than one PIN and others didn’t get any plus the guy on Twitter who said the WR must have had more than 1,011 no votes because he had screen shots of over 8000 nos…well it just makes me wonder what really happened.
PS: Jason Kenney is Godzilla and Brian Jean is King Kong. Why? Because Godzilla is a reptile and King Kong is an ape. 🙂
Well the numbers do not really matter to either one of them and of course the fact that 40 – 50 person voted is not even reported because the papers are in their bag. As far as they are concerned 95% on both sides approved. I am not here to discredit the process but it sounded a bit like the communist party votes in the old Soviet Union where they always had 99% approval rate. They never reached 100% because of course the leader could not vote for himself. To me it was almost like they already had an announcement with 95% and that was it. Anyway what goes around mostly comes around and the honeymoon just started.
While I am already watching Jason Kenny’s trolling bots trash-talk Brian Jean on Social Media, I am also reminded of the study done early last year that showed that not only do the majority of Albertans self-label as “Progressive” (including almost half of the Wild Rose Party members), but of the comment made by the study’s author – Duncan Kinney: “This type of report really shows that your neighbours aren’t as conservative as you think, your coworkers aren’t as conservative as you think, your relatives aren’t as conservative as you think.”
The job now, is not only to help people realize this, but to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the coming flood of ugly, over-generalized hyperbole that will argue otherwise.
Terry, your comment at the end of your post is a good one. It’s easy to assume that Alberta is packed to the gills will “red meat” conservatives (to borrow a term the Globe used today with reference to Kenney) because they are so vocal.
My biggest fear is the extreme right will become even more vocal (and dangerous) as the UCP leadership race heats up. These nutbars take the faintest dog whistle as an endorsement of their homophobic, misogynist, anti-Muslim views. It doesn’t take much to spur them into action. A politician who truly wants to make Alberta a better place needs to temper his desire to indulge in wedge politics for the sake of a few votes. I don’t think Kenney has it in him to pull back.
Welllllll….?? I dunno. I’m not sure Mr Jean will even want to contest the leadership. Look at it this way. He had a family tragedy not too long ago..he lost a lost child. His home burned down…and who knows what else. I would definitely support Mr Jean, I think he would be honest.
If he runs for the leadership against… whats is name… ummm.. oh yea Mr Kenney, I think it could be pretty dirty. Who needs that?
Don’t be so trusting of Brian Jean. I was at a meeting of the WR faithful where he stated that the carbon tax would have us pay two to three more to heat our homes in five years. Pure bunk in my mind the NDP are not that stupid to impose such a tax .
Ed and Brent, you’ve put your finger on the enigma that is Brian Jean. On the one hand he projects an image of decency (a friend who’s not a WR supporter met Jean at a UCP town hall and said Jean came across like a decent guy), on the other hand he says things about the NDP government’s policies that are flat out dishonest. It’s one thing to slant your pitch for political expediency, it’s quite another to mislead the public.
Too many people put their trust in Brian Jean but they should be more careful. He knows how to work his charm with the public and gets away with many outright lies and half-truths. I believe his desire for power outweighs doing what is best for Albertans.
Kristi, I think Brian Jean proved your point on Monday when he announced he was running for the leadership of the UCP. He said the NDP government has broken promises, misled Albertans, are secretive and dishonest, and treat those who don’t agree with them “with increasing disdain and arrogance”. He said “our shared history of drilling oil and stampeding (?) fundamentally embarrasses the NDP” and that he “will never apologize for our industries, for Alberta, for Albertans or for our province.” Oh and while he was at it he denounced big government and violent crime which is “on the rise in every single corner of the province.” This speech would have made Donald Trump proud.
Anonyous: perfect choice, especially this verse:
I hear the city singing like a siren choir
Some fool tried to set this town on fire
TV preacher screams ‘come on along’
I feel like Fay Wray face to face with King Kong
Susan, I think the first steps are correct, but the last step should read “Rats, go back to step 1”
Jim, I agree and like all the other progressives in this province I intend to do everything I can to ensure Step 5 ends with “Rats!” instead of “Eureka!”
There’s this phenomenon which can be characterized as “beware the socialist hordes” that seems to be prevalent in Western Canada, but is absent in Central & Eastern Canada. In the four Atlantic provinces, as well as Ontario, there are three viable mainstream parties: the NDP, the Liberals, and the PCs; in Quebec, whose politics has long been polarized around the independence question but more recently has been realigning along traditional ideological lines, there are four mainstream parties: the Liberals, the Parti Québécois (PQ), Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ), and Coalition d’Avenir du Québec (CAQ). These jurisdictions seem to have the ability to support multiple streams of political thought, much as we do at the federal level.
But out West, there is the BC Liberal party, which gathers all of the anti-NDP forces into one so-called “free enterprise” coalition, like anti-matter against NDP matter; and the Saskatchewan Party, which does the same thing in that province (my familiarity with Manitoba politics is limited, so I’m not sure how polarized things are there). Now we have this new United Conservative Party in Alberta, whose main raison d’être seems to be to be anti-NDP. Meanwhile, the two remaining parties, the struggling Alberta Liberal Party and the virtually irrelevant Alberta Party, risk being relegated to the ranks of the fringe parties in this binary political battle.
It would be interesting to discover why this phenomenon exists out here, versus the three- or even four-way situation east of the Manitoba-Ontario line. Might be a good project for some poli-sci grad student’s PhD thesis lol …
Jerry, what an interesting observation–that the West unlike other jurisdictions does not seem to have the ability to support multiple streams of political thought.
It’s going to get weirder in Alberta if disgruntled WR members follow through with their promise to form Wildrose 2.0. Adding to the confusion are the Alberta Liberals and the Alberta Party who are both positioning themselves as the centrists and the NDP who are about as left wing as the Peter Lougheed PCs. At the end of the day we may end up with 2 right wing parties, one centrist party that half of Alberta thinks is socialist, and two tiny parties (maybe three if the Greens get into the act) squeezed into the space between the UCP/WR 2.0 and the NDP.
The next two years will be fascinating.
Interesting happenings in the land of the 35 year political cycle.
Honey Moon is on, the leaders are happy and agreeing on everything – fantastic – I know the levels of Happiness because of articles from Lorne Gunther in the Edmonton Sun. In fact he mentioned that it is one of the most political exhilarating moments of his life. The new party is finally the conservative solution. Lorne just salivates on the thought of government out of our lives for good – can you imagine? No firefighters, no health care, no wasteful public education, the old are going back to die on boats at -30 on prescribed lakes, no taxes no deficits. Wow what a fantastic life where we are all free to fight for the crumbs the very rich leave behind. I personally cannot wait.
Of course we still have 2 years to go and there will be lots of UCP stories but if they managed to not rock the new boat, the chances of them winning are good because I personally still do not believe that most Albertans are progressive. There has been a lot written about this but I am not convinced and that is why I thought important to change the voting system to stop the rural areas from pushing us back into the cowboy era. Rachel Notley and the NDP are convinced that they will have a chance to win again. I do not share that optimism. Implementing a sales tax now would make a lot of sense and would go a long way to fix the super deficit problem but it will be more ammunition against them in 2019. Brian Jean and Jason Kenney will lie through all their teeth to get power.
I am a feeling we will see more parties in Alberta before 2019 🙂
The Alberta Party is the Liberal Party with a different leader so they will unify if they want to survive. They started as a true people party but that is then, the people were left behind in the meantime. Democracy is too tough to be put into practice especially when egos are so individually evolved. With exception of Dave Swann I think they are all so darn in love with themselves that it is basically impossible to change politics in Alberta. We are not the only ones or the worse in Canada.
Well Susan very interesting article and I believe you will have lots about what to write to get those two last checks on the list. I hope that during the leadership contest they will destroy each other big time. I have a feeling that Brian is in disadvantage because he has a family and he understands how social programs are important to all of us. Jason is out to be the Mussolini of Alberta politics so he does not care. He already has a fat pension waiting for him.
Carlos, many good points here. The UCP “honeymoon” is a fleeting thing. It reminds me of the NOVA/TCPL corporate merger. The TCPL CEO publicly described it as a “merger of equals”, but behind closed doors described TCPL as “GI Joes” and NOVA as “Care Bears”. Guess whose culture won at the end of the day (hint: it wasn’t the Care Bears).
Many PC MLAs who voted in favour of the merger said they would give the UCP a try, which gives me the impression they’ll bail if the UCP is too right wing. PC MLA Richard Starke refused to go even that far and refused to join the UCP. I guess that means he’ll sit as an independent. Wouldn’t it be funny if the PC MLAs finally realized they’ve made a mistake and joined Starke on the independent benches. They could start a whole new Independent party.
Alberta politics. It’s never boring.
Oh and I agree 100% with your assessment of David Swann. He is a man of character and integrity.
You made me laugh with the TCPL/NOVA story. I find it amazing that people at CEO level of corporations as big as NOVA actually go into deals like that. Unfortunately in the world of decent people and street smarts we know who always wins.
Yes I can easily see who David is by the way he behaves and I am sorry that he had to endure an environment of deceit and lies that basically are completely outside of what David was interested in. I apologize that I called him Dave instead of David. I have great respect for David Swann.
Carlos, I’m sure David Swann wouldn’t have minded 🙂
Derek Fildebrandt is the wild card here. I think he is actually much less socially conservative than the other two, but probably even more fiscally conservative. He is also as opportunistic as they come, so may be willing to compromise with the hard right so-cons on those “moral” issues. Interesting and hopefully entertaining times ahead!
Erin, you’re right about Fildebrandt being the wild card. I’m not crazy about the man but I’ll give him credit for being more honest that the other two. When asked about reducing the deficit Fildebrandt said cutting $7 billion out of the budget will cause real “pain”. When asked why he said he wasn’t going to support Jean in the leadership race he refused to answer saying instead “We’ll have plenty of time to beat the crap out of each other in the coming weeks and months.”
Fildebrandt would be nuts not to run. If he does really well he’d become the leader of the opposition which puts him in the premier’s office if the UCP wins in 2019. If he does OK, he can throw his support behind the clear leader in return for a plum political appointment if the UCP wins in 2019. Either way it’s a win/win for Fildebrandt.
Derek is just waiting in the shade for when the sun goes down. He is a survival of the fittest in the extreme degree and he will wait for the best opportunity to get what he wants.
He is watching the honeymoon become a 40 years marriage type relationship 🙂
Interesting article – https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2017/07/25/flawed-strategy-of-making-alberta-great-again-steward.html
I agree with it.
Brian Jean has announced some cuts today. I hope he is honest enough to announce all of them.
This batch was only 2.6 Billion – there is still another 8 billion to go or more because he also included tax cuts.