Well done UCP! Your new leader is Jason Kenney, the candidate least likely to beat Rachel Notley in 2019. You could have saved yourself the bother and elected ET for all the difference this is going to make in Calgary. (You remember Calgary, it’s the hub you’ll need to deliver in order to form government in two years.)
On Saturday 63,000 members of the United Conservative Party cast a ballot in the UCP leadership race. Kenney won on the first ballot with 35,623 votes; this was almost double Brian Jean’s 18,336 votes and almost eight times (eight times!) Doug Schweitzer’s 4,273 votes.
The real news here isn’t that Kenney won but that Schweitzer lost and by such a large margin.
Schweitzer was the only UCP candidate who understood that traditional conservatism won’t cut it anymore, not even here in little ol’ Alberta.
And he has proof: the conservatives’ failure to remake Calgary City Council in their own image in the recent municipal election.
It’s all about taxes…or not
The conservatives turned the Calgary municipal election into a testbed for the 2019 provincial election.
Conservative candidates flooded the airwaves with promises to reduce taxes and bring “common sense” politics back to City Hall. Their campaign rhetoric was amplified by nameless, faceless third-party organizations who painted the incumbents as spendthrift “progressives”. The mainstream media and pollsters predicted a resounding conservative victory.
They lost, big time.
Every incumbent was re-elected. Some with resounding majorities. Mayor Nenshi got 199,122 votes, almost 30,000 more than his conservative rival, former PC party president Bill Smith, who got 169,367.
After the election Doug Schweitzer said, “the left wing kicked our butt”. He called for a “fresh start” noting that young voters won’t support conservative parties even if their economic message is appealing if they have other concerns.
Schweitzer specifically mentioned Ward 8 where the “progressive” incumbent, Evan Woolley, trounced the conservative candidate, Chris Davis, 15,838 votes to 8,844.
Davis agreed with Schweitzer. In a letter to his supporters Davis said that notwithstanding a “great traditional campaign” they lost because they were typecast as angry, tired, old conservatives. He warned that the Ward 8 race was “the first round of the 2019 provincial election” and unless the UCP selected a leader who is inclusive, thoughtful, and compassionate it would lose urban Calgary and without Calgary it could lose the 2019 election.
Davis is right.
But the UCP ignored the warning. It rejected Doug Schweitzer, a fresh young candidate who campaigned on social as well as fiscal issues and chose Kenney, an old school conservative bogged down by a less than compassionate voting record as a federal MP, and his insistence that parents had the right to know when their children joined Gay-Straight Alliances at school and the Catholic School Board had the right to insist on an alternative (antiquated) sex education curriculum.
By choosing Kenney the UCP confirmed to the rest of Alberta that notwithstanding the name change it is now and always will be the party of angry, tired, old conservatives.
Your work ethic
In his victory speech Kenney reiterated his focus on fiscal matters and distanced himself (again) from social issues, saying “We don’t care in this party what god you worship or who you love. What we care about as Albertans is how hard you work and how you will contribute to renewing this as a place of opportunity for generations to come.”
Kenney says he can ignore social issues because all the UCP cares about “is how hard you work”.
What he fails to understand is hard work is not enough.
Factors beyond your control such as freedom from discrimination and your physical and mental ability will govern how hard you are able to work. These are social issues which according to Kenney are beyond the scope of government.
To suggest that a certain political ideology (conservatism) will deliver prosperity based on hard work is simplistic and reflects the old conservative belief that all we need to make the world go ‘round is an unfettered marketplace and people with a good work ethic. It ignores Calgary’s reality. We’ve had that for decades and still suffered rounds of unemployment when oil prices crashed.
But good on you UCP, you rejected the only candidate who recognized the importance of social issues and picked the candidate with the best chance of losing the Calgary vote and leading your party into oblivion.
And for that we thank you.