Desperation anyone? The clock runs out on Brian Jean’s campaign to lead the UCP

Posted on October 25, 2017, 1:39 am
6 mins

PHOTOS: UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean, with loyal MLAs Leela Aheer, Glenn van Dijken and Todd Loewen, in front of Premier Rachel Notley’s constituency office yesterday. (Screenshot of Jean Campaign video.) The wind was blowing. Below: Former Calgary MP Jason Kenney, whose coronation as leader of the UCP is expected on Saturday.

Tick tock. The clock is running out on Brian Jean.

The former Wildrose Party leader and Harper Government MP is struggling desperately to hang onto the dream of leading of the United Conservative Party – that is, to keep it from being snatched away from him by Jason Kenney in the party vote that begins tomorrow.

Unlike Mr. Jean, who after the decade he spent as Conservative MP for the Fort McMurray area starting in 2004 to his term as Wildrose leader from the spring of 2015 until last July, Mr. Kenney needs no introduction.

Just in case you’ve been living in a ravine in Edmonton’s River Valley and using your only source of news to start your campfire, Mr. Kenney is former Conservative PM Stephen Harper’s trusted minister of this and that. Need we say more? Once seen as the heir apparent to prime ministership of Canada, he is now devoting his estimable talents as a campaigner and mudslinger to capturing the booby prize, the premiership of Alberta by way of the Progressive Conservative Party (deceased, 2017) and the UCP that Mr. Jean once reckoned he was a deadbolt cinch to lead.

Mr. Kenney’s campaign has been described in this space as a juggernaut, crushing every conservative, progressive or otherwise, who stands in its way.

So far, Mr. Jean has dodged the machine’s rumbling wheels, although it’s been close on a couple of occasions, but the day of reckoning is at hand. The UCP will announce its new leader on Saturday. Its new leader will be Mr. Kenney.

Never mind polls that say Mr. Jean would be more likely than the easy-to-dislike Mr. Kenney to beat NDP Premier Rachel Notley. That’s been Mr. Jean’s argument for a while now. His problem is it’s not Alberta voters who get to decide this race. It’s Tory insiders, some of whom have a pretty extreme agenda they think Mr. Kenney is more likely to carry out than Mr. Jean.

Anyway, the party’s elites and its rank and file alike have persuaded themselves beating the NDP will be so easy to do it really doesn’t matter who leads the party.

Mr. Kenney is the better campaigner, and Mr. Kenney is the leader desired by the cabal of conservative bagmen associated with the Manning Centre and the federal Conservative Party, so Mr. Kenney it will be who wins. Leastways, if he doesn’t, it’ll be the biggest political upset in Alberta since … well, since May 5, 2015!

As he has grown more desperate, Mr. Jean’s stunts have grown sillier.

Recently, he had one of his former Wildrose Caucus supporters – Grande Prairie-Smoky MLA Todd Loewen – argue in a fund-raising email that if anybody but Mr. Jean gets the job (meaning Mr. Kenney, since the third candidate, Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer, is barely on the radar) the party will end up frittering its donations away on the leader’s salary.

“The other two candidates in this race are not Members of the Legislative Assembly,” Mr. Loewen’s email said. “I’m concerned that we will have to use a large chunk of your hard-earned donations just to pay them a salary until the next election.”

Well, good luck with that argument. Most UCPers say ho-hum. Thanks to the U.S.-style PACs being set up at a brisk pace by conservative bagmen to subvert Alberta’s election financing laws, the Alberta right should be awash in grey money to lavish on the leader.

Yesterday, Mr. Jean staged a photo opportunity in front of Finance Minister Joe Ceci’s constituency office in Calgary-Fort. He stood behind a sign reading “We can win here.” A Chinook wind was blowing.

Later in the day, he tried the same stunt at Premier Notley’s constituency office in Edmonton-Strathcona. The wind was blowing in Edmonton too. It made the sign a little unsteady, but at least it carried away the whiff of desperation.

NOTE: This story has been edited to correct the time element in the last two paragraphs. DJC

12 Comments to: Desperation anyone? The clock runs out on Brian Jean’s campaign to lead the UCP

  1. J.E. Molnar

    October 25th, 2017

    It appears as though Brian Jean brought a butter knife to a gunfight.

    Brian Jean’s lacklustre campaign has definitely tanked. Only four people at the podium for his drive-by smears of Ceci and Notley? It was obvious from that glorious Stampede summer day back in 2016 when Stephen Harper planted the metaphorical political godfather kiss on Jason Kenney at a Conservative meet-and-greet in Calgary. Embarrassingly, Brian Jean was there to wince at all the old stock rejection. That should have been Jean’s first clue.

    The fact that respected former Progressive Conservatives, who abandoned the UCP, see Jason Kenney as polarizing and divisive reinforces the public perception of Kenney as a snake oil salesman and political grifter. His current “Back-to-the-Future” leadership tour is a cesspool of conservative dogma and nothing more than anti-NDP rhetoric. My thinking is, that kind of demagoguery and vitriolic mudslinging won’t play well in the new Alberta when the 2019 campaign season officially launches after the October 28th leadership vote.

    Reply
  2. tom in ontario

    October 25th, 2017

    ‘The other two candidates are not Members of the Legislative Assembly. I’m concerned that we will have to use a large chunk of your hard-earned donations just to pay them a salary until the next election.”

    Since Mr. Jean will likely return to the family car wash in Fort Mac, he could ease the burden of the hardworking UCP donors by offering Mr. Kenney a part time job cleaning cars. When disagreements over who does the best job of making the tires shine, Brian and Jason could hose each other down, much less emotionally hurtful than insulting one another on talk radio.

    Reply
  3. David

    October 25th, 2017

    Mr. Jean has some decency about him, Mr. Kenney is ruthless. Those that are prepared to do whatever it takes to win are often rewarded in our society in the short term. Then after we realize what they are really like usually much later, we complain about politicians being only interested in themselves. Of course, Albertan’s still a have a couple of years to figure out Mr. Kenney’s true nature – moderation is not his strong point, but for the UCP if it even cares about that, it is probably now too late.

    In many ways Mr. Jean would be the better choice as leader. He seems much more careful than many in his party to try not to offend those that are not already in the tent, which means he has a better chance of expanding it or maintaining it. Mr. Kenney’s appeal is much more limited and I think it will eventually drag down the UCP.

    Mr. Kenney will have a hard time maintaining or attracting the support of moderate conservatives. Many are already quietly or not so quietly packing their political bags right now. Mr. Kenney may argue “we don’t need them” or “voters don’t support the old PCs”, the former is not the case and the later is debatable. Certainly voters tired of the antics of the PC’s, but they were in power for over 40 years. It is not unexpected that voters would eventually tire of them and the party itself would become tired and run out of new ideas. However, being in opposition for a while is usually the cure for that – a time to rejuvenate, get fresh ideas and new people. It worked for the Federal Liberals who were humbled by becoming the third party, and it probably would have eventually worked for the Alberta PC’s too. However, instead of allowing the patient time to convalesce, Mr. Kenney just killed the party because it he felt was too moderate for his taste and he wanted a faster path back to power.

    I think Kenney and the conservative elite over estimate the number of Albertans to whom extreme conservatism will appeal too. Yes, the PC’s had their times of extreme conservative ideas too, but they dropped many of them when they found out how unpopular they are with the public and moved back towards the center. In contrast Mr. Kenney seems like the Alberta version of Margaret Thatcher. As she once famously said “the lady is not for turning”, when some suggested she make a U turn and take a more moderate path. Yes, Thatcher had some political success after the Falkland war distracted the UK from other aspects of her platform, but eventually she met the hill to die on politically by being ideologically rigid on the unpopular issue of the poll tax.

    So too if Kenney can distract Albertans from his plans and ideas he he has a chance of success for a while – perhaps if he can pick big fight with Ottawa, BC, non Catholics or someone else. However, some issue will come up and Albertans will see that he is a rigid ideologue that does not want to be moderate. The big question is whether that will become obvious to Albertans sooner or later.

    Reply
    • Tub E. Dad

      October 25th, 2017

      Jason Kenney is a fatuous blowhard, a carpetbagger, and a charlatan. I believe his ideology nowadays is mostly about getting and maintaining power. His main tactic is to spin every promise and platform as conservative dogma, regardless of its pedigree. Apart from the income trusts fiasco, as far as I can recall, the Conservatives under Mr. Harper and Mr. Kenney never once acknowledged a course correction as being due to public resistance if they couldn’t spin it as a refinement of Conservative “doctrine”.
      I’ve seen him work a room full of the faithful (in badly fitting mom jeans during Stampede no less) like an old school revival preacher. I’ve seen the hooting and hollering from the – mainly – elderly fans gushing with born again fervour. I’ve also seen and heard as many people turn away from the naked power grabbery on display.
      Don’t kid yourself: if Mr. Kenney manages to win the leadership, and secure a seat in the legislature – either prior to the next election or as a result of it – and the New Tories manage to actually win a mandate, most of the blather and posturing will be used to explain why none of their promises can be implemented but that circumstance and the “disastrous NDP legacy” are to blame.

      Reply
  4. Scotty on Denman

    October 25th, 2017

    I try not to be subjective looking at Alberta these last few years; I still have familial and acquaintant connections there, and lived and worked there a number of times, the last time in the early 80s; even then it was plainly visible Alberta was beginning to change fast. I think I can blinker for the moment the tussles between Alberta and BC where I live now, on the Coast, those being recent enough to objectively conclude that the changes I’ve witnessed in the years since the 80s when I’ve visited or passed through indicate a real trend of 35 years, a whole generation. And in just these past few years Alberta appears to have become the political project of a whole new generation: once the most conservative of partisans that only changed its political socks no sooner than every generation or so, Albertans have recently elected its first two women premiers, the second leader of the hitherto third or fourth-place also-ran party which nailed an easy pitch and knocked the last PC premier right out of the park. Meanwhile the right has wobbled, broken up, and crashed, some survivors not only walking away from the wreckage, but from the nominal parties of the right too, swearing the while they’ll never fly that airline again. And it appears the very recent civic elections confirm the trend is sincere.

    Jason Kenney, heir apparent of the runway-rashed hard and hard-landing right, seems to think this deep trend is an anomalous blip and can be cut off at the pass. He obviously does not consider his tenure with the federal Reform-a-CRAP-Alliance-a-Cons as a part of any trend either, that the single majority that government had, following as it did two minorities, was actually a trend in the ascent. But, from inside the circled wagons of the two-rump UCP, over which he has “ruthlessly” seized almost total control, he still has to talk that way to steel the defenders of what looks to objective observers on the outside like a redoubt or a dying breed’s last stand.

    “They ain’t no trend here,” he reassures as he pushes his impeccable Stetson up off his furrowed brow with the barrel of his six gun.

    From the outside it looks like the UCP is going in one direction, and the rest of Alberta in a bunch of other ways, all forward. It seems so retrograde.

    Reply
  5. George Clark

    October 26th, 2017

    I love it when the NDP, Liberal and Alberta Party supporters assume that the United Conservative Party is moving hard right. Because by the time they realize that our policies are socially progressive as representative of over 250 thousand active party members in 2019, they will be left with nothing to attack us on.

    The number of Alberta members is the key. Having massive participation ensures that we become truly representation what Albertans want. Removing special interest and back room control via grassroots driven policy & oversight keeps the UCP solidly in the centre. On Saturday when Jason wins we all will be partying like it’s 2019.

    Reply
    • Death and Gravity

      October 27th, 2017

      Don’t bogart that joint, my friend.
      But you can keep the brown acid.

      Reply
    • Jim

      October 27th, 2017

      You do realize that they are selecting their own version of Hillary right? A candidate selected by the so called elite, big money backers, professional politician with no real world experience, manipulated the rules throughout the process, and a closet full of skeletons. Hey he was even a supporter of the Hillary’s Libyan invasion, which amplified the European migrant crisis. Something pointed out indirectly by none other than Ezra Levant.
      It seems the hatred for the NDP and lust for power at any cost has blinded most on the right to who Kenney really is, who pulls his strings, who owns him. In terms of grassroots there are already a million and a half reasons to believe this is an illusion.

      Reply
      • Icepick Lobotomy

        October 30th, 2017

        It’s not ‘hatred’ of the NDP it’s just common sense.They should never hold power anywhere in Canada..ever. As PJ O’Rourke once wrote. “it’s like giving whisky and car keys to teenage boys”.

        Reply
  6. Robert Gerard

    October 26th, 2017

    The Kenney supporters hate the Jean supporters and vice versa. Neither will list the other as their preferred second choice. Most will pick Schweitzer as their alternative. This will make Schweitzer the leader, even if he gets next to no first-choice ballots. It’s how we ended up with Redford. It’s how the federal Libs ended up with Dion. And we know how those two “leaders” ran things.

    Reply
    • Farmer B

      October 27th, 2017

      One problem with your theory, if on the first count no candidate has over 50% of the votes the third place finisher is dropped and then the preferred 2nd choice comes into play, if I understand the process correctly. Therefore if Doug Schweitzer finishes third he is removed from the contest. One analyst I was listening to felt that if Jason Kenney doesn’t win on the first ballot, Brian Jean will win on the second.

      Reply
  7. brett

    October 26th, 2017

    Does not matter to me. I could and would otherwise consider voting UCP. But not if it is under the leadership of Jason Kenney or Brian Jean.

    Brian Jean does have one attribute that Jason Kenney does not have. He has had a real job with real responsibilities. Not some soft cushion at the Canadian Taxpayers Assoc. Does not look great on the resume. Is Jason Kenney afraid of the real world???

    Reply

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