[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]
Dear Dr Steve,
Former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean just won an Alberta provincial byelection in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche. Although he ran as a United Conservative Party candidate, his platform focused on dumping UCP Premier Jason Kenney.
Is this a problem for Kenney?
Is it a problem? Imagine a wedding where the bride says “I do” to the best man. Or an anniversary celebration where your partner books a cozy table for two in a lawyer’s office. Problem, do you think?
The March 16 Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by election may one day be cited as evidence that the Ides of March are not strictly a one-day event. At any rate a man named Kenney ought to have enjoyed St. Patrick’s Day more than he probably did.
Poor Jason ought to be raising a celebratory Guinness or two this week. I may even try to do so. After all, his party’s candidate won. The NDP, leading in the polls and supposedly a shoo-in to form the next government, was beaten handily. That’s good news for the UCP. Unfortunately for the premier the election suggests that what’s good for the UCP is no longer necessarily good for Jason Kenney.
It’s not so much the byelection result itself that bodes ill for Kenney. Jean is a hometown candidate in Fort McMurray, a reliably conservative region, so the victory was not unexpected. It’s the UCP’s nomination of Jean to begin with that ought to produce a few beads of sweat on Alberta’s First Brow. In 2017 Jean ran against Kenney for the leadership of the newly-created UCP and resigned his seat not long after losing the race. This time he has been upfront about his belief that Kenney should be a party leader, but that did not prevent him from capturing the UCP nomination. Kenney is like a king who yells “Seize him!” only to have the palace guard respond, “Seize him? Bit harsh, don’t you think? Can we buy him a drink instead? He seems like a nice fellow.”
If this is trouble for Kenney it’s a bit awkward for Jean as well. Back in 2015 Jean took over leadership of the Wildrose Party after former leader Danielle Smith led 17 breakaway Wildrose MPs over to the Conservatives. At the timeJean declared that the party was his family and said, “I don’t believe in stabbing your family in the back.”
Oops. Well, people change. And every family has that one really annoying uncle, right? Frankly, a complete prohibition on stabbing family members seems a little inflexible.
The UCP leadership review is set for April 9. Kenney will surely have some cards to play. In fact if the brief and eventful history of the party holds true this will be an occasion worthy of a company picnic with the Medicis and Borgias.
True to Alberta’s resource-based economy, Kenney too has proven to be highly, shall we say, resourceful. His 2017 victory over Jean for the party leadership raised more questions than a six-year-old at a planetarium. Allegations of fraud were reported on by the CBC and resulted in an ongoing investigation by the RCMP.
Never mind masks—mandated protection for the April 9 conference should include Kevlar vests.
Kenney is not the only leader who is on tenterhooks awaiting the results of the UCP leadership review. Rachel Notley too could have caused to be nervous. Until recently she and the NDP have had solid leads in provincial polls. But a new poll reported by the Toronto Star shows the UCP making a solid comeback. Notley maintains a comfortable lead over Kenney in personal approval. But would that lead hold up against a new UCP leader?
The Kenney campaign was accused of casting fraudulent votes in 2017. But if Notley somehow casts a vote for Kenney next month, it will probably be legit. She has a vested interest in keeping the premier around until next year’s provincial election. As for the UCP, they may well decide that they are Kim Kardashian to Kenney’s Kanye West. Breakups can be messy but sometimes you’ve just got to make the move.
Dr. Steve has been at the advice game for quite a spell. Long, long ago Dr. Steve advised Macbeth that everything would be cool until Birnam Wood came to Dunsinane. His expert assessment for Kenney now? Trees on the horizon premiere.
The Canadian News
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