Meet your “new” leader: Jason Kenney

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.


Jason Kenney, Doug Schweitzer, Brian Jean

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.

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29 Responses to Meet your “new” leader: Jason Kenney

  1. DOUG says:

    Good one. There is a gawd.

    • Thanks Doug. All the Liberals and NDP supporters I talked to said their worst fear was the UCP would wake up and realize that Doug Schweitzer was their best hope in the 2019 election. Luckily for us the cranky old conservatives still control that party and now they’re saddled with Jason Kenney.

  2. Einar Davison says:

    I waited in anticipation of what you would say about Kenney winning and the party who elected him leader. I wasn’t disappointed. Well said! All the other parties now at least have a target and one with no policy and a history of its members saying what they think people want to hear, but not backed by facts. Now we know who it would be terrible to let this man become premier.

    • Exactly Einar. Although I have to say that for all of Jason Kenney’s talk about his “grassroots guarantee” (he promised policy would be driven by the grassroots), I don’t know how he can justify the UCP participation in the Manning Centre policy convention in November, a good three or so months ahead of the “grassroots” UCP policy convention sometime in the spring of 2018. Apparently top down driven policy is bad, but outsider think tank driven policy is just fine.

  3. Brian says:

    Kenney is greater than Klein or Lougheed as he understands the only path to prosperity is a return to true conservatism. He will get my vote.

    • Brian how will Kenney’s version of conservatism create prosperity? He has no policies, what is he going to do to make this happen?

      • carlosbeca says:

        Funny that I was going to ask the same. With all due respect Brian if you are voting for someone without knowing what he is going to do you need to start reading a bit more, Voting like your grandfather did just does not help anymore.
        By the way what is Jason’s true conservatism? I would appreciate if you could let us know because I can still change my mind 🙂

  4. Kristi says:

    Wonderful analysis as always. Kenney and Fildebrandt have much in common with ignoring the social issues. I certainly hope though that the arrogance of these politicians will be their downfall. Alberta is becoming more progressive all the time even if they don’t want to believe it.

    • Kristi you’re right about Alberta becoming more progressive. I just got back from a presentation by the Calgary Economic Development group. They described the bid package they sent to Amazon. Its purpose is to show Amazon that 50,000 employees in the 25 to 35 age range would be happy in Calgary. It included a pamphlet of a gay couple enjoying the outdoors. This is what the future of Calgary and Alberta looks like, notwithstanding what the cranky old conservatives think.

  5. Terry Korman says:

    I am reminded about something Hunter S. Thompson wrote about being in Israel back in 1970 (in effect): “If peace ever breaks out in this country, they are done … because a common enemy is ALL that is holding them together.” Jason Kenney and the right’s constant need to divisively polarize and to find enemies – while providing some kind of distracting and expedient unity, is no way to build a province (or a country for that matter) other than into something ” … nasty, brutish, and short.”

    • “Nasty, brutish, and short” sums it up Terry. I noticed that in addition to slagging the NDP at every turn, Kenney has adopted the Trump tactic of accusing Notley of the bad behavior (overblown rhetoric, misinformation, whatever) that he himself is guilty of. Hopefully Albertans are smarter than the millions of Americans who fell for Trump’s tactics or it’s going to be a long and divisive 2 years.

  6. Dwayne says:

    Susan I just can’t see Jason Kenney getting very far. I see him doing the exact same things that the Alberta PCs did, after their very first government. Big scandals, not saving any money, deep austerity (we still suffer from the last austerity measures from the 1990s), no planning ahead and dog fighting with the federal government. Who needs that?

    • I agree Dwayne. I think Kenney is out of touch with the new Alberta. Economists like Todd Hirsch say this boom/bust cycle is different from the previous ones because it’s changed the role oil plays in our economy. Hirsch says in the past oil “fueled” our economy, now it become the “backbone” of our economy and many other sectors are becoming equally important (agribusiness, tourism, AI, etc). Kenney doesn’t get this. Instead of focusing on Alberta’s future Kenney keeps trying to recreate the past. That’s a one-way ticket nowhere.

      • carlosbeca says:

        Well when you get gifts from your bosses you do what they ask you to do. The oil industry runs this province and Jason is the perfect lackey. One does not do that when one has character but unfortunately Jason Kenney has always been fluff.

      • Carlos, you’ll love this. Yesterday the UCP tweeted “We understand that in order to be a compassionate, caring province, we must be prosperous first.” The Twitterverse reacted to the idiocy of that statement, one of the best comebacks came from Ryan Jesperson, the radio host, who said: “This is one of the most asinine statements in the history of civilization.” The UCP, like Donald Trump and his supporters, aren’t hiding who they are. I hope Albertans are paying attention.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        WOW Susan that is absolutely amazing. UCP’s fans will be all for it though and we just have to continue not being Borgs.
        Good for Ryan Jesperson – I fully agree with him but I can bet who is behind that statement 🙂
        Thank you for letting me know – I do not belong to the tweet world and I do not intend to. There are fabulous subjects in life I like to read and if possible learn about and I am not interested in wasting my precious time with 2 second thoughts.

  7. J.E. Molnar says:

    Slapping a Jason Kenney smiley face on toxic conservatism isn’t going to rebuild a battered, tarnished brand. New lipstick — same old pig.

    Alberta voters don’t want a swift return to the arrogance and entitlement of the Alberta “old boys” Tory regime. Rachel Notley clearly represents a progressive break from the regressive past. If the result of the Calgary mayoralty race proved anything, it proved progressives aren’t going to lie down for more of the same old right-wing shenanigans.

    Nepotism, cronyism and rascalism vanished with the election of 2015. With fresh ideas now in government, “back-to-the-future” conservatism seems implausible.

  8. Rick C says:

    Insightful as always. “When will they ever ĺearn..O when will they ever learn…”

    • Lord only knows Rick. I was going to come back to you with the theme from The X Files (the truth is out there) but decided they might take offense if I implied they were aliens…although it would fit with my reference to ET at the start of the blog 🙂

  9. J.E. you highlighted the most important thing we learned from the Calgary mayoralty race–progressives can’t sit back and hope people will come to their senses. Many of us make the faulty assumption that a reasonable person with his/her own self interest in mind will make a logical choice on election day. If we’ve learned anything from Trump’s election it’s that voters who are convinced they’re victims will vote emotionally, not rationally. Kenney is capitalizing on the “victim” myth–Trudeau is picking on you, Notley won’t defend you, Quebec is using equalization payments to steal your money–people believe it and the victim-maker is elected and as you point out the rest is history–nepotism, cronyism and rascalism (love that word) rule the day. We’ve learned our lesson, we are going to be out in full force to ensure this doesn’t happen again in Alberta..

  10. Carlos Beca says:

    Well one thing is obvious to me – your municipal election was way more exciting than ours here in Edmonton. Almost no one went to vote – I heard the numbers were down to 28%. To me that was the election most important message. Around 70% of Albertans have basically given up on the election process. I believe I would not have much trouble understanding why.
    Although much can happen in the next 2 years including the split of the conservatives again, I do not for a minute share your belief that people will not vote for Jason Kenney. I hope I am wrong and time will tell.

    • Carlos it’s very disturbing to hear that voter turnout in Edmonton was so low. It spiked here when we realized that many of the candidates were backed by the Manning Foundation, Jason Kenney, the old PCs and Post Media. They said they’d “fix” City Council which was “broken” because (as one candidate put it) 3 or 4 “progressives” always voted one way, 3 or 4 “conservatives” always voted the other way and the remaining 8 vacillated back and forth in the middle. I thought that was a good thing which showed everyone had a voice but the conservatives characterized this as dysfunctional. We couldn’t shake them of this belief even when we pointed out that the so-called dysfunctional council had unanimously approved not one but two budgets (conservatives agreeing with progressives about budgets? Unthinkable!) but even this fact didn’t shake their belief that Council was broken and the mayor and the so-called “progressive” incumbents had to go.
      With respect to how this translates into the 2019 election, I expect the rural areas will continue to support Kenney, Edmonton will go to the NDP and Calgary will be the battle ground, hopefully the thinking that allowed Calgarians to rebuff the conservatives in the municipal election will hold in 2019 and we won’t fold into the Kenney camp.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        I do like your description of the next election. I think you are right.
        I cannot read Calgary at all. Every time I think about politics, Calgary is a blank to me.

        As far as the dysfunctional council, it is very obvious to me why the current conservatives think that way. They do not understand democracy and much less consensus or discussion or any of that. What they understand is the language of battle. The Progressives are the enemy, they are sinful and not too intelligent. They certainly are not on the side of their God. So a full conservative council is their idea of democracy. You may think that I am joking but you just have to talk to a few of them and you will confirm what I am saying.
        The latest comment from Harper about the NAFTA negotiations is a very clear example of that. Everyone knows that Trump is not negotiating and he is not interested in anything but what makes money for him and his fellow Americans. Despite the obvious Harper comes up with the idea that the Liberals are not ‘accommodating’ the American demands. Amazing to me that anyone especially a ex-prime minister could take the wrong side just because he absolutely hates progressives. Harper very likely considers them people that will not have a place in is idea of Heaven. I know there is no such place but if it did I would feel happier in a regular place rather than in Heaven with people of his kind.

      • Einar Davison says:

        You are assuming that their kind would go to heaven. It seems to me that most of what they propose goes against what used to be Christianity.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Einar I am not assuming – they are the ones who claim it as their reward for being whatever is that they are.

  11. Carlos Beca says:

    Ok here is an article for the political junkies like Susan 🙂

    I agree 100% – I love these ex-prime minister putting out statements as if we are desperate to get their help. It is really sad when they feel that their opinion is so darn important. One would think that they could show some modesty and wait for someone to ask the question.

    The man is a Thatcherite and does not believe that society matters and as long as he is on top the rest is just irrelevant. He actually has the guts to suggest that in a hidden right wing radical way and does not either realize it or does not care. You survive or you get trampled is the motto. I have always wondered why these people get married and have families. Why bother if society does not matter. My Dad was a difficult man but he had emotions, I can only imagine what it is like to live with this Borg.
    I am sorry if this is harsh but I think uncovering full reality of what is happening is the only way we will survive this awful thinking epidemic. If this is too much Susan please do delete it.
    For me this is fine

    • Carlos, thanks for the link to Harper’s comments about the NAFTA negotiations. I understand he made these comments in a news letter to the clients to whom he provides consulting services. Bearing that in mind you have to wonder what Harper hoped to achieve by sharing his arm chair perspective on how the negotiations were going (he’s certainly not in the room). What are his clients supposed to do with this information, pressure the government to capitulate? As Chrystia Freeland said, “Capitulation is not a negotiating strategy.” Anyone with an ounce of experience in the private sector knows this.
      The fact that Harper thinks it’s a waste of time for Canada to include issues like gender, labour unions, Aboriginal issues and the environment fits right in with Jason’s Kenney’s UCP tweet that before Alberta can be “a compassionate, caring province, we must be prosperous first.” When I told my 89 year old mother who is Catholic about Kenney’s comment she said Jesus found a way to be compassionate and caring without being rich. You’d think Kenney who is very much a Catholic would know this.

  12. Jean says:

    Susan, you ought to write for CBC. It doesn’t need to be a rebuttal for this:

    Just another voice for balance. Right now people either respond to Notely’s NDP efforts or Kenny’s latest win and whatever future lies ahead for that in Alberta.

  13. Jean, thanks for the link and the suggestion that I write something for the CBC. I’ll work on it.
    I like where DKG is going with her argument that we have to get beyond polarity because most people don’t sit squarely at one end of the spectrum or the other but I think we’ll be stuck with this paradigm unless or until a visionary politician offers a different vision.
    Kenney paid lip service to a different vision in his victory speech but quickly reverted back to the “theoretical political spectrum” when he described his win was a big step forward for “the Conservative movement nationally” and said “we couldn’t really have renewal of the national Conservative movement without Alberta coming back.” He’s made the 2019 provincial election the last stand for “the Conservative movement” which will be defined by his policies (when he finally gets around to creating them) and his tweets (we can’t be caring and compassionate until we’re prosperous). By prioritizing prosperity over everything else and refusing to discuss social issues he’s avoided the discussion of values that DKG says are of interest to everyone regardless of their party affiliation. It will take a very clever politician to break free of the paradigm Kenney has created.
    Here’s the link to the Kenney quotes:

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