It’s springtime for Kenney in Wildrose country as Alberta bids farewell to progressive conservatism

Posted on March 19, 2017, 1:07 am
9 mins

PHOTOS: Jason Kenney salutes his supporters after winning the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party on the first ballot yesterday. (Screenshot.) Below: Richard Starke, the Vermilion-Lloydminster veterinarian who was Mr. Kenney’s main rival, although not much of one in the event; Opposition Wildrose leader Brian Jean; and Peter Lougheed, PC premier from 1971 to 1985, the founder of the political dynasty that ruled Alberta for nearly 44 years.

So that’s the end of it, then.

Whatever happens, the old Progressive Conservative Party that ran Alberta for nigh unto 44 years is gone like the wind.

At the culmination of the party’s leadership convention in Calgary, yesterday afternoon delegates elected Jason Kenney, 48, the social conservative former Stephen Harper lieutenant who has pledged to dismantle the party and merge it with the Wildrose Opposition in a double reverse hostile takeover modelled on the Reform/Alliance party’s capture and destruction of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in 2003.

Aided by social conservative activists drawn from Wildrose Party ranks and signed up as new PC members, Mr. Kenney’s campaign triumphed as predicted on the first ballot just before 5 p.m. He had about 75 per cent of the vote.

“Today, it’s springtime in Alberta,” Mr. Kenney grandiloquently intoned in his victory peroration – presumably intending a tip o’ the top hat to Ronald Reagan, but raising the suspicion in some minds that Mel Brooks must be writing speeches for Mr. Kenney now.

He also made a pro forma pledge to PC members on the party’s once significant progressive side who are unhappy with his merger plan that he’ll be “inclusive and welcoming to all.”

But if you were looking for a more evocative signal of the party’s likely future course under Mr. Kenney’s leadership, it came about four hours earlier when the old PC Party’s standard bearer, Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke, was roundly booed from the floor by Kenney supporters.

Dr. Starke’s offence? He was warning delegates about the dangers of merging with the Wildrose party when the catcalls began ringing out: “If we unite, then what? We hold our breath hoping that none of our candidates believe that gay people spend eternity in a lake of fire, hold our breath that one of our campus clubs doesn’t send out an email saying feminism is cancer, hoping one of our MLAs doesn’t heckle the visiting premier or that a group of nine MLAs does not compare the Ukrainian famine genocide to the carbon tax? And hoping our leader doesn’t joke about violence against the premier. because, my friends, if anything like that happens, you can hand Rachel Notley and the NDP the keys to the Legislature for another four years.”

I suppose the Kenney PCs can now argue they were jeering at the genial veterinarian from Vermilion-Lloydminster because he dared to suggest there’s a road to re-election for the NDP, but it sure sounded from up here in Edmonton as if they were endorsing homophobia and attacks on women.

We will see the true face of the new style Alberta Conservative party soon enough as Alberta’s conservative movement is hammered into the template set out in the Preston Manning playbook Mr. Kenney is following.

In his speech, Mr. Kenney also repeated his past vow – red meat to the Wildrose base – to repeal every single piece of NDP legislation regardless of its merits. This includes, presumably, even the law requiring students to be allowed to for gay-straight alliances in schools that was actually passed by Jim Prentice’s PC government.

The night before the speeches – in an act of not much significance, perhaps, but a certain symbolic power – a former Kenney campaign strategist, suspended from party membership for a year last January for calling someone he was arguing with an “asshole” on social media – apparently took a swing at a security guard who tried to get him to leave the Telus Convention Centre. He was later taken away in handcuffs by police.

Can chants of “lock her up” be far behind? Oh, wait, they’ve already happened, led by one of the sad sack collection of candidates campaigning contemporaneously to lead the federal division of the combined Wildrose-Conservative Party.

Well, it may seem strange for an old Dipper to lament the passing of the PCs – Kenney backers would likely just say it’s proactive sour grapes ’cause they’re gonna win in 2019 and party like it’s Saturday night at Mar-a-Lago. But it’s not a good thing that the kind of conservatives who helped build Canada and actually believed in conserving valuable institutions we’ve created together no longer have a political home of their own in this province or this country.

If nothing else, occasional runs of progressive conservative government acted as a useful steam valve to relieve without too much damage the periodic dissatisfaction with the more progressive governments, whatever their label.

Peter Lougheed, premier of Alberta from 1971 to 1985 and the effective founder of the PC Dynasty in Alberta, must be spinning like a top in his grave in Calgary’s Union Cemetery tonight at the thought of someone like Mr. Kenney leading his party. Mr. Lougheed had his flaws, as readers of this blog point out from time to time, but he was neither a market fundamentalist ideologue nor a rage-steeped social conservative, and he certainly didn’t believe in unrestricted resource development or running roughshod over other provinces.

Mr. Jean, leader of the Opposition now in the legislature, has said he hopes to meet with Mr. Kenney tomorrow morning to talk about the future. Whether that meeting comes about on Mr. Jean’s schedule, or at all, will give us some hints about how Mr. Kenney and his advisors plan to roll out the next stage of their takeover plan.

Meanwhile, another open question is what those who loved the P in PC will do.

Will the majority of them look for a completely new home, gravitate toward another existing party or stick with the Kenney PCs and hope for the best?

It’s too soon to tell. But one thing is clear: the days when Alberta politics were boring have not yet returned.

NOTE: This post, which also appears on Rabble.ca, has been amended to include a more complete copy of the remarks by Dr. Starke that drew the boos of Mr. Kenney’s supporters, which had disappeared from an early news report but was screen-shot by a reader, and to make it clear that while Dr. Starke lives in the Vermilion-Lloydminster riding, he doesn’t live in the town of Vermilion. DJC

24 Comments to: It’s springtime for Kenney in Wildrose country as Alberta bids farewell to progressive conservatism

    • ronmac

      March 19th, 2017

      Did somebody say it was springtime? Oh I see somebody already put this up. Rats!

      In any event the Wildrosers hired a filmaker to document the convention which turned out to be a real triumph of the will. I was able to obtain some advance footage

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bc6JhwUdQwE

      Reply
      • TENET

        March 20th, 2017

        Scary. Really.

        Reply
  1. Edison

    March 19th, 2017

    Earworm now. fek

    Reply
  2. David

    March 19th, 2017

    Mr. Kenney got a bit ahead of himself declaring it spring time in Alberta. However, I am not surprised he was channeling the mythical broadway show in his speech. I get the feeling he is at heart a secret broadway lover. I can imagine him humming broadway show tunes as he drives along in the big blue truck and perhaps indulging in other decadent bourgeois elite habits and pleasures his supporters may not realize.

    I am still not sure it is the end of the PC party. The Wildrose seems quite willing to take them over, but only on their terms. However, whatever legal and formal parties exist or do not exist in the future, I agree it is probably the end of the P in the PC party. I am not surprised that Kenney’s speech includes a perfunctory “everybody is welcome” part, but the reception to Dr. Starke by Kenney’s supporters speaks louder than the perfunctory pleasantries of Kenney’s speech.

    I am sure that the boos were not unnoticed by the Progressives in the PC party and I suspect they are already packing their political bags in advance of “springtime in Alberta”, which sounds pleasant, but as we know can be quite brutal at times.

    Reply
    • Rocky

      March 19th, 2017

      A profound philosophical question: If someone makes a movie about a mythical Broadway show, and then someone makes a real Broadway Show about the mythical Broadway show in the real movie, does the mythical Broadway show become a real Broadway show?

      Reply
  3. Bob Raynard

    March 19th, 2017

    Jason Kenney has single-handedly done something the entire Wildrose Party couldn’t do – make Brian Jean look good!

    Reply
  4. Athabascan

    March 19th, 2017

    Well, way to go Alberta cons. You recycled a Harperite to “lead” your antiquated party of intolerants.

    Now more than ever Sandra Jansen’s decision to bail on these losers has been validated.

    All provincial cons can look forward to a shotgun wedding with the Wildrose party.

    This is NOT the conservative party of Lougheed. In point of fact with Kenney at the helm the Alberta conservative brand is DOA.

    How many more harperite retreads are sure to sneak over our provincial borders to infest the Kenney party?
    Can the resurrection of Rob Anders, and other assorted loses be far behind?

    Reply
  5. Val

    March 19th, 2017

    it seems with his purposefulness and constancy in move toward reaching the target, if continue at same rate, most likely Mr. Kenney would lead to electoral win in 2019, whatever the name political force behind him will bear at that time.
    main problem for Ms. Notley isn’t arise from mass rejection of NDP by Albertas voters from start. instead they gave the big chance by providing majority for NDP in legislature.
    two years has showed poor management and wrong approaches and priorities, which very much seems come from bunch of imported and alien to Alberta’s mentality, advisers.
    i guess future election outcome for NDP just dropped from relative 5/5 to 3/7 and only because they didn’t got the grasp their 2015 win was like lottery incident, rather than the result of scrupulous grassroots work.

    Reply
    • Murphy

      March 19th, 2017

      Nestor Pistor for Prime Minster!

      Reply
  6. Robert Wm Smith

    March 19th, 2017

    I was going to puff up and lay a tirade on the world about JK, however the video makes it all very succinct. The similarities, however, are very worrisome, if not frightening.

    Reply
    • TENET

      March 20th, 2017

      Moi aussi.

      Reply
  7. tom in ontario

    March 19th, 2017

    Rumpled suit, long tie, cold heart.
    All that’s missing is the orange skunk’s nest on top.

    Reply
  8. Frank

    March 19th, 2017

    After attending the PC leadership convention this weekend in Calgary, and getting the result of Jason Kenney winning the leadership of the party, I was not surprised given his support base as mostly Wildrose supporters.

    Upon engaging in conversation with the Kenney supporters a majority of them were from the rural areas and from the Calgary area. These individuals were smugness and had utter contempt for the moderate, centrist, progressive voices within the party. After hearing their verbal tirades blaming us progressives for the NDP winning in 2015, I pointed out to them to look ahead in 2 years for the next election.

    With the loss of 6-8 rural ridings,and the increasing electoral heft of the suburban/urban regions of the province growing, the demographic trends of an aging and dying social conservative base, these people somewhat paused and began to think that maybe we should not get ourselves drunk on our own success in electing Jason Kenney and that maybe he wont be the prophet who will take them back into the promised land of government again in Alberta in 2019.

    However, the vote is done and the next battle begins. This is only a moment in time and if Jason Kenney is smart enough he will soon realize that he will face a more harder and vicious fight from Rachel Notley with an eager and overjoyed federal Liberal Party getting in on the action to help bring down of the their most despised and hated enemies. And us progressive, centrist Red Tories will be only be too happy to watch Jason Kenney sink to the bottom of the of political river have beens who over-reached and failed, just like his old boss Stephan Harper. It will be interesting indeed.

    Reply
    • Farmer B

      March 20th, 2017

      Frank, the last time I voted for the PC party was 2004. The reason was fiscal policy not social policy. When I listen to Jason Kenney, he talks about a broad based fiscally responsible inclusive party. When asked about Rachel Notley yesterday and this is not an exact quote, he said obviously Rachel Notley and I disagree on a lot of things but I have a great deal of respect for her and hope we can get along. Then you have the NDP release a Sandra Jansen video yesterday talking about the extremism of Jason Kenney’s supporters. Lately it is the NDP doing all the name calling and looking a bit unhinged. Anyway my point is that there will be people who are more concerned about progressive social policy and will leave but there will also be people like myself who are more concerned about fiscal policy and we will come back.

      Reply
      • SeeAll

        March 28th, 2017

        The money is gone, wasted years of corruption and mismanagement by the very people that will spew lies about cutting spending. Gambling and alcohol bring in more revenue that our tar sands. Can you imagine, an oil rich land in debt. While other oil rich places have billions. PC’s left us 11 billion in debt in the best of times. Every nation in earth is is debt. Currency is created with debt. Our entire society is bases off of debt and never ending growth. Voting the criminals back in is not the answer to any of our issues. In our current world we could not as for better leadership than the NDP.

        Reply
  9. Farmer B

    March 19th, 2017

    While I wasn’t surprised that Jason Kenney won(it was predicted by all) I was surprised he got 75% of the vote. This will give him a strong mandate to pursue unification.

    Interesting to see Deron Bilous trolling for new members and lamenting the end of Peter Lougheed PC’s. Premier Notley has talked glowingly in the past of Peter Lougheed’s legacy. The NDP remind me far more of Don Getty’s style of governance. Don Getty had the misfortune of inheriting an unaffordable government that couldn’t balance the books due to depressed oil prices. He did the same thing then that Premier Notley is doing today, going into at the time large deficits and hoping the price of oil would bail them out. If the NDP were truly worried about government jobs they would learn from history, Premier Getty’s large deficit even had Liberal leader Lawrence Decore talking spending cuts in the 1993 election. While I have tremendous respect for Peter Lougheed, he started the trend of unaffordable governance that continues today.

    Reply
    • Rocky

      March 19th, 2017

      Don Getty was unfairly attacked by conservative extremists trying to create a sense of crisis for “out of control spending,” just as Rachel Notley is unfairly maligned by the same people for the same thing. Nonsense in both cases. Between 1986 and 1992, the Gerry Government slashed real spending by $3 billion, about 15 per cent. You’re right about the oil price drop in that period, though. As for Ralph Klein’s austerity allowing him to pay down the debt, that’s baloney too. It was Mr. Klein’s giveaway to his pals of valuable public assets at firesale prices combined with the failure of his government to do even basic maintenance, leading to the huge infrastructure deficit Alberta is still struggling with, that allowed him to accomplish that dubious feat. It was clear then and it’s clear now that the responsible way forward is modest tax increases, and a grownup approach to running the province. I doubt we’ll see anything like either of those things from Little Jason.

      Reply
      • TENET

        March 20th, 2017

        Mr. Little is a big lightning rod. The choice seems to be clear enough, and the only way to sustain social programs and infrastructure improvements is a sales tax. Relying on a oil to sustain us is like relying on bison for sustenance and warmth.

        Mr. Little will fan the flames, he will accuse the poor of leading secret, indulgent lifestyles, he will point to “others” who take the good jobs, he will scorn new Albertans for being a drain on services, he will deride universities for spreading sedition, teachers for being lazy, and students for being lax. He would cut programs like Meals on Wheels.

        Mr. Little will find his fans from sprawling rural acreages with tall fences, fortified bunkers, and coveted gun collections.

        We can surrender, or progressives can also realign before the hordes leave their bunker.

        Reply
    • jerrymacgp

      March 21st, 2017

      There is a big difference between the deficits run by the Don Getty government, and those of today: interest rates. Getty came into power at the tail ends of prolonged period of high interest rates. The Bank of Canada rate in November, 1985, when he became Premier, was 8.98%, and in December 1992, when he yielded to King Ralph, it was 7.36%. Meanwhile, in May 2015, when the Notley NDP government came into office, the Bank rate was 1.00%, and today, March 2017, it is 0.75%.

      What does this mean? Money has never been cheaper than it is now. Lending rates are so low, this is the best possible time for a government to borrow. In addition, with an economic slowdown, there is little competition for financing from the private sector, which drives up interest rates; in addition, tenders for infrastructure projects are also lower due to the slowdown. The previous government had a tendency to try and play catch-up while the economy was booming, driving up the cost of public infrastructure projects. If government spending primes the pump, the previous government was priming a pump that was already over speed. Instead, we have a government that is trying to stimulate economic activity through the use of very low cost public debt. This seems prudent in the current climate. Once the province’s economy is completely back on its feet, the government can not only pull back, but can also take a look at Alberta’s anaemic revenue stream.

      Reply
      • Edison

        March 21st, 2017

        Nailed it.

        Sadly, since the far right Wildrose base acts on fear biting emotion rather than logic and while Kenney understands the logic, it doesn’t serve his own personal agenda. That being the one of continued employment as a mini-Harper career politician, with a perpetually angry and adoring fan club, public interest be damned.

        Reply
  10. Sassy

    March 20th, 2017

    It all has a scripted feel to me. I think the continuous talk in the news about how the right might go about uniting (instead of discussions about governance, vision, and policies), Kenny’s subsequent win, and this meeting with Jean today, were pre-planned. I’m beginning to suspect they (the leaders behind the scenes like Manning, and other beyond Alberta) already have the new leader chosen for the new party. My guess is it won’t be Kenny or Jean, as both have too much baggage, and would not compare well against the competent and likeable Notley. I’m pretty sure Kenny’s job is the one he is now doing quite well – ensure only one corporate-kowtowing party is operating here in time for the next election. Alberta is too provincial/backwoods for him to spend the next decade or more living here. Brian Jean is a handy placement holder until the deed is done and nothing more. I think the powers behind this maneuvering were grooming Fildebrandt but his ego got the better of him. Perhaps it will be Kennedy-Glans – she seems to be back in the loop, or Ambrose from the federal party. The extreme right wing of these parties doesn’t really respect women, but the grassroots membership can be herded to vote “correctly”. It will be interesting!

    Reply
    • Death and Gravity

      March 21st, 2017

      Of course, the whole thing was an plot, or really a long con, carried out more or less in broad daylight. The backers think they can construct the Lougheed coalition in a hard-right alliance of Libertarians and bible-pounding authoritarians. They have written off two or three other key constituencies: the Ukrainians in rural areas of the 780 belt, and the the suburbs of Edmonton and Calgary for example. So I think their evil plan may fail.

      Reply
  11. David

    March 20th, 2017

    Yes, both Kenney and Jean have political baggage. I think the Manning crew behind it all thought they could craft a better image for Kenney but now they realize they are stuck with a bit of a dud and are desperately looking for someone more fresher and more appealing.

    I think they are probably putting a lot of pressure on Ambrose behind the scenes. I don’t get the sense she is really that interested, but enough flattery and pressure may work. It has worked on others before.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (not be published)