Always bet on chaos. If there’s one thing I’ve learned after spending more than a decade in Alberta, it’s that politics here inevitably gravitates towards the most dramatic outcome. The long-running UCP leadership review, one that saw Jason Kenney receive just 51.4 per cent support from the 34,000-plus ballots cast, is just the latest data point backing that theory. His surprise resignation, meanwhile, is only the most recent example of why Alberta punches so far above its weight when it comes to political drama in Canada.
Despite moving the location of the vote, changing the rules around it, and otherwise tilting the table in his own direction wherever possible, Kenney could barely win a plurality of the votes — and didn’t even match the 55 per cent showing that ultimately forced Ralph Klein to step down in 2006. And so, in a decision that clearly surprised the party faithful assembled to hear the results, he announced he too would step down.
When it comes to the future of his United Conservative Party, the chaos has only just begun. In the coming days it will announce a leadership race, one that Brian Jean and Danielle Smith have already said they’ll contest and which could attract a host of current cabinet ministers and other UCP members. It might even include Kenney himself, who could take a page out of Joe Clark’s book in 1983 and run for the role he just vacated. At this point, it wouldn’t be surprising to see someone like Michelle Rempel-Garner or Rona Ambrose step back into the fray.
Regardless of who throws their hat into the proverbial ring, it’s clear whatever hope Kenney and his dwindling coterie of loyalists had for a clean victory and quick pivot back to fighting the NDP is long gone. Instead, there will be a brawl to define the party he helped create, and a very real risk that it could fracture back into the two coalitions — one urban and more progressive, the other rural and more populist — that he stitched together. And while the prospect of an NDP government served as a powerful adhesive in the past, it’s not clear that it will still work after the in-fighting and internal strife of the last few years. If the NDP is smart, they’ll stay quiet and let that process play itself out.
Former Harper adviser Sean Speer wrote an eulogy for Kenney’s Alberta in a piece for The Hub, one that suggested the people who dumped him have done more harm to their own interests than good. “These people aren’t interested in incremental policy reforms. They’re looking for a fight. They want to toss a hand grenade into the cathedral of our mainstream institutions.”
Maybe they learned that from Kenney, a politician who prided himself on his willingness to attack his enemies near and far — and who lobbed plenty of his own grenades during his time as Premier. When you build your entire government’s identity around its desire to “fight back”, you shouldn’t be surprised when that energy gets turned against you. In describing the voters that cast their ballots against Kenney, Speer wrote that “I see a scared and angry minority that doesn’t define itself based on what’s good and right but rather by a sense of embattlement and opposition.” Where, exactly, does he think they learned that from?
Kenney’s mismanagement of the pandemic, and the way in which he lurched repeatedly from delusional optimism (remember the “Best Summer Ever”?) to grim pragmatism, clearly sparked the fire within his own ranks that ultimately burned his leadership to the ground. But so too did his apparent willingness to treat Albertans as subjects rather than people. As Speer wrote in an earlier Postmedia piece that made the case for keeping Kenney around, “the Kenney government has effectively turned Alberta into Canada’s conservative policy laboratory and in so doing is expanding the country’s other centre-right governments’ sense of what is possible.”
What people are reading
But maybe Albertans aren’t as enthusiastic about the idea of being treated like ideological lab rats as policy wonks in central Canada (or “Laurentian elites,” as Kenney might call them) seem to be. Maybe they simply want their government to steer the ship rather than rebuilding it on the fly. And maybe, after three-plus years of chaos, they will opt for the party that promises a return to calmer waters. As CBC’s Jason Markusoff pointed out on Twitter, Rachel Notley is the only Alberta premier since 2004 to finish her term in office. Jason Kenney’s political legacy in Alberta may now include her getting to start — and finish — a second term as well.
If Albertans liked the idea
If Albertans liked the idea of being treated as "lab rats", they would've stuck to the ever outdated Liberal/Conservative party tug-of-war the entire time. Instead, Alberta truly took a left with a new party in 1921, opted for another new party in 1935, then elected a PC "in-name-only" in 1971 (likely closer to the modern-day Alberta Party) before an actual PC named Ralph Klein came in and almost ended the party's streak in his first term. Alberta finally broke free again from 2015-2019, and things are looking good in 2023 as well.
As for the UCP, the party is pretty much dead. A few potential "wild roses" may shift over to the WIP, with more remorseful former UCP voters returning to the NDP. It is also possible that corporate media will push for the Alberta Liberals, and if they ever had a chance at election, they would be acknowedged as conservatives themselves just like the BC Liberals (though both Liberal parties do tend to push "socially liberal" ideas).
Very good analysis; the
Very good analysis; the "protest party" idea runs deep out here in the hinterlands, upstarts abound who want to "take on" the leader and when that gets old, the party itself; it's starting to look like Lord of the Flies at this point (which, by the way, none of these "convoy" guys would have read, or understood if they had; the quality and calibre of the participants has definitely deteriorated with this "freedumb" contingent to the point that the Q-Anon shaman is the only "true conservative." )
A common thread that probably brought the UCP together at the time and might again was the outrage and contempt for women daring to presume they could be "players" in this game and it's not just the usual juvenile resentment for "mother" being the tiresome wet blanket for the boys' fun; it's active excluding misogyny.
The cheering thing for us reasonable adults, us progressives, is that the chickens have come home to roost so to speak, as Max says in the article, with a braying Boilievre being a serious contender. And fortunately Rachel knows well to stand back and give the UCP enough rope to hang themselves, which they probably will. The drama Max speaks of might more rightly be called "dramedy" i.e. entertainment for all of us but a death knell for the conservatives. It brings to mind the saying that "politics is show business for ugly people," a perfect description of what conservatives have become.
@ Tris, that's an interesting
@ Tris, that's an interesting comparison between delusional semi literate convoy freedom shouters and screamers and 'Lord of the Flies.' I am reminded of Rutger Bregman's 'Humankind' where he determined that there is more evidence for human co-operation and community-building amongst groups in times of genuine crisis than the small civil war portrayed in the book.
He cited the real Lord of the Flies incident in the South Pacific where eight boys in their early teens in an Anglican school on the island of Tonga borrowed a boat and got blown away by a storm to a small, uninhabited island 500 miles from Tonga. They fished and gardened and established a rudimentary governing structure, including peaceful dispute resolution techniques and genuine compassionate 'social assistance' for one boy who fell and broke his leg, causing the other seven to share duties feeding him for several weeks. They built a small peaceful society over almost a year before they were discovered by an Australian fisherman.
The media narrative prefers the fictional, negative Lord of the Flies over the boring real thing. This, of course, helps explain the profitable existence of Fox News and the National Enquirer.
Interesting and thanks for
Interesting and thanks for that more encouraging perspective; I didn't know there was an actual incident that the book was based on.
It reminds me of another argument in defence of socialism that is somehow required at this point (?!), which is that it is how we survived as a species for gods' sake, it's why we're still here, and trying to expunge it is likely to ensure our annihilation, which is why I feel real hatred for conservatives and their ilk (perfect word somehow.)
Mind you, it's a bit early to
Mind you, it's a bit early to count NDP chickens. Fractious or not, leadership races concentrate attention on the party having the leadership race. They tend to get a poll bounce from that. And high oil prices are good for incumbents in Alberta, no matter how incompetent, vicious, and ham-fisted. Notley better be ready to shaft whoever comes out of that contest good and proper.
What did you think of her
What did you think of her view on the Alberta Court of Appeal? Very disappointing on the climate change front I thought, not to mention kind of superfluous in the current political "climate," polarized i.e.
It doesn't matter who leads
It doesn't matter who leads Alberta's party of the right. They will still be beholden to the same oil industry that purchased the previous forms of the party long ago, lock stock and barrel. There will still be a divide between rural, fringe separatists and the urban petroleum business class elite. On oil, the NDP and the UCP are agreeable siblings with powerful parents who dictate policy (royalty levels, environmental regulation ...).
Jason Kenney is just a footnote in Alberta's history. Funny how that happened to a former member of the Laurentian Elite during Harper's Dark Decade, who then became a member of the bombastic Rock Mountain Elite.
Consistency is that Kenney,
Consistency is that Kenney, by whatever combination of factors he failed to win sufficient endorsement from the party he created, probably doesn’t believe he is defeated. But a work-in-progress cannot work forever if it doesn’t progress: in this sense, success—of which he’s had notable ones, from being rewarded chairmanship of the Nation Citizens Coalition to getting elected one of the Commons’ youngest MPs, and on to accepting federal cabinet portfolios before uniting the shattered Alberta right, becoming that party’s leader and winning its maiden campaign—cannot really substitute: Kenney is either a prospective politician, incomplete, or one who never progressed, despite his successes, and now stands, perhaps, incomplete for good. The fact that he is staying on as interim leader and premier attests that he rather sees himself as the former—that is, not yet complete, either by way of provincial or even federal prospects: if the CPC leader, whomever chi is, but especially if it’s Poilievre, will be summarily turfed if chi doesn’t win power—whenever that contest might be, given the current minority situation—and Kenney just might jump out of the bushes to contest that leadership, as many have speculated he has planned all along. But if he’s as consistent as he’s been since dropping out of University , he won’t be much changed, in spite of the many lessons he might have learned along the way. In that sense, at least, he is quite conservative. In other words, he’ll keep faith in himself to overcome this damning assessment: he took a splattered polity, won a landslide victory with a brand new party and was dumped by his own party only three years into his first mandate.
Nobody would ever say Kenney isn’t clever, but he’s used this dubious talent to effectively paper over inconvenient truths, not least that he is a Roman Catholic, raised and schooled, and an overt partisan of social conservatism while the political parties he’s tried to fit into are not actually conservative at all. He earned this wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing trick from his greatest mentor Stephen Harper who, we recall, told his religious-right supporters that if they hung tough and kept their SoCon rhetoric zipped whilst the CPC had minority governments, he could fool the Canadian electorate into giving him a majority and, then, would address their gender and reproductive agendas—only to doublecross them by proclaiming the abortion issue thenceforward closed as soon’s he did win that first (and, so far, last) minority, proving he wasn’t really a fellow SoCon after all but, rather, a globalizing neoliberal.
Thus, while Kenney might have authored some of his current troubles, the fact that he’s a conservative in parties which are conservative in name only can be partly blamed on neo-rightism, too. But thinking, as he was taught, that politics is the art of successful deception inevitably stung him: his UCP members, former adversaries all newly united, fell for his radical libertarian, Soldiers-of-Odium campaign disguise but slowly started to suspect that his Weixteerism was as insincere. Shilly shallying on a growing number of issues like Covid restrictions and the Coutts border blockade by “Freedom Convoys” only amplified this suspicion and many in the UCP, although in mutual disagreement, began to understand that the man is fundamentally conflicted and too clever by half to notice right off the bat. Nobody likes to be made a fool of, and that showed during the half-attended party leadership review where half of the votes wanted him to step down. A notable contrast is Rachel Notley who, whatever one feels about her polices, never played Albertans and always appeared honest —perhaps to a fault.
Like he never heard that loud and clear assessment of his peers—indeed, even noting that, “constitutionally,” he had met the democratic criterion of >50%—he announced he’ll stay on, if not as their favourite, then as interim leader. Like he was trained (and we might as well add, trained by Donald tRump, as well), politics is nothing but the art of successful deception to get what one wants, even if a majority of people do not want it. That comes naturally to SoCons like Kenney, but he was never as good at handling his own suckers as Harper was: where K-Boy was running circles around Covid so fast he was shitting in his own face, and where he threatened and excommunicated critical MLAs or called dissenters “lunatics,” Harper simply aimed his blue gimlets from under the dark brow of his helmet as he glowered over his Viking shield. If there was dissent, it was dealt with as quietly as former ministers John Duncan and Jim Prentice silently stepping down or away. (And only one religious-right anti abortionist was peeved enough at Harper’s broken promise to up and sit as an Independent—who was never heard from again.) Nevertheless, when Harper began to lose his grip on the CPC (it started when he scapegoated his MP and minister of state Helena Guergis as the fallen woman and ended when the scandals of his Senate appointee Mike Duffy, his chief of staff Nigel Wright, and his parliamentary secretary Dean del Mastro backed him over the electoral cliff as he waved goodbye with a niqab). In a sense, all nominal conservatives are conflicted by the disguises they wear in order to dupe rote old Tories into voting for them—Jason Kenney simply appears the most self-righteous and smug. Perhaps that’s the most he can be blamed for in defeat.
Kenney is more to blame for the sorry, irredeemable mess the neo-right movement has become than he is for his own defeat. I rather think Albertans defeated themselves by electing him and, since it’s pretty hard to cop to it, they might react in any number of ways now that it’s pretty much national news and illuminate extra brightly by the concurrent CPC leadership race. My hope is that some UCP supporters will appreciate that the neo-right has a penchant for thinking it can get away with whatever it wants, probably can’t disabuse itself of this attitude, and was receptive to K-Boy because he has some of these qualities personally —and then they’ll twig, swallow hard, and vote for the last party to meet Alberta’s challenges responsibly and for all Albertans.
I recall Kenney being ridiculed —perhaps a bit unfairly—for lecturing MPs about the virtues of saving one’s virginity for the sanctity of marriage. In what many would find humiliating (laughing at Kenney’s virginal pride, displayed for all the world to see on TV, was probably meant to underscore the young MP’s lack of experience, not his sexual mores and proclivities), Kenney instead was resolute and unabashed. I thought: man! This little twerp is tough—if a bit puritanical. I see no evidence that he’s changed that much in all this time—but that rather underscores his hubristic tone-deafness.
Whatever he is and whoever done this to him, he prob’ly ain’t goin nowheres anytime soon, anyhow.
Good writing again Geoffrey,
Good writing again Geoffrey, insightful and vivid. Appreciated. On the "conservative in name only idea" I think Charest can be seen as the last gasp of that particular iteration of conservatism; it's become generational at this point because he, like many other former PC holdouts, is an old guy now (relatively speaking of course, those of us commenting are mostly "mature" types it seems) and this will be it. When conservatives lose the next federal election which they will because they've gone for broke and as climate change closes in along with all its accompaniments, such chicanery and tomfoolery will look as pathetic and dangerous as it ultimately is in the context of how consequential governance truly is, particularly hard-won democratic governance.
Thank you for your kind words
Thank you for your kind words. I agree that Charest is the best leader of a moderate Tory party. The question is, however, whether the party itself is ready to accept him. That’s one of the weird things abut Redoubterism: it presumes only internal recuperation—homemade, as ‘t were—, not salvation by way of some Québécois hero riding in to tell feral men what to do.
We’ll have to wait—as we will for the Alberta shake-out—to see if a professed moderate Ike Charest (that’s the main reason he’s in this race) can do anything with this spiralling wreck. I’m not holding my breath.
Kenny like others before him
Kenny like others before him tried to turn Alberta red, white and blue-it. Conservatives I think do not get Canada we are not a mini me America we are generally a live and let live people we do not carve our political leaders into sides of mountains or minds. To most Canadians our temp leaders are just people doing a job even when the job of conservatives is trying to force fish to wear pants it's only for awhile. It's just a bad fit it is not a political movement so much as a faith based belief system. A solution is to swap Alberta for Minnesota we get the Cohen brothers they get chubby guys on ponies wearing silly hats.
Hahaha, need the laugh emoji
Hahaha, need the laugh emoji on here, but I certainly agree about the role of religion always hiding so powerfully in plain sight pulling strings left, right and centre. Religious doctrine not being "a fit" for governance of any modern democratic society is becoming SUCH glaringly obvious and such historically steeped understatement that finally colllapsing under the weight of its own absurdity seems tantalizingly close. But I know that's unlikely, especially with the almost theocratic States' power and apparent modernity.....but I think it's true about Canadians generally, we have a perspective that can be traced back to our evolution as a country in contrast to the Americans' "revolution."
For me, Kenney's legacy is
For me, Kenney's legacy is the raft of mean spirited and penny pinching policies he succeeded in getting past us....policies that too many Albertans are likely still blissfully unaware of.
Here's just a few of his ideologically driven moves
1. Go to war with doctors, so that rural communities have even less medical support than they had before he rode in in his blue truck, and big hat no cattle.
2. Privatize support workers in our hospitals, so that primarily women, primarily people of colour, could be outsourced and have their salaries, that ranged from 17-20 bucks an hour, further reduced, and their union rights eliminated.
3. Make huge cuts to universities, and in particular, the University of Alberta....which sustained the biggest cuts, likely because it exists in Edmonton and you know how those commies vote.
4. Abandon the good work the NDP had done updating our curriculum (with the help of many working teachers) in favour of an ideologically driven memorization of ancient history alternative........some of it plagerized from American home schooling manuals.
5. Alienate the majority of Alberta teachers by leaving them out of the process....or bringing them in as nameless members of the committee, forced to sign 'non-disclosure' agreements before they earned a seat at the primarily corporate male dominated table.
6. Blow through millions of dollars setting up a War Room to root out foreign environmentalists, then lie about those alien spies still being here after the war room came up with 0 evidence that they existed.
7. Close safe injection sites in favour of privatized cold turkey establishments run by his friends and relatives
8. Several billion dollars blown supporting the Keystone XL, assuming that Trump was going to be re elected
9. Cancelled the Lougheed era coal policy that protected our watersheds, after being in secret meetings with Australian companies months before Albertan's knew anything of his intentions.
We can only hope that most of these gaffs and underhanded give aways of Albertan tax dollars, social infrastructure and environment were his ideas alone. But for me and my family, its the ideology that we need to vote out of existence. Kenny was and is just one particularly bad example of that world view in action.
Climate is the real threat we face; I don't believe there's room in Kenney's ideology for that truth. But he sure knew how to back dark horses, while making the most vulnerable Albertan's pay for it.
Good riddance to him.
That is an excellent
That is an excellent summation of Kenney's toxic policies. Those are all straight out of the Heritage Foundation playbook. Sadly, the people around Doug Ford are working on the exact same things. I wish that Ford's competition had the insight to shine a light on all that. Ford is not the front-runner because he's doing a good job... he's in front because the other two are running last millennia's campaigns. Sigh...