Have you noticed how corrupt and mediocre our government has become?
Yesterday we learned that Elections Alberta is investigating the bulk buying of UCP memberships—4,000 new memberships were purchased by six credit cards sometime before March 19—this was roughly two weeks before Bill 81, The Elections Statutes Amendment Act (2021) No 2, came into effect, so it appears this bulk buying was illegal.
Justice Minister Madu (as he then was) touted Bill 81 as a way to remove big bucks, domestic and foreign, from Alberta politics and to close the Alberta Federation of Labour “loophole” which supposedly allowed the AFL to funnel piles of money to the NDP.
What Madu didn’t mention was the tiny little change on page 123 that allowed a person to buy memberships for others without their knowledge or consent.
This is significant because bulk buying of memberships was one of the many allegations of wrongdoing that landed Kenney’s 2017 leadership campaign in hot water. One individual told the Election Commissioner that they’d spent as much as $6000 buying 1200 UCP memberships on behalf of others so they could vote for Kenney as the leader of the UCP.
Never mind, Bill 81 rectified the illegality problem with an amendment that allows someone to buy a party membership for someone else without their knowledge or consent. The impact of this change is twofold:
- Those with deep pockets can stack nomination meetings in favour of the preferred candidate.
- Those who have the means to do so can circumvent campaign financing rules. If you sell 400 memberships and not one of those 400 people show up at a nomination meeting, the money you’ve spent on their memberships is not returned, it stays in the party’s coffers.
Bill 81 was so flawed that the government filibustered its own caucus, then closed debate to avoid addressing amendments proposed by its own MLAs. In the end three UCP MLAs, two former UCP MLAS, and the NDP, opposed it.
Bill 81 was passed just before Christmas but didn’t go into effect until Mar 31. This was two weeks too late for the person(s) who bought 4000 UCP memberships in anticipation of Kenney’s upcoming leadership review, but just in time to kick off yet another investigation into Kenney’s leadership review irregularities.
Which leads us to the leadership review.
It’s true that a pollical party can set its own rules, but the whack-a-mole circumstances surrounding Kenney’s leadership review leave a lot to be desired.
Last year Kenney repeatedly ignored calls from his own MLAs to hold an early leadership review. The United Conservative Party executive ignored a formal request by 22 UCP presidents to hold an early leadership review. Eventually the executive acquiesced but insisted on an in-person vote on April 9 in Red Deer. When 15,000 people registered for the event, the executive changed its mind. They decided to hold a province-wide mail-in ballot, this decision was made after the deadline for buying memberships had passed.
To say that the entire leadership review process was a gong show would be an understatement.
But one thing is crystal clear. Kenney will declare victory if he manages to scrape by with a bare majority because, as he says, that’s all it takes to win in a democracy.
True, but we’re not talking about a leadership race where there’s a winner and a bunch of losers, we’re talking about a performance review, where the party members get a chance to grade the performance of the party leader.
Unlike past PC leaders who said they’d step down if they got less than 70% support, Kenney is adamant that the party should be satisfied with his leadership if he is rated at a hair above 50%.
Newsflash: 50% plus one is not a ringing endorsement. It’s a sign of mediocrity. If this were a score at an Alberta university it would be a very low D.*
What’s really interesting here is that Kenney has convinced UCP members that a low D is good enough and that a mediocre leader deserves to stay on even if almost half of people who voted think he’s unfit for the job.
The leadership review results will be released on May 18. If Kenney gets a tremendous approval rating many will question the integrity of the process given what happened in 2017, what is now permitted under Bill 81, and the flaws in the leadership review process itself.
If Kenney gets a low approval rating but still clings to power, Alberta will be stuck with a mediocre premier who is poorly equipped to grapple with the tumultuous times ahead.
Surely even Kenney’s supporters will figure out this is a lose/lose for Alberta.
*Under the Alberta universities grading system Stelmach and Redford would have scored B+.