Not everyone in Alberta’s prime minister’s party wants him to leave, but believing that he will stay in the lead and win other elections requires magical thinking.
People were quick to draw comparisons when now-former Conservative senator Denise Batters publicly declared her petition to depose Erin O’Toole as party leader. It’s open dissent in the ranks, just like the United Conservative Party riots plaguing Jason Kenney! If you can’t see me waving my hands in disagreement from Calgary, Rest of Canada, let me dismiss this easy comparison for now. On the one hand, the infighting Kenney faces is much deeper, broader, and has dragged on for nearly a year (almost as long as his government team followed the NDP in Alberta polls).
The biggest difference, however, is that O’Toole has lieutenants jumping next to him. Melissa Lantsman “hard no. “Michelle Rempel Garner says” Liberals are popping champagne. “Bob Zimmer:” in unnecessary distraction. “In his many months of turmoil, Kenney has had very few cheerleaders, although the rural backbencher who called him “The leader that God raised for these times” now has business cards that call him “Minister”.
So when United Conservatives holds its annual convention this weekend at a casino hotel in Tsuu T’ina Nation, the new statements will not come from Kenney’s naysayers, such as the 20-some associations of voters that demanded a fast track leadership review, or the last caucus member in air publicly grievances. Like the mating call of a strutting sage grouse, rare sounds will be heard in this Alberta habitat: calls in defense of Jason Kenney. The twitter of a minister; the raven of a lobbyist; a screech from a campus enthusiast; a pamphlet … cuckoo?
How deep these trills will be, or how ritualistic they will sound, are open questions. If there are true Kenney loyalists, after so many disastrously managed COVID waves and a load of other problems, now is certainly the time to speak up. We will hear from the many UCPers who want Kenney to step down as leader, soon; perhaps new voices from the caucus will join that chorus, giving the party and the public a more realistic picture of whether that crowd is omnipresent or, as the prime minister insists, just a disillusioned minority.
More important, however, will be those in the middle of the Conservatives United base, those who believed in Kenney when he descended from federal Parliament to oust Rachel Notley’s NDP, but found him disappointing as prime minister. These members are either pragmatically silent about wanting him to leave, or eagerly waiting for him to change his ways and become the leader they thought he would be.
Jack Redekop is in that camp, something to his surprise. He had been a staunch Kenneyist before; for a time, he was president of the Kenney Federal Conservative Equestrian Association in Calgary, and was one of the early sponsors of his candidacy for provincial leadership. This week, Redekop was one of 22 horseback chairmen of the PCU who publicly demanded that the leadership review now scheduled for next April, a date already pushed forward once due to internal pressure, take place no later than March. The presidents on horseback also want the vote to be a grassroots referendum of all members, not simply an AGM vote among delegates traveling to an Edmonton hotel and paying convention fees. Those 22 constituencies equate to a quarter of Alberta’s districts, the threshold that requires your wishes to be met, under the rules written when Kenney helped create the Conservatives United in 2017. Now that this grassroots-friendly rule is not So friendly with the leader, a member of the party staff will try during the convention to raise that threshold. For Redekop, that’s the top-down kind of crap that got Kenney into this trouble. “They fuck with this and the party is dead,” says Redekop. Maclean’s In an interview.
But Redekop doesn’t want others to call him a dissident. Some of the constituency leaders surely want Kenney’s head, many of them rural opponents of the COVID restrictions and the vaccine passport system that Alberta eventually imposed. But Redekop is among those who still believe that Kenney can regain the confidence of Albertans and even victory in the 2023 election. He can, that is, if he shows himself at this convention as sorry for failing to meet his “guarantee. grassroots ”for his followers, and seeks to reform his approach to governing, with more consultation and listening to Conservatives Unidos and Albertans. “How do you develop a team and a caucus that makes a 180 turnaround in any of your departments? [that] becomes fully consultative before they introduce the legislation? “He says.” You have to surround yourself with a group, ministers and caucuses that are totally receptive to listening to Albertans and what they are saying. Jason has to give a very specific direction, and some of those ministers probably need to be changed. “.
That’s a great question, especially from a prime minister who tends to stubbornly trust the correctness of his decisions. He changed his staff, his cabinet, and the way he has run Alberta for the past two and a half years. However, Redekop thinks it’s simpler than it sounds, as long as Kenney remembers and takes seriously the popular rhetoric with which he courted so many Alberta conservatives in the first place.
This hope for a radically reimagined Jason Kenney points to one of the prime minister’s most catastrophic problems in his five years of foraying into Alberta’s confusing world of politics. Got United Conservatives involved in a ton of magical thinking. He got his base to believe, among other things, that a dubious referendum on a dubious issue, the equalization, would somehow bring Ottawa’s liberals to their knees and restore federalism in Alberta’s favor. That an investigation into foreign funding of environmental groups and a well-funded energy war room would humiliate rookies and give the petroprovince an advantage in the Climate Wars. That by relying heavily on personal responsibility and libertarianism, Alberta could weather the COVID storm and accelerate the economic recovery. And that this expert Ottawa operator under Stephen Harper really wanted to know what Duane and Jane in Two Hills believed should be codified in the legislation, even if that blue pickup truck he cruised the province in was an obvious prairie disguise.
It’s all gone: his anti-Ottawa drive, his “fight against” antics over the oil patch, his pandemic approach, and, in what may ultimately be the fatal blow, his proper care and feeding of the bases. Now, even as Kenney approaches his political deathbed, there are those who believe that he can magically become the leader he claimed to be.
Kenney’s leadership will likely survive this weekend’s convention. There is no measure that can bring him down or trigger an immediate review, and his team will undoubtedly plan to gain the upper hand over those nosy districts. People will say bad things about Kenney; others will say nice things. But it’s hard to see how he comes out stronger from all of this.