Tories, Wildrosers agree to call new entity United Conservative Party … without ever speaking the initials aloud

Posted on May 19, 2017, 1:38 am
10 mins

PHOTOS: Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney pose uncomfortably in this Wildrose Party photo. Below: A CBC shot by Terry Reith may have captured the real mood better. Below that: Twitterist Edwin Mundt’s take on the You See Pee.

Question: What happens when Alberta Can’t Wait?

Answer: UCP!

Seriously, United Conservative Party? Well, it could’ve been worse. After all, it was basically the same group of people who floated the idea of the Canadian Reform Alliance Party around the turn of the century.

What’s with that, anyway?

Alberta Can’t Wait, for readers outside Alberta, is the “PAC” set up a few months ago by newly elected Progressive Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney’s well-heeled supporters. Its goal is to create a slush fund outside provincial election laws to bankroll the former Harper cabinet minister’s effort to unite Alberta’s divided conservatives and push them ever further to the right.

Yesterday, the PCs under Mr. Kenney and the Wildrosers led by Opposition Leader Brian Jean held a news conference in Edmonton to announce they’ve come up with a plan – a tentative one, actually – to merge the two parties. They’ve signed an agreement in principle that calls for members of both parties to vote on the deal on July 22 and choose a leader on Oct. 28 if they say yes.

This will not necessarily be easy. The Wildrose constitution requires a 75-per-cent ratification; the PCs’ 51 per cent. Many technical details remain to be resolved.

However, they agreed on the name United Conservative Party, presumably without anyone thinking to pronounce the initials aloud.

This prompted plenty of chuckles on social media yesterday. I believe the first commenter to note the You-See-Pee connection was Twitterist Edwin Mundt. You See Pee, pitched in political strategist Stephen Carter, “I see a party that wants to cut health care. You See Pee, I see a party that wants to attack minorities.”

Oh well, this probably won’t be that big problem for the UCPers, although it sure doesn’t speak well of their ability to foresee problems and deal with all eventualities. Indeed, it’s the kind of thing that might make a real cynic suggest these are folks who couldn’t, as the old expression goes, organize a piss-up in a brewery.

We’ll get used to it soon enough, I suppose.

Alberta’s New Democrats certainly take this very seriously. Even with two competing conservative parties – which could still happen if the deal making comes a cropper, although it’s said here that’s unlikely – it will not be easy for New Democrats to get re-elected in this province. However, it is not, as so many on the right fervently believe, impossible.

Mr. Kenney certainly gave the impression at yesterday’s news conference in Edmonton that he thinks once the two conservative parties are united, the end of Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP Government is a slam-dunk the instant an election is called.

“This agreement ensures the defeat of this disastrous NDP government and the election of a free enterprise government that will renew the Alberta Advantage,” Mr. Kenney said in the clip Edmonton radio stations played over and over yesterday afternoon.

Mr. Jean’s comment was more thoughtful. The deal, he said, “cannot be based on a principle of gaining power for power’s sake. It must be about more than that.”

Arguably, three negative factors from the conservative perspective contributed directly to the election of the NDP in 2015. Only one was the division of the province’s right wing parties into two warring camps, which in many ridings didn’t make as much of a difference as the pro-conservative media’s narrative nowadays suggests.

The other two were Alberta voters’ distrust of the extremist far-right social conservative tendencies that seemed obvious at the time in the Wildrose Party, and the arrogance, entitlement and contempt for voters shown by the long-in-the-tooth PCs. Alert readers will recall that the PCs, who were coming up on their 45th anniversary in power, had in late 2014 engineered the attempted takeover of the Wildrose Party’s legislative caucus, a cynical maneuver Albertans across the political spectrum reacted to with revulsion.

Combined, these factors kept many voters who were fed up to here with the PCs from switching their votes as commentators expected to what was left of the Wildrose Party.

It is hard to see how the leadership of an intemperate social conservative like Mr. Kenney will remedy either of those problems for the Alberta right. Together in the UCP, it seems likely we will have a powerful political entity that combines the worst instincts of each party. This is quite clearly illustrated by Mr. Kenney’s news conference commentary.

Returning to the 2015 campaign, a positive factor helping the NDP was Premier Notley’s remarkable ability to leave voters with the impression she understood and respected them for voting for her opponents for so many years.

Given centrist voters’ dilemma in the spring of 2015, her political talent and empathetic personality, not to mention her law-trained debating skills, made it easy for them to give the NDP a whirl.

Mr. Kenney, by contrast, makes it clear in remarks like yesterday’s that he views Alberta voters with contempt for daring to support his political opponents, even once. His caricature of Ms. Notley’s pragmatic government in cartoonish ideological terms may please his most extreme supporters, but treats most middle-of-the-road voters as fools. His ongoing purge of moderate elements in his own party may satisfy the Wildrose hard core, but it will deprive him of the Red Tory early warning system when he oversteps his bounds and perhaps result in the creation of a new centre-right alternative party.

In this regard, Mr. Jean would be a better spokesperson for a united right, but the big money of the Tory Old Boys’ network has settled on Mr. Kenney as the most likely character to give them carte blanche if “conservative” government returns. This kind of insider entitlement is presumably what Mr. Kenney has in mind when he speaks of the return of the “Alberta Advantage.”

But the long-established conservative voting habits of Albertans will be hard for the NDP to overcome after a single term in office, though continuing improvement in the regional economy and Mr. Kenney’s obvious hubris and social conservative baggage may help.

So while the You See Pee may enter the 2019 election favoured by political odds makers, they are as capable of blowing their lead as they were in 2015 under Jim Prentice, the conservatives’ last Great Hope From Ottawa.

As Premier Notley observed yesterday, “whether it’s the Wildrose or the Tories, they clearly agree on things like making massive cuts to services in order to finance tax breaks for people at the top of the one per cent. They agree collectively on the fact that they’re not particularly sympathetic or supportive of LGBT rights. … They’re a group that are moving increasingly to more and more extreme positions, to the point where they may fall right off the map.”

If they do, and they’re confronted with an NDP reelection, it will be interesting to see if Alberta conservatives then opt for the centrist moderation that kept the old PCs in power for 44 years, or double down on the extremism of Mr. Kenney.

25 Comments to: Tories, Wildrosers agree to call new entity United Conservative Party … without ever speaking the initials aloud

  1. Edwin Mundt

    May 19th, 2017

    Edwin, not Edmund

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      May 19th, 2017

      C’mon, Edwin. Two outta three weren’t bad! It’s been fixed. DJC

      Reply
      • Edwin Mundt

        May 19th, 2017

        Honoured to get the shout-out. We pre-press folks often saved the copy editors’ asses from time to time.

        Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      May 19th, 2017

      Edwin, I LOVE what you have done, but now there is coffee sprayed all over my computer screen because I made the mistake of sipping while scrolling down!

      Put some hair on Homer and you would have a serious likeness to Homer…and both probably think the USA is the best country on Earth.

      Reply
      • Bob Raynard

        May 19th, 2017

        Edit …serious likeness to Jason

        Reply
      • Expat Albertan

        May 19th, 2017

        I also had that reaction to UCP but fortunately I wasn’t drinking anything.

        Reply
  2. Bloozguy

    May 19th, 2017

    “I don’t think Albertans voted for me, or for us, so that we could merge with the Progressive Conservatives” – Brian Jean, Calgary Herald, May 7 2015

    Reply
  3. Jane Bahnmiller

    May 19th, 2017

    Yes, I remember the Alberta Advantage. I was asked to do more and more at work to the point where the money that was ‘saved’ in cutbacks was ‘spent’ in the Healthcare system when I got sick. I was referred to as a ‘classic case on burnout’.

    Reply
  4. J.E. Molnar

    May 19th, 2017

    If you have been following social media over this announcement, it is almost as though the UPC has already won the election.

    The alt-right crowd, who are always a little more intemperate than other mainstream conservatives, spare no vitriol when it comes to NDP-bashing. Having no regard for the lengthy process that needs to unfold and the inherent dangers of potential opposition, the UCPers and the Postmedia scribes who support them seem to think this merger exercise is a slam dunk toward winning the next election. I think Rachel Notley and crew will have something to say about that — most likely in stunning fashion once again.

    Reply
  5. Michael Brayall

    May 19th, 2017

    I see a distinct possibility of significant growth in the Alberta Party attracting progressive Tories, which voted for the NDP in the last election. This will split the progressive vote giving the UCP a clear path to victory.

    Reply
    • jay

      May 22nd, 2017

      It’s also distinctly possible that former pcs might decide to vote for the Alberta Party rather than for a renamed WRP under Jason Kenny.

      Reply
  6. David

    May 19th, 2017

    On the surface it seems simple math points to the UCP, soon to be widely known as the Pee party, having enough support to win. However, politics is about much more than simple math and the votes often do not add up as expected.

    First, Federally the merger of the PC’s and Reform/Alliance appeared to be a success, but they did not generally get a total equal to their combined votes in subsequent elections. Two of Harper’s governments were minorities and even then he owed much of his success to voters tired of a three term, scandal plagued government going through a difficult leadership transition.

    Second, the new party is founded on a myth of the united right in Alberta which hasn’t really existed before. In fact, the right has never been united in Alberta. Since the 1960’s there have always been parties to the right of the PC’s. This was the case even in the era of Ralph Klein and that gave him some flexibility to move to the centre when needed or when it was politically advantageous. PC governments in Alberta after Klein (and some before him) were often elected by appealing to many centrist and progressive voters. The coalition of the right may not be as winning as it seems on the surface.

    Third, a lot of PC voters are “legacy” voters. They vote for the PC’s because they always have voted for the party that governed for more than 40 years, not necessarily for ideological reasons. If the PC party disappears, they will not not necessarily vote for a party on the right.

    Lastly the fact the Unite the Right party went way past its deadline to come to life indicates to me that there were difficulties behind the scene and not everyone was enthusiastic about the idea. Kenney is a good organizer so I would think he will likely be able meet the threshold of 50% support from the PC side. However, the low threshold he set seems to indicate some lack of confidence on his part. If he can only get the support of around half of the PC’s that would be a very troubling early sign indicating the numbers do not add up as well as it seems.

    Reply
  7. Ryan H

    May 19th, 2017

    The question that I’d be asking representatives of the two parties if given the chance is “are there any parts of the current PC platform that would need to be changed for a merger to be acceptable to the members of the WRP?” And of course the reverse of “are there any parts of the current WRP platform that would need to be changed for a merger to be acceptable to the members of the PCs?”

    Any answer you get is going to be a money quote.

    A more enterprising and malicious person than me could probably have a good time by going through both platforms for incompatibilities and trying to get responses from various officials and organizers and grassroots people on both sides.

    Reply
  8. Tom in Ontario

    May 19th, 2017

    In the works, Canadians, is a combined federal-provincial party using past and present acronyms featuring the fledging United Conservative Party and the once honoured Conservative Reform Alliance Party.

    Can UCP and CRAP together in the same chamber pot?

    Reply
  9. Farmer B

    May 19th, 2017

    I was reading today that the latest entry in the federal NDP leadership contest Jagmeet Singh is going to keep his provincial mpp job while running for the leadership. Will this be met with the same indignation that Jason Kenney was subject to when he was driving across Alberta last summer before the official campaign began in October?

    Reply
  10. msedmonton

    May 19th, 2017

    I agree. The whole schtick about renewing democracy in Alberta is obnoxiously condescending. You mean, you lost an election ergo democracy is broken and must be fixed? Kenney gamed his way into the PC leadership and will try to game his way into creating his new party and leading it, but gaming the electorate will be much much more difficult.

    Reply
  11. George Clark

    May 19th, 2017

    The founding principles are an excellent base upon which to build the policy and constitution of an inclusive grassroots driven centrist party. And I do believe that this was one of more than a few pages that claimed that I was chasing an impossible dream when I claimed in January of 2016 that the grassroots supporters who worked with me on the petitions would unite the Wildrose and PC parties before the end of 2017. My many area captains and canvassers are now on boards of both parties and lining up to win riding nominations. We are bringing Participatory Democracy to Alberta’s conservative merger because that is what Albertans desire. No more catering to any special interests, neither corporate nor activists.

    Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      May 20th, 2017

      Guess it works much better than a “kudatah”, eh George?

      Reply
    • Jim

      May 20th, 2017

      I would be interested in who you see leading this party given the two front runners history of catering to special interests. Kenney more so but Jean just went along in his federal career.

      Reply
    • Northern Loon

      May 21st, 2017

      Thats funny, George – “no more catering to any special interests, neither corporate nor activists.” From the man who epitomizes special interests and in this post notes that he has a whole cadre of activists following his will, and I’m pretty sure that if someone were to be bothered to dig a little we would find corporate interests as well.

      My grandmother taught me that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones – something George should remember.

      Reply
  12. Scotty on Denman

    May 20th, 2017

    Alberta has to be the least partisan of provinces—historically speaking. Until the NDP win, it’s had only four regimes: Liberal, United Farmers, Socreds, and Progressive Conservatives, since confederation in 1905, lasting 16, 14, 36 and 44 years, respectively; none had truly competitive oppositions, either. Alberta saved its partisanship for federal politics with, variously, Social-Creditism (in it’s relatively unbastardized form, unlike BC), “The West Wants In,” “Firewall,” or “Anti-NEP” versions. Even Preston Manning who, effectively parted federal conservatism so’s to lead the neo-prairie-Israelites out of slavery (orphaning true Tories), forbade a provincial Reform wing. Only since Harper has Alberta dallied with infra-provincial partisanship—and again it parted the right at that level.

    It almost seems like Jason Kenney presumes Alberta, remote and spare-cloth to begin with, and remarkably one-horse, politically and economically until recent times, is finally ripe for the ultra-partisanism he partly accredits himself for perfecting in Ottawa under Harper; the work he and his master-mentor took on in pitting a diversity Canadians like new and ‘old stock,’ Maritime defeatists, Quebec separatists, Aboriginals, and fifth-column environmentalists against each other was supposed to result in the most polarized dualism possible where, presumably, the wealthier and more powerfully connected neo-right would prevail over its counterpart on the left, the middle (Liberals) having been slain, as Harper theology would have it, once and for all. Kenney’s perception of Alberta politics and culture seems as static as a child’s fairytale or his conception of marriage, whether of his own or of every other kind—that is, out of touch with the times.

    Yet millions of years of invested solar energy cashed-in has allowed Alberta to slowly diversify away from a mostly found-wealth economy, while immigration from across Canada (and, in effect, from around the world) has likewise diversified its ethnic profile. That is, while Alberta has matured to hitherto unexperienced political and social sophistication, Kenney seems to see only candy on a shelf, of which he expects to be master of parsimony as soon as Harperoid ultra-partisanism can be redoubled in his home province—and not see that voters were just as stingy in their support of his federal incarnation, with its two default minorities and its summary execution after the lowest number of majorities a party can have—one. Nor does he seem to appreciate the steepening ascent of energy alternatives that increasingly keep oil prices low and in need of generous public subsidy to satisfy gluttonous petro-profiteers.

    The only tradition of ultra-partisanism Kenney can return Alberta to is mythological. However, supposing tradition were to remain the trend, Alberta would have an NDP government, the fifth party to assume the Albertan purple, for the next five decades or so. Thing is, Kenney just doesn’t look like such an innovator.

    Reply
  13. Ron Waller

    May 20th, 2017

    Enjoy your Dipper fake majority. It’s the last one you’ll ever see again.

    We had a Dipshit train-wreck government here in ON back 25 years ago. Was replaced by a neocon revolution. That’s what you got coming. They undid each and every piece of legislation as if the NDP government never existed.

    Today a corrupt Neo-Liberal government is at its lowest approval rating ever. Yet the NDP can’t capitalize on it. They pulled ahead of the Liberals for about 3 seconds. Now back in third. The people still don’t trust them. Welcome to your future.

    Reply
    • Tom in Ontario

      May 21st, 2017

      “They undid each and every piece of legislation as if the NDP government never existed.”
      Wrong.

      Early in the Rae mandate the NDP Government changed the Ontario teachers pension formula from non-negotiable provincial backed debentures to full diversification. This allowed the investment team to enter the international stock and bond markets. Today the fund has assets of $176 billion, a surplus of $10 billion and several years ago was rated the best public sector plan in the world. Mike Harris’s PC government didn’t alter a word.

      In 1995 the NDP had a hope of re-election until three weeks into the campaign when Harris announced that if elected he would slash provincial income rates by 30%. The NDP was done in not by anything they did or didn’t do but by the Harris promise.

      Reply
  14. May 20th, 2017

    It is a voter challenge for me. I cannot support any WIldrose far right social policies and I refuse to cast a ballot for Jason Kenney. Plus, I think that the Conservatives need to stay in the penalty box for at least one more election. They really do need to learn the lesson that they cannot take the voters of Alberta for granted nor can they keep on putting their own interests ahead of the interests and well being of Albertans.

    I do not agree with everything that the Notley Government is doing However….they are doing something instead of simply exercising their lips. They have put some decent, common sense legislation on the books and it looks like more is on the the way. A welcome change. I think one has to be just a little naive to swallow all of the doom and gloom that Kenney and Jean are spouting.

    Reply
  15. David

    May 22nd, 2017

    The results of the next provincial election will depend on how ideological conservative supporters are. If ideology is more important than practical solutions then the NDP will lose power. If, however, Albertans are looking for ideas that work instead of blind ideology, then we may see Notley returned to power.

    What I want to see is decisions based on merit of the thing being decided rather than decisions based on past beliefs about how things worked and should work. I don’t care who makes the decision as long as it is good for the general population.

    We also have to keep in mind that the world price of oil is not controlled by anyone in Alberta and won’t recover just because we have a right wing government. Consider the case of the USA. Their oil industry declined just as much as Alberta’s did and there are no left wing governments in the US so they don’t have any magic solution to the oil price either. The world price of oil won’t rise just because there is a right wing government here.

    Additionally in regard to oil, the whole climate change thing may make oil a declining industry just to slow the global warming which even the US is now coming to see will be catastrophic for cities like New York and Miami to mention only two. If and when governments decided to save the planet instead of goosing the oil industry we are going to need a practical government to deal with a non oil driven economy.

    Reply

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