Progressive Conservative leadership campaign rattles uncomfortably toward a seemingly inevitable Jason Kenney victory

Posted on January 27, 2017, 1:50 am
7 mins

PHOTOS: Surprise! I don’t have a unite-the-right plan after all, but I’ll quit if you’ll let me run to lead the new party. Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, presumably, was thinking something along those lines when he made his announcement yesterday (Photo from Wildorse.ca). Below: PC leadership race participants Richard Starke, Stephen Khan and, inevitably, Jason Kenney.

This is how the Tory world ends, not with a bang exactly, but the sound of tears and serial shoes dropping.

If the ascension of former Harper Government cabinet minister Jason Kenney to the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party seemed inevitable to most observers at the start of this week, the remaining doubters should be persuaded in the wake of yesterday’s events.

In short order throughout the day, three shoes dropped in the room upstairs. That leaves only one more to go … at least if there’s really a talking political horse up there.

First, PC leadership candidate Richard Starke, MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster and one of the three men who as of this morning were still challenging Mr. Kenney’s plan to destroy the party as soon as he takes it over by merging it with the Wildrose Opposition, announced he had a plan for a PC-Wildrose coalition.

Then Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin, announced he was willing to step aside as leader of the Opposition on the condition there is a quick contest in which he can seek the leadership of a new and united right-wing opposition party.

Then Tory leadership candidate Stephen Khan, former MLA for St. Albert, announced just before 10 p.m. in a disillusioned sounding Tweet that he was quitting the race. He followed up with an angry and more detailed statement on his campaign website.

That leaves only candidate Byron Nelson, a Calgary lawyer, to provide the final thump we’re now all awaiting.

Calling his scheme a “necessary adjustment” to his campaign, Dr. Starke seemed to be proposing that Tories run in some ridings and Wildrosers in others, with an agreement to form a coalition government.

The plan must have been cobbled together quickly, because the details were sketchy in the news coverage most of us were forced to rely upon. It sounded to me at the time like a graceful way for the gentlemanly veterinarian to step out of the way of the Kenney juggernaut without appearing to have walked away from his doomed party, which not so long ago was Alberta’s governing dynasty.

As for Mr. Jean, he sounded feistier, even if he was hunkered down and using the group email to members of his caucus he’s been relying on for a lot of his announcements lately.

“Let me be clear on this point, I plan to be Alberta’s next premier,” Mr. Jean declared. “If our members approve a unity agreement with the PC party, I am prepared to stand down as leader of the Wildrose and to seek the leadership of our single, principled, conservative party in a race to be conducted this summer.”

Mr. Jean also said that members of the new party “will decide the name for Alberta’s conservative movement.” Not “Wildrose,” presumably.

Well, OK, but since in the past he’s rejected union with the PCs outright, this sounds a lot like a man who is having trouble controlling his own fractious caucus and party membership. Recent rumblings from the ranks have included Wildrose members bitterly complaining that Mr. Jean’s recent Facebook videos were produced without a membership vote and spreading rumours the party was broke.

If this was Mr. Jean’s big promised Unite-the-Right Plan, it is a significant disappointment after all the lead-up.

As for Mr. Khan, he apparently had no compunction about the need to save face and maintain the fiction all is well on the right side of the aisle in Alberta. “When the race is no longer about a vision and plan for our province, it’s time to step down,” he Tweeted.

“I was confident that this race would be one of ideas and hope for Alberta’s future and I expected it to be a well-run and principled campaign,” Mr. Khan elucidated on his campaign website last night. “Instead, it has devolved into vitriol, anger and division. As such, I can no longer participate in this race in good conscience, nor ask my family, volunteers and supporters to do the same on my behalf.”

“We have seen the reputation of the PC Party damaged so badly over the course of this campaign that our credibility may be beyond repair,” Mr. Khan continued. “More concerning, we have seen volunteers, organizers, leadership candidates, members of the Board of Directors, our party president and even some PC caucus members harassed and threatened.

“It is clear that there is no room in this race for competing ideas and we have seen more anger and division in the last three months than in the half-century legacy of this party,” Mr. Khan concluded.

Mr. Khan asked his supporters to vote for Dr. Starke.

I imagine that tonight Mr. Kenney feels as if the universe is unfolding as it should and looks a bit like a cat that ate a canary.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

20 Comments to: Progressive Conservative leadership campaign rattles uncomfortably toward a seemingly inevitable Jason Kenney victory

  1. Ian Hunt

    January 27th, 2017

    The swamp that is (and always has been) conservative politics in Alberta (and everywhere else (come to think of it)

    Reply
  2. Jim

    January 27th, 2017

    The appeal of a career politician with no actual experience in the real world, certainly never started or run one of these free enterprises he talks about, to the so called conservatives is a head scratcher. Kenney has been feeding at the taxpayers trough for most of his adult life. It will be interesting to see if O’leary goes full Trump and starts talking about draining the swamp in Ottawa if swamp dwellers like Kenney will be exposed.

    Reply
    • Val

      January 27th, 2017

      ” career politician with no actual experience in the real world, certainly never started or run one of these free enterprises”

      that’s a very good point. unfortunately this apply not only to conservatives but to center and left as well. for decades the governments of any stripes got rottenly spoiled by muscle flexing in fiscal policies only, without even attempt to make money also by entrepreneurial activity.
      look at our present NDP government arise suspicions – they frankly not know what to do even with rainfall from carbon tax cash, other than promise to supply “free” perks like LED bulbs, rebates and grands for “research” in “green” technology, instead to put it to work and make gains.
      that’s sort of reminds me cheque for 300 or 400 bucks for natural gas from uncle Ralph back in early 2000’s.

      Reply
  3. Maria

    January 27th, 2017

    as we watch the Trump tyranny unfold south of the border, Canadians will hopefully realize that a right wing party lead by Kenney, and little Trump running the federal conservatives is not the way to go.

    Reply
    • Rocky

      January 27th, 2017

      Don’t count on it. Nowadays, conservatives in Canada include a very large number of quislings.

      Reply
  4. David

    January 27th, 2017

    If Mr. Kenney succeeds, I think a lot of credit should be given to his skills as a political organizer. After all, getting delegate support is not as much about press conferences or policy, but going out and signing up and convincing members to support you. It was probably not too difficult with a demoralized and disoriented party like the PC’s with no other obvious leader and I am sure he brought in a number of right wing Conservatives to the party who were more comfortable with his ideology.

    If the PC party chooses him as leader I think they will have opted for what some might view as the quick and easy way back to power. However, I think that might be wrong on a number of fronts. The lack of any consistent principles is part of what got the PC’s into such trouble – one day they were right, next day they were left, then they were right again. It was all so confusing to the voters and also seemed so cynical.

    Perhaps the PC’s think that Alberta wants a more rigidly ideological government, but I don’t think that is the case. They do want a government with some principles and some consistency, but not one blinded by rigid ideology.

    It will be interesting to see how well the marriage of convenience between the opportunists and the ideologues works out if it happens. I think it could be a rocky one.

    Reply
  5. J.E. Molnar

    January 27th, 2017

    As the inept right desperately tries to herd cats in a valiant attempt to get that elusive electoral genie back in the bottle, Brian Jean’s capitulation to Jason Kenney just sent a rocket across the proverbial political bow. Caving to Kenney’s will, likely means Jean’s chances of becoming the next premier of Alberta are akin to: Hello brick, meet wall.

    As George Carlin would likely have remarked, “The pussification of Brian Jean is now complete.”

    Reply
  6. Expat Albertan

    January 27th, 2017

    Threats and harassment, eh? If they’re capable of doing this to their friends, I shudder to think what they’ll do to their enemies (also known as ‘ordinary Albertans’)

    Reply
  7. Brett

    January 28th, 2017

    This is all about them. Absolutely nothing to do about we average Albertans,

    Why on earth would anyone vote for some like Jason Kenney who has never held a job in a ‘ for profit’ business. What on earth does he know about the real business word? Zero. He only knows party politics. Not such a great advantage for Albertans.

    We already had Stelmach, Hancock, Redford, and Prentice. In all of what..eighteen months?

    That is how much the Alberta Conservative Party cares about Albertans.

    Reply
  8. ronmac

    January 28th, 2017

    Lol. In the top pic Brian Jean looks like he’s already at work in his next career: an official greeter at one of our national parks.

    No matter how pure our intentions, we all end up on the federal payroll, either in this life or in the next.

    Reply
    • CovKid

      January 29th, 2017

      That looks more like a fast-food window! Fortunately, his wage will be increasing to $15.00 an hour in January 2017.

      Imagine how happy he’ll look then!

      Reply
      • David Climenhaga

        January 29th, 2017

        It’s the apostrophe-free Tim Hortons in Fort McMurray. Under the circumstances it may be a good idea for Mr. Jean to have career options. DJC

        Reply
        • tom in ontario

          January 29th, 2017

          What was he doing there? Serving up skim milk lattes on “Meet a Celebrity Day?”

          Reply
          • Hana Razga

            January 29th, 2017

            His constituency is Ft. McMurray

  9. Frank

    January 29th, 2017

    How sad it is to see a Brian Jean and Jason Kenney act like 2 lemmings in a car that going to go over a cliff and crash below in the ravine because both are arguing about who should be the leader of a united conservative party in Alberta.

    From my perspective neither should be. Both are political has been’s transplanted from Ottawa back into Alberta. Brian Jean knows that the Wildrose Party is just a rural party dressed up as Social Credit in panty hose and that they cannot grow into the urban and suburban areas of the province as that is where political power now is. Even small regional cities like Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, and Grande Prairie reject the Wildrose brand

    As for Jason Kenney, the loss of political power in Ottawa has affected him so much that he presents himself as the saviour of the conservative movement in Alberta and a future Premier. His ego is about the same size as his waistline and when he presents his ideas public it makes an individual feel nauseated that one wants to make a run for the washroom and vomit.

    However, there is a bigger concern that lies ahead if both of these men fall on their self righteous swords and perish. There is an MLA from the South Central part of the province who is only to calculating to take advantage of both of their failures to fulfill his own self entitled destiny as a future Premier of Alberta. This man to me is treachery with a smile on his face and that he would stab you in the front and while he is twisting the knife and you are starting to gush blood out your mouth, he will say to you with a straight face that he is doing you a favour by ending your life to advance his. We should be wary of men like this.

    Reply
  10. Farmer B

    January 29th, 2017

    So let me get this straight, Brian Jean, Jason Kenney and Richard Starke all agree in the need for co-operation to varying degrees between the 2 right of center parties in Alberta and yet the conservative movement is in disarray? I would say that the majority of Albertan’s and the majority of those running for leadership roles of the right of center are now in agreement. To me Brian Jean’s proposal makes the most sense. As for the assertion of the ineptness the right, we have a Premier in Alberta and a Prime Minister in Ottawa imposing a carbon tax that was not mentioned during their election campaigns and was not voted on by the electorate. Remember what happened to the last Prime Minister that introduced a significant tax change(GST) without electorate approval?

    Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      January 29th, 2017

      Re: GST….fair enough, but has it since been repealed, by Liberals or Conservatives? You might have to get used to the carbon tax, either at the provincial or federal level.

      Reply
  11. jerrymacgp

    January 29th, 2017

    A new, “united right” paleo-conservative party led by Jason Kenney or even Brian Jean (who despite his fundamental decency is manifestly unable to rein in his more extreme party activists) will not be much of an electoral threat to the moderate centrist Notley-led Alberta NDP, despite what so many pundits are saying. It will be too extremist, too much about putting the State back in Albertans’ bedrooms and discarding protections for alternative domestic relationships. The real threat to the NDP would be a fiscal and economic centrist party with liberal views on social policy. If the Liberals or Alberta Party were truly viable entities, instead of the political irrelevancies they are, then I think the NDP would have something to worry about. But I think what will happen in 2019 is the new paleo-conservative party will turn off so many former PC voters that they will either stay home or reluctantly vote NDP, and we will see an NDP re-election. A renewed, refreshed, revitalized PC party, with new policies and a reinvigorated membership base, could have been a credible threat, but we aren’t going to see that happen.

    Reply
    • jay

      January 30th, 2017

      I think in fact that a number of pundits, including Don Braid, have come around to what you’re arguing here. Jerry.

      Reply

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