Jason Kenney recently continued the time-honoured Conservative tradition of failing to realize a recording device is running. A secret recording of him calling his political opponents in the United Conservative Party “lunatics” — and bemoaning the influx of bigots, religious extremists and homophobes into the UCP ranks — was leaked to the press.

When pressed for comment by reporters, he refused to apologize, saying he’s opposed to these voices gaining traction in a mainstream Conservative party.

Kenney’s comments can be taken one of two ways. The first is that he’s being completely facetious, doing little except trying to appeal to the Red Tories who have long since fled the UCP in order to shore up support for his upcoming leadership review. Kenney is, after all, the same person who bragged about denying LGBTQA+ people the right to something as basic as having their family present during their final moments during the AIDs epidemic of the 1980s.

People are capable of changing, but given how unwilling he is to acknowledge Canada’s homophobic (to say nothing of bisexual and transphobic) history in the K-12 draft curriculum, and his insistence that the old curriculum was just “socialist propaganda” being smuggled in the back door, I wouldn’t count on his views being any different than before.

The second — and more terrifying — interpretation is that Kenney is being completely serious, and the new wave of extremists in the party is too extreme even for him.

I’d say that evidence points strongly to the second interpretation. Kenney and his cabinet have spewed corrosive rhetoric and attacked opponents for extremely petty reasons. They’ve also bungled the pandemic response and have consistently put politics ahead of science. But Kenney has yet to completely lose the plot and declare that COVID-19 is fake; many of the people who want him gone, however, have done exactly that.

As another piece of evidence, the man who might very well replace Kenney as the leader of the UCP, Brian Jean, has been trafficking in far-right dog whistles like “The Great Reset” as his leadership campaign gains momentum.

As much as Kenney’s attempts to persecute environmentalists smacks of protectionism and xenophobia, he’s yet to outright suggest that a cabal of “globalists” is working to undermine the prosperity and sovereignty of the “average” Canadian.

What this means is that any Albertan who’s opposed to Kenney for left-leaning reasons can’t simply sit back and hope the UCP eats itself. It’s possible that might happen, but it’s equally possible that Conservatives who are dissatisfied with Kenney might assume a new face represents a fresh start for Alberta politics and come out swinging for Jean.

As Alberta's United Conservative Party members begin receiving ballots on @jkenney's leadership tomorrow, the former Wild Rose leader vying for his job has been trafficking in far-right dog whistles like “The Great Reset”, writes @SadKemle. #abpoli

It’s also important to be realistic and realize that a great many Albertans still think the New Democratic Party is full of radical socialists, even though the NDP, like nearly all social democratic parties around the world, barely even qualifies as centre-left anymore. Relying on the NDP to win an election simply because they’re not the UCP isn’t a viable strategy.

Left-leaning Albertans, then, need to become well acquainted with grassroots organizing. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen nurses, doctors, teachers, students, EMTs and other unionized employees stand up, speak out and push back against misinformation, political attacks, and even threats to their own safety.

Supporting an open and tolerant Alberta means supporting them, not just the NDP, and speaking out yourself when you see reactionary nonsense rear its ugly head.

At the very least, this sort of grassroots organizing will bring people to the polls. The NDP is far from perfect, but the difference between another Rachel Notley premiership and someone like Jean holding the reins is like choosing between a bad stomach flu and being consumed by the alien from The Thing.

But a grassroots movement is also a way to fundamentally shift the balance of political power in this province. Alberta is far more socially progressive than many people give it credit for, and we aren’t as in love with the oil industry as right-wing political campaigns make it seem. That these beliefs don’t translate into a stampede away from the UCP suggests to me that Albertans think about parties first and policies second.

The only way past that mindset is to start having more and more political discussions happen outside the context of political parties. Drill down into the nitty-gritty of values and actual political preferences, rather than framing every political debate as “the UCP supports this and the NDP supports that.”

As far as political organizing goes, Alberta has a reputation for being awfully quiet. With a new wave of extremists set to take over the ruling political party, though, there’s no time like the present to start getting loud.

Andrew Kemle is a master's student in political science at the University of Calgary, specializing in political theory and political economy.

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I live in Alberta as well and agree that Kenney staying would be better than the low-information lemming conservatives all getting excited about yet another fresh, new start with the lake of fire guy. AND that the "reset" crowd generally is definitely worse, but in the appalling context of parsing genuine insanity, how on earth do you compare Rachel Notley to "a bad stomach flu?" Are you possibly afflicted with the misogyny virus that thrives here more any other province?
And in the light of the reality and the stark contrasts before us, how can you place voting in the context of just another form of personal expression? Everyone needs to pitch in and push for the NDP, period. Anything else is just more insanity.

I can only guess that the author feels that the Alberta NDP are too pro Big oil for their taste. Personally, I would describe the choice between the NDP and the end UCP at this point in time as being the choice between sanity and insanity. But that's just me.

Hear, hear! I too question the potential for a misogynistic knee-jerk with that type of descriptor. I was surprised ... and expect Andrew to address.

As far as environmentalists, climate activists, and Albertans who care about their grandchildren are concerned, Andrew Kemle's comparison of Rachel Notley and stomach flu seems a tad unfair on stomach flu.

Notley threw billions of tax dollars in subsidies at the O&G industry. And threw environmentalists under the bus. Notley's NDP relentlessly attacked climate activists and pipeline opponents.
Trudeau and Notley moved the ball on the Trans Mountain pipeline down to the ten-yard line. Their signal achievement was to "push country-wide support for pipelines from 40 per cent to 70 per cent." Something Harper, Scheer, and Kenney could never dream of.

The federal Liberals and provincial NDP parties (AB and B.C.) have proven far more effective than the Conservatives in delivering on Big Oil's and Corporate Canada's agenda. Notley & Co. have persuaded many progressives that we can both act on climate and double down on fossil fuels. Have our cake and eat it too.
Trudeau and Notley did something else Harper and Kenney could never do: lead progressives over the climate cliff. Many of their acolytes now embrace a form of climate change denialism.

On pipelines and oilsands expansion, Notley and Kenney are on the same page.
With her pipeline hysteria, Notley led progressives astray to support oilsands and pipelines, downplay the science, and ignore IPCC warnings. Something Jason Kenney cannot do.
Disastrously, Notley led a sizable contingent of progressives to support Big Oil's priorities: low royalties, new pipelines, and a "climate plan" that sabotages Canada's climate efforts. None of these notions carried any sway among progressives before 2015.

When Kenney says no to a shift away from fossil fuels, the progressive option is still ON the table.
When Notley says no, she takes the progressive option OFF the table.
When Kenney denies the science, progressives reject his arguments and head in the opposite direction.
When Notley denies the science, progressives accept her arguments and enable her climate sabotage.

Now we have zero oil industry critics in the AB Legislature. Banished to opposition benches, the shrivelled NDP caucus can say nothing about oilsands expansion, oil & gas pollution, and climate inaction — because they shilled for Big Oil in office.

We no longer have a mainstream party that champions science.
We no longer have a progressive party in the AB NDP.
Notley's NDP took away our last hope for real action on climate.

I think it's somewhat, if not misogynist, certainly antifeminist, to want to claim that if a political party is led by a woman it must suddenly be assumed to be perfect and above scrutiny--that any policy differences I might have had with a woman leader, I must pretend do not exist although I wouldn't if she were a man.

I have never given uncritical support to any political party or party leader, I think doing so is a fundamentally terrible idea. Park your brains and what's right at the door and just follow is always the wrong thing to do. It's also deeply problematic if you want a political party to improve, to fail to point out where they could improve.

But doing all that really bad stuff so that you can treat women like fragile vessels that need extra-special treatment, who don't have to stand for anything because the mere fact of their gender is all the politics they need to have, strikes me as even worse.

Beautiful! "Supporting an open and tolerant Alberta means supporting them, not just the NDP, and speaking out yourself when you see reactionary nonsense rear its ugly head." A working democracy takes work; get over it and get to work!

The Alberta NDP—and “nearly all social democratic parties around the world (!)— barely qualifies as centre-left anymore?

Is that really true, or do I detect a smidgen of radical-left resentment that the “Workers’ Party” has broadened its appeal to voters a bit closer to the centre of ‘centre-left’? Last time we saw that ugly reaction was when Mulcair failed to become the first NDP Prime Minister back in 2015, thence charged —unfairly, I think, by dashed expectations—with “dragging the party to the right,” as if a capital sin. While presenting a balanced-budget platform hardly qualifies as “right-wing”, petulant Dippers summarily dumped the Opposition leader who mopped the Commons floor with governing HarperCons for four delicious years, doing the heavy lifting which ultimately defeated the unloved neo-rightist regime, put the NDP at the top of popularity polls for the first time ever (and since), won the second-highest number of seats in party history and retained a substantial number of Quebec seats where, just two mandates before, la Belle Province was a perennial Dipper desert. Punishing Mulcair was unfair, thankless, pettish and as reactionary as any peevish conservative resentment we’ve even seen. In any case, the NDP has been reduced to a single seat in Quebec and only 25 seats in all of Canada, post-Mulcair—right back to the party’s traditional position where, apparently, its ideologues want it to stay.

Mulcair put trite ideological analysis, one of the Dippers’ consistent, groaner calling cards, aside in a rare circumstance when the NDP had a reasonable shot at winning federal government: it would have been irresponsible for any leader of any party not to squelch idealism for practicality when such an opportunity presented. His subsequent scapegoating wasn’t founded on any high principle —balanced budgets aren’t intrinsically partisan, it’s how they are achieved which differentiates parties on the left-right spectrum, and Mulcair’s approach was progressive enough to qualify as ‘left-wing’—modest tax increases for the wealthiest, for example. Rather, it was high ideological dudgeon from the extreme left of the party which successfully prosecuted Mulcair’s ouster, puritanically purging any leader who dares even face toward the centre, no matter how far away in ‘rightward’ direction it is, let alone approach it by any distance whatsoever —a misguided absolutism which, ironically, is typically conservative. Dipper ideologues would do better to recognize that the partisan spectrum is simply a figurative symbol and a scale of practically no precision at all. Indeed, the silly metric by which Mulcair was fired would rather tar his persecutors as ‘rightists’—if their blatant conservatism be defined they way they do it.

Is the “grassroots organizing” the author recommends to Albertans (and, I guess, social democratic movements around the world) intended to “drag the NDP back from the right,” back to its safe, static redoubt of marginal relevance where it awaits a passing opportunity to which it can attach like a patient but hungry tick? I don’t think so, there’s lots of good wisdom in encouraging ordinary citizens to get more involved with politics, particularly that the electorate hold vastly more in common than in contention, and that citizens can cooperate to arrive at policy compromises and ways to get them done politically without constant ginning of uncivil cultural war.

I think most Albertans have already started rejecting partisan rote. Indeed, they rejected the long-running PCP in 2015—which itself began, in 1971, by comparing more flexible and fresh to a calcified Socred regime but, after 44 years, had itself become as calcified and hubristically presumptuous. Further, many, if not most Albertans are getting the hang of not being nearly as absolutely partisan as the UCP demands they should be—that being one of the main reasons the UCP is now so unpopular. Obviously many erstwhile conservatives voted NDP in 2015 and, although there were a variety of reasons for doing so, the fact that the NDP retained the most substantial loyal opposition Alberta has seen for a long, long while when it was defeated, four years later, and the NDP’s much superior popularity (if an election were held today, the NDP would certainly win), both suggest erstwhile conservative voters have either converted to socialism (conservatism’s communitarian cousin), Red Tories can now tolerate Notley's more centre-left NDP, or—probably the most influential factor—many Albertans recognize the need to scrape the UCP’s Soldiers of Odium off their boots.

In other words, plenty of right-leaning Albertans (like farmers) who sympathize with the employer side of the relationship with employees accept the legitimacy of this balanced economic arrangement, just as many left-leaning voters understand that unions need employers to employ their members. Only demagogues recommend the destruction of either side, and only the most chauvinist dullards get so demagonged.

Finally, one of the most outstanding commonalities in Alberta’s partisan politics, IMHO, is the fact that neither of the “rivals” or “complementary opposites” or “cooperating compromisers” has adopted a robustly green platform. Indeed, the UCP’s cantankerous moribundity rather demonizes any environmentalism whatsoever, betraying that the party which was born old is panicking in its desperate throes while, on the other hand, the NDP has been roundly condemned by Greens who, in their own desperation, try to shoehorn themselves into the game. It’s fair strange that in a province regularly perceived as an environmental bad boy, the Greens have been so perennially frustrated at the polls.

That might be a Green thing: Greens have consistently registered single- or low double-digit support across the country. But it might be a Prairie thing: Greens have scored significant gains in provinces on East and West Coasts where provincial Greens have formed loyal opposition (PEI) or held the balance of power in a minority parliament (in BC and nearly so in NB). Even Ontario elected a Green MPP—right in the heart of normally conservative farm country in the southwest, no less. (Quebec has a Green Party which, like its Alberta sister province, has never won a seat in the provincial assembly. But Québec solidaire, a sovereigntist left-wing party with a strong environmental platform has ten MNAs —out of 125, total.)

The proliferation of parties in Alberta over the past decade rather illustrates tumult on the right end of the spectrum, most of these parties consisting of reactionary firebrands who managed to get booted from Alberta’s most far-right parties, the defunct Wildrose and current UC parties. (The same phenomenon has manifest at the federal level.) Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning styled these sentiments as “grassroots” but I suspect the author here means something quite different than the hide-bound rural SoCons whom Manning proselytized. Nevertheless, whatever the reason the NDP won its upset victory, the political intelligence quotient has continued to develop since—and probably because of the partisan convulsion of the UCP which conspicuously aped tRumpublicanism —now just slightly more discredited than the UCP, the CPC, the PPC and the truckers’ UWR and “freedom” convoys which the CPC’s PP and the PPC’s MB endorsed.

When I noticed Alberta farmers starting to grumble about the petroleum industry (Weibo Ludwig, jailed for terrorist bombing of sour gas installations, was a farmer of the farthest religious right one can get), I was puzzled that a grassroots environmental movement hadn’t been inspired. Jessica Ernst’s lawsuit seeking remedy for her rural water well which appeared to have been ruined by gas fracking nearby was quite inspiring, even though it eventually ran out of funds to take it to the SCoC. Instead, Danielle Smith and Jason Kenney turned those farmers into radicals and anti-vaxxers.

When I see some Green MLAs in Alberta, I’ll be convinced grassroots have grown into fodder responsible and contributory socialist and conservatives may occasionally graze upon.

Just a few comments:

If you need to sacrifice your principles and policies to gain power, what have you gained?
If you have to act like the other guy — like the government you just replaced — what was the point?

What progressive Albertans voted for in 2015 was not what the NDP delivered.
Upon her election victory in 2015 (made possible only because the right was fractured), Notley surrendered to Big Oil on Day One; reneged on key campaign promises like a fair share on royalties; campaigned against bitumen export pipelines and afterwards promoted them to business elites; and betrayed future generations on climate.

The AB NDP 2015 election platform contained a single reference to pipelines:
"[The PCs] squandered Alberta's natural resource wealth, failed to achieve greater value-added processing in Alberta, and have focused only on more export pipelines for unprocessed bitumen – sending our jobs to Texas."
The AB NDP reversed its position. Only now the plan is to export refinery jobs to Asia.
The NDP received a mandate from Albertans to act on climate change. Climate leadership was in the NDP 2015 election platform. No support for bitumen export pipelines in that document. Just the opposite.

In their zeal for the pipeline queen, not a few progressives embraced Big Oil's agenda.
Before the 2019 election, a list of the NDP's stellar achievements made the rounds on Facebook:
#29: "The climate leadership plan was credited with the approval of two pipelines."
NDP supporters cheerfully ignore the contradiction between boosting emissions and climate action. No climate scientist supported the NDP's emissions-boosting climate change plan.

Some other stellar achievements under Notley's NDP:
No comprehensive independent healthy study on rare cancers in Fort Chipewyan downstream of the oilsands.
No rescue for AB caribou.

Climate leadership was in the NDP's 2015 campaign platform. Support for new pipelines was not. Climate leadership was what this Albertan voted for.
A temporary oilsands emissions cap at 43% ABOVE current (grossly underreported) levels plus exemptions does not reduce emissions.
The best (or only) measure of a climate plan is whether it reduces emissions. By that measure, Notley's plan fails.

Notley campaigned on a fairer return to Albertans in ROYALTIES "to ensure full and fair value for Albertans". Another promise broken.
This year, the O&G industry is reporting record profits. When Notley left office in 2019, Alberta's paltry Heritage Trust Fund stood even lower than it was in 2015.

Alberta voters came out in even greater numbers in 2019. The NDP lost no ground in popular vote in 2019, but did not gain any either.
All those extra votes and more went to parties to the right of the NDP. And there those voters would have stayed but for the UCP's implosion over Kenney's management of COVID-19.

No one did more to fuel pipeline hysteria in this province than Notley. The same hysteria that swept the NDP away in the 2019 election. The NDP lost more than half its seats. All of its rural seats. Outside Fortress Edmonton, Notley held onto a mere handful.
Notley shifted away from her long-time progressive supporters towards her legions of regressive neoliberal non-supporters, knowing NDP supporters had nowhere else to go.
But pipeline supporters would not vote NDP even if Notley built a billion pipelines. Conservatives who want neoliberal oil industry flacks and flunkies in power will vote for the real thing.
Pandering to fossil fuel dinosaurs just fed the right-wing frenzy. Stoking Albertans' perennial resentment over pipelines and everything else under the sun only helped the UCP. Most pipeline boosters would not vote NDP if Notley built a billion pipelines.

This Albertan is not looking forward to the Pipeline Queen's second coming.