UCP leader Jason Kenney wants Rachel Notley to call the election on Feb 1, 2019 so Albertans can go to the polls in the first week of March. He has scheduled an election readiness conference from Feb 15 to 17, after that it’s full steam ahead…except for the fact the UCP has no policies.
What the UCP does have is a campaign slogan Fortis et Liber (cribbed from Alberta’s motto, it means strong and free) and six talking points:
- Stand Up to Trudeau (presumably Kenney would like UCP supporters to support Scheer until Kenney decides to go back into federal politics, then it’s game over for Scheer)
- Scrap the carbon tax (the UCP would rather get stuck with the made-in-Ottawa carbon tax)
- Quality Public Services (okay, but first tell us how Kenney is going to measure “quality”)
- Renew the Alberta Advantage (ummm, define it, then tell us whether it requires trade-offs in public services)
- Defend our resources (how, by deep-sixing the rule of law and the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada?)
- Reignite Alberta’s Economy (if this means scrapping health, safety, environmental and employment laws so Alberta is “open for business” I’m not interested)
Must we beg for policies?
Jason Kenney has been the UCP leader since Oct 2017. He defined the UCP as a grassroots party led by a servant-leader who would respect the members’ wishes. Yes, this was revolutionary in politics, but he gave them a written guarantee to show he meant it. The grassroots held a policy convention six months later, but when it debated some hard-right policies on abortion and LBGTQ rights Kenney torched the grassroots guarantee and told his supporters that he held the pen (in this case a blue pencil) on policy development and the members would have to wait until he decided what policies to unveil, when, if ever.
The fact that Kenney wants Notley to call an election in a UCP policy vacuum should alarm all UCP supporters, especially the UCP MLAs who’ve gone on record in the Legislature advocating for a government that consults with the grassroots and condemning the Progressive Conservatives for adopting a command-and-control structure that let the grassroots be pushed around by Cabinet and party elites.
And yet here we are.
Please sir, policies…?
Kenney is pushing for an election on the strength of a motto and six talking points. Albertans have no idea what his policies will be and are being asked to buy a pig in a poke (that’s an English colloquialism, it’s not meant to be disrespectful to pigs…or politicians).
Gullible Albertans will fill in the blanks in Kenney’s non-policies in a way that supports their own beliefs and values and conclude he’s their man.
Sensible Albertans will ask themselves whether they should pay heed to MLAs like Richard Starke who refused to join the UCP because he didn’t like how they handled LBGTQ issues, or Rick Fraser who left the UCP to join the Alberta Party because of the UCP’s single-minded focus on spending cuts and austerity or Rick Strankman who quit the UCP to sit as an independent because the UCP had abandoned its grassroots guarantee in favour of “hyper partisan self-centered politics”. These guys pulled back the UCP curtain and didn’t like what they found.
Rachel Notley being the smart politician she is will treat Kenney’s “no policy” election platform as a gift.
She’ll fill in the blanks in Kenney’s six talking points any way she likes, and she’ll hammer home the fact that the only “policy” position Kenney failed to list in his six talking points is his oft repeated promise to eliminate the deficit and balance the budget by 2022.
She’ll remind Albertans that Kenney has been all over the map with this promise, first he said Alberta should be in line with BC which spends 20% less per capita than Alberta (but has higher taxes overall), then Kenney disavowed the 20% reduction target at the candidates’ debate in the Calgary-Lougheed by-election, saying a cut of 1% to 2% would be all that was required, then he suspended the policies passed at the UCP policy convention because only he “holds the pen”, so now the UCP has no clear policy on eliminating the deficit and balancing the budget.
At the end of the day Notley will be free to pick a “policy” that best suits her campaign. This would be a reasonable political response to Kenney’s attempt to force an election in which he is free to attack the NDP’s policies based on the government’s record but he’s not prepared to offer policies of his own for consideration.
Mark Thompson, CEO of The New York Times Company, said in the face of a constant stream of catchy one-liners, policy doesn’t stand a chance.
Here’s hoping Alberta proves him wrong.