Jason Kenney’s “Big” Win

Jason Kenney and the media describe Kenney’s win in the Calgary-Lougheed byelection with 71.5% of the votes as a “landslide” and the final tick in the box before Kenney cruises through the 2019 general election and sends Rachel Notley and the NDP packing.

Maybe…maybe not. 

Consider the facts.

The candidates

Kenney has been on the Alberta political stage as a federal MP since 1997.  Dr Phillip van der Merwe, the NDP candidate, showed up last Wednesday (okay, not last Wednesday, five Wednesdays ago).

Kenney, with the support of Stephen Harper, Rona Ambrose and other Conservative heavy hitters spent the last 18 months campaigning for the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives, the merger of the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties, and finally a seat in the Alberta Legislature after the Calgary-Lougheed MLA Dave Rodney graciously fell on his sword and resigned.   The NDP candidate (with the support of the Premier and a few cabinet ministers) stepped away from his busy medical practice and campaigned for a month.


Mr Kenney’s “big” win

The outcome

Voter turnout was surprisingly low considering Kenney’s high profile and the significance of this byelection–it was the first time voters could show their support for the PC/WR merger and the UCP’s choice of Kenney as its leader.

They were indifferent.

In the nine byelections held in Calgary since 1979 voter turnout ranged from 28% to 39.1%.  Byelections in jurisdictions outside of Calgary have seen voter turnout as high as 69.1%.  Notwithstanding Kenney’s razzle dazzle campaign, voter turnout remained stuck at the low end of that range, around 30%.  This is a shade higher than the 29% turnout for the unknown but successful PC candidate, Prab Gill, in the Calgary-Greenway byelection in 2016 and significantly lower than the 38.2% turnout for the unknown but successful WR candidate, Prasad Panda, in the Calgary-Foothills byelection in 2015.

Given Kenney’s reputation in federal and provincial politics and his avowed mission to revitalize the conservative movement at the federal and provincial levels it’s shocking that a candidate with so much name recognition and conservative support failed to drum up significant voter turnout.

Kenney used the byelection as a prequel to his run for premier in 2019 but his results show him lagging behind the combined PC/WR support of 2015.  Kenney garnered 7,760 votes.  That’s 2,960 votes less than the combined PC/WR vote count (10,720) in the 2015 election and a 28% drop in support

NDP support in the Calgary-Lougheed byelection dropped 66% from 5,437 in 2015 to 1,822 last week.  This reflects the premise that voters in this conservative stronghold didn’t vote for the NDP but against the PCs in 2015.

One would have expected the disgruntled voters who rejected the PCs in 2015 to swing their support back to the shiny new PC/WR party under its shiny new leader Jason Kenney.  They failed to do so.

Kenney may crow about his electoral success in Calgary-Lougheed but his lackluster performance in this diehard conservative riding is nothing to write home about.

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39 Responses to Jason Kenney’s “Big” Win

  1. RJ Pisko says:

    But Susan – I thought they identified as the UCP Alberta – not the PC party – what did I miss?

    • Yes, they identified as the UCP but as we know that’s the result of the PC/WR merger and when you check the wiki page for the results of the byelection, the page maker identifies the results as a United Conservative “notional hold”. They couldn’t “hold” this riding unless they were present in the riding as PC and WR parties before the byelection was called.

  2. Douglas Taylor says:

    The breathless next day post by Don Braid was his entry in the Post Media employee of the month/week prize, with his pants on fire diatribe on the Kenny boy election win. You can actually hear the smacking of his lips! Thanks Susan for some pragmatic assessment.

    • Douglas I too was a little surprised by Don Braid’s fervor in his coverage of Kenney’s byelection win. But as others have pointed out in their comments, you really can’t read too much into Kenney’s win. My points were (1) it was a conservative riding, (2) Kenney put a lot of resources into winning and (3) all he got in return was an average result. The real test of the UCP (and the NDP) comes in 2019.
      Won’t that be fun!

  3. Dwayne says:

    Susan, this really means nothing in the grand scope of things. That particular riding has voted Conservative for a very long time. The voter turnout was quite low in this by-election. If Jason Kenney was to challenge Rachel Notley in an election debate, he will not easily survive it. From a historical standpoint, how well do politicians fare in Alberta, when they go from federal to provincial politics?

    • Dwayne, I agree. The other federal politician who came to Alberta to save us from ourselves was Jim Prentice. Prentice was a smart man. He demonstrated considerably more intelligence and compassion than Kenney. Nevertheless Notley bested Prentice in the 2015 debates and she’ll take down Kenney in the 2019 debates. It will be fascinating to watch.

  4. CuJo Calgary says:

    “Kenney garnered 7,760 votes. That’s 5,283 votes less than the combined PC/WR vote count (10,720) in the 2015 election …”

    Not sure about the math. 5283 + 7760 = 13043

    No need to post this.

  5. Thanks CuJo. I fixed it. The 5,283 should have been 2,960 which was 28% less than the combined PC/WR vote count of 10,720 in the 2015 election.

  6. J.E. Molnar says:

    If you can’t win the safest conservative riding in all of Alberta in a landslide, you should holster your Tweets. Postmedia pundits were all agog over Kenney’s expected win in Calgary-Lougheed.

    What were Postmedia media pundits expecting exactly — a Roy Moore-like political Armageddon? Anyone reading more into this than what it is — a leader of a political party winning a seat in the legislature — is delusional at best and politically naive at worst. The final measurement will be the tale of the tape in 2019. Sixteen months in politics is a long time and with the number of ongoing bozo-eruptions from the rebranded Wildrose Party, Jason Kenney is going to have his hands full — argy-bargy notwithstanding.

    • J.E. I smiled at your suggestion that the conservatives should holster their Tweets. My posts go up on WordPress, Facebook and Twitter. The most negative reactions come from the Twitterverse. My point was: Kenney brought home an average byelection win, I expected more. But there are a lot of fragile little people out there who react to any criticism of their leader as a call to arms. SAD.

  7. papajaxn says:

    “Much to do about nothing” seems the oilygarchs are taking over the Alberta Party considering whose directing and running for leadership. Perhaps Kenney can win in the country and a bright aligned lawyer can win in the city; hence the current strategy of oil, pipeline and regulator persons stepping up on the stairs to the throne.


    • Papajaxn, I wasn’t quite sure what you meant when you said the oilygarchs were taking over the Alberta Party because I don’t know who was behind Greg Clark’s decision to step down from the leadership, but if someone brilliant doesn’t step up soon they will have jettisoned Greg prematurely.
      I agree with your comment that Kenney will likely win the rural vote, he appeals to the WR base, he’s going to have a hard time in Edmonton and Calgary is a crap shoot–even members of the venerated old guard like oilman Jim Gray say Calgary needs to be ready for the new digital economy and “it’s an enormously dangerous strategy to sit idle and hope higher energy prices will once again bail us out. That era is over.” http://calgaryherald.com/opinion/columnists/gray-business-as-usual-is-not-an-option-for-calgary

      • Carlos Beca says:

        A woman lawyer has put her name in for the leadership of the Alberta Party – I read on the Metro but I cannot remember the name right now. I believe she is from Calgary so you may even know her. 🙂

  8. jerrymacgp says:

    I suspect much of that 30% turnout was a result of a monumental GOTV effort by the Jason Juggernaut. How many NDP, Liberal, AP and non-aligned voters just stayed home, thinking it was a foregone conclusion?

    When we come to the general, it will be for all the marbles, and every party with a decent organization on the ground will be pushing the GOTV effort. Turnout will no doubt be much higher, and the result much more in doubt until the last poll reports in.

    • I agree Jerry. I’m sure Kenney would have liked to have seen a much higher voter turnout. It’s actually a little humiliating that he didn’t do as well as Prasad Panda who was an unknown commodity when he won his byelection in 2015. Kenney trumpeted his win as a “landslide” but in his heart of hearts he knows he’ll have to do better if he’s going to deliver most of Calgary to the UCP. This reminds me of the recent municipal election, the candidates with big conservative support didn’t do nearly as well as they thought they would, partly because many Calgarians didn’t fall for negative campaigns riddled with lies.

  9. Farmer Dave says:

    Jason Kenny and his UCP MLA’s will be taking their marching orders from Ted Byfield from the defunct Alberta Report, Preston Manning, Stephen Harper and the so called Taxpayers Federation (who are not accountable too anyone) all from the old social credit party. Peter Lougheed brought Alberta back to prosperity from those defunct days and social credit has fought Politics in Alberta ever since they were defeated. Looks like social credit got their guy, Jason Kenny, who is their follower and will take Alberta back to the old social credit ways with no forward prosperity for Alberta.

    • Good comparison Farmer Dave, Kenney says he’s reaching back to Peter Lougheed, however he’s on record as saying Peter Lougheed was a “socialist”. Funny how he’s hoping everyone will forget that now that he’s trying to moderate his reputation for extremely conservative positions on social issues. He’s quite clever actually, he lets his supporters say horrible things on social issues on Twitter and Facebook so he doesn’t have to…Richard Nixon called it “plausible deniability”.

      • carlosbeca says:

        That is exactly Jason Kenney – but I do not call it “plausible deniability” – I call it a snake and with two heads

      • You’re right Carlos, plausible deniability allows a bad actor to escape responsibility for his bad acts; what Trump did was go beyond that by identifying one segment of society as “the Other” and inciting his supporters to rip them apart. This sows fear and suspicion. Kenney has adopted the same tactic. He says the NDP are “socialists” (which they’re not), this scares his base, emotion clouds judgment and they don’t listen to reason anymore. The latest example is the UCP’s attack on the NDP’s $25/day childcare pilot project. They say it’s the latest example of the state encroaching on family. They don’t get it that most families want this support because the cost of childcare, especially here in Calgary, is horrendous.

  10. Dave says:

    Yes, Kenney seems to have motivated enough of his core group to win comfortably in this fairly safe conservative seat. However, underneath what appears to be a strong win, there is an definitely an undercurrent of disinterest, which might not be good for him in the long run. I could understand some progressive voters staying home this time – it was only a by election after all and Kenney was strongly favored to win. However, I would expect Conservative voters to be more motivated by this contest.

    This time it might have been easy for Kenney to get progressive voters to stay home. In a general election it might not be as easy. I get the sense that even a lot of Conservatives do not like Kenney that much. Now likeability is not everything in politics – Harper was not that warm and cuddly either. However, if you can’t even get your own supporters out in droves, getting the undecideds and less committed to support you will be a bigger challenge and they are often important in determining the outcome of general elections. Kenney has relied on a core group of supporters to win all the races (most at the party level) so far, but will that be enough in a much broader contest?

    • You’re right Dave. Kenney posted a meme on Twitter after the election saying he’s won every election he’s run in, not exactly a remarkable achievement given he was running in a safe conservative riding. Someone responded with a meme saying Notley had won every election she’s run in as well. The real contest will take place in 2019, when Kenney will be facing Notley head to head, she’s an intelligent, articulate and sympathetic opponent, not just a candidate put up by the other parties to give their supporters somewhere to park their votes.

  11. GoinFawr says:

    Good for Mr.Kenney, proving once again that you can fool some of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time… isn’t there a third part to that ol’ adage?
    Oh, I remember, it’s a Samuel Clemens quote,
    “Cuss the doctor! What do we k’yer for HIM? Hain’t we (the UCP – Ed.) got all the fools in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?”
    Hocus Pocus!

    • Love your quote GoinFawr. It will be interesting to see how far Kenney will go with the rage machine. I was reading about why Trump was so successful in Coal Country. The coal miners couldn’t rage against decreased demand and mechanized production, but they could rage at Obama and Hillary’s environmental plans. Along comes Trump who promises to make coal great again, sets up Mexicans and Muslims as the enemy, attacks China for “stealing” US companies and other countries for taking advantage of the US, and then says “I hate all the same people you do and I’ll fix it. Trust me.” Angry people don’t think, they just react. We’ll see how far Kenney takes this.

  12. Harce says:

    What’s disconcerting about the left is the level of censorship on this blog of opposing views. I for one think Jason will eclipse both Peter Lougheed and Ralph Klein and bring the Alberta Advantage back to this province, including the prosperity of a single rate of tax, balanced budgets, and 20% cuts that we need now – for present and future generations.

    Let’s see if this post is shared!

    • Harce:
      Re: censorship. You’ve got it backwards. A complaint about censorship would be invoked by me, not you, if I posted something that a court or regulatory body deemed to be offensive to community standards and the public interest. If you’re talking about freedom of speech, your right to free speech is protected by the Charter and the Alberta Human Rights Act both of which let you express yourself subject to certain limitations (you can’t discriminatory or use hate speech). There is nothing in any legislation in the country that gives you the right to force someone to publish your comment on their blog.

      I posted your comment not because I have to but because it gives me an opportunity to clear up this misunderstanding about the law governing censorship and free speech.

      Re: Kenney eclipsing Lougheed and Klein, we’ll see.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      My goodness Harce you can have whatever views you want and you can criticize the left as much as you want but at least just think before you say something so untrue. At least escape the no facts no true bandwagon. That does not take us anywhere, left or right.
      While Harper was in the government censoring everything to do with science and not allowing journalists to do their work you never complained about it did you? You never even accepted that to be censorship because the right wing thinks that to be normal as long as it is done by the Kleins and Harpers and their kind.
      Rachel Notley improves workers rights in Alberta and right away is socialism and censorship and blah blah blah.
      My goodness people to have a conversation we need adults. Where is the censorship in this blog?
      Well I can only reply that I do hope for the good of all of us that your views of Jason Kenney are correct. Unfortunately I do not have the same views and I have the right not too and the right to debate your views.
      It is frustrating when people just do not understand freedom of speech and then they end all conversations with lefties are socialists and communists and they do not allow any debate and on and on.
      My friend let me remind you that if you have any rights as a citizen, a worker, and even the basic right to discuss anything, you can thank the left. It was not the right wing that fought those rights for you. If you do not know that just read history.

      • GoinFawr says:

        “My friend let me remind you that if you have any rights as a citizen, a worker, and even the basic right to discuss anything, you can thank the left. It was not the right wing that fought those rights for you. If you do not know that just read history.”

        Well stated indeed CB, Unfortunately, you can only lead a horse to water, you can’t make it drink.

        @ Harce: If it’s any consolation I’ve had some of my less erudite comments removed from Susan’s blog, I was even greylisted for awhile afterwards too (“comment pending approval”). But upon reflection I am pretty certain that I could have avoided that happening altogether if I had just made my point(s) without having been so, uh, ‘brusque’; really, I think Susan did me a service by encouraging me to mind my manners!

        And CB is exactly correct when it comes to the right’s position on free speech: Eg. Mr.Kenney’s office wouldn’t allow George Galloway to enter this country to speak, but Geert Wilder was more than welcome, Conrad Black too. Now, go figure.

      • GoinFawr, thank you for this lovely explanation of why some comments are posted and some are not. I always look forward to seeing what the “regulars” will say about a post, the quality of their commentary is remarkable.
        With respect to “greylisted” comments, one of two things happens–sometimes I need to think about what someone has said and other times WordPress, for its own quirky reasons, decides to hang up a comment because it doesn’t like the looks of an attachment.

      • Carlos you made an excellent point when you said people need to be adults in order to have a conversation. In the US there’s a non-profit group called Living Room Conversations focused on revitalizing civil discourse through respectful conversation. It provides participants with a structure that allows them to listen to each other and reflect on what they’re hearing in order to build understanding. What a novel idea!
        Here’s a link to the topics page: https://livingroomconversations.org/topics/

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Susan thank you for this site – always wonderful to see what is going on. I also run into a program about this issue. You probably know about it but I send anyway just in case


        Merry Christmas everyone and Happy New Year

    • jerrymacgp says:

      Sir: Censorship is the State limiting what a person can say, publish or broadcast, especially when it involves news or opinions the State doesn’t like or doesn’t want made public. A private citizen setting limits around what is said in a personal forum such as a blog does not qualify as “censorship”. However, in my experience, our host does not bar opposing views on this blog, provided those views are expressed in a courteous and respectful way. Abuse and hate speech, from any sector of the political spectrum, are quite rightly blocked. But such moderation of views does not constitute “censorship”, as it is not being conducted by the State or a State actor.

      • Jerry, thanks for the clarification that censorship is a state action against an individual, not an individual’s action against another individual…I hadn’t made that point as clear as you did in my reply to Harce.

  13. Carlos Beca says:

    Interesting news yesterday – Jason Kenney is now going to be on guard for the bozos in the UCP to avoid what has happened in the past.
    Seriously? No comment

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